Gerberas flowers at a nursery.
Five years ago, Col (Retd) and Sati Randhawa decided to move to the Nilgiris, bought about 30 acres and raised gerberas. Like all entrepreneurs, the Randhawas took risks, dealt with inclement weather, pests, fungus and soil-bound diseases that growing this gorgeous bloom (ironically, not a cold-weather lover) entailed. The result is ‘The Colonel’s Blooms’, which cultivates giant gerberas in stunning shades.
Totally new to floriculture, the Randhawas worked what Sati likes to term “48 hours in 24 hours”, put up 21 sloped greenhouses complete with drip lines for water and fertilizer, fogging valves and shade nets, and tended to their colourful floral family with devotion. They have a dedicated staff of more than 130, who control the fertilizer distribution online, manually clean the beds, and swiftly pack the blooms in cartons, readying them for the trip down the hills.
All this focussed attention has paid off, as has some word-of-mouth publicity and savvy marketing — the Randhawas are the last word in gerberas in these parts of the Nilgiris, their flowers moving at the rate of eight lakh blooms a month!
Their blooms, under the aegis of M & S Agro, makes their way down to the plains, to Coimbatore, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Guntur, Vijaywada and Thiruvananthapuram. Some head up country, some to Kolkata, and others, even abroad.
When one is faced with row after row of beautiful flowers — sunshine yellow, fiery orange, deep russet, brick red, velvety maroon, blush pink, fucshia pink and pristine white — and with names such as Rosalyn, Goliath, Night Queen and Dana Ellen, one is hard put to choose! But, the pick of this exquisite lot are the proud and radiant golden yellow gerberas that instantly lift one’s heart.