Coronavirus wilts flower industry but growers find hope and healing

(L) Marina Kulnu & (R) Mary Kulnu seen in their rooftop terrace flower nursery in Kohima.
(L) Marina Kulnu & (R) Mary Kulnu seen in their rooftop terrace flower nursery in Kohima.

Vishü Rita Krocha
Kohima | September 19

The Coronavirus pandemic may have wilted the flower industry as it did many other businesses but venturing into floriculture has been the best decision Mary Kulnu and Marina Kulnu, has ever made. The  two sisters confess that “growing plants constantly give you joy, hope and healing even during hard times.”

People around the world have turned to gardening as a comforting new hobby during these unprecedented times.

However, Marina Kulnu’s love for flowers can be traced back to her childhood as she fondly recalls her mother lovingly tending to plants before she gradually started growing flowers herself. Her sister, Mary Kulnu grew up with the familiar sight of gardening but it was only some years ago that she personally encountered flowers and there has been no stopping her since.

Their mutual love for flowers has birthed a nursery, which they call it “Janet Blossoms” in memory of their sister, Janet who passed away in November 2015. “Janet loved flowers and grew a lot of them”, they convey. The nursery that began only with cactus and succulents has now sprouted into a wide range of flowers and ornamental plants numbering to about 300 varieties, filling every little corner of the home terrace where they run the nursery.  

“It’s been 3 years since we lost our father. Prior to that, we also lost our brother and sister (Janet). Over the years, we have met such tragic losses in the family but growing plants gives you so much comfort,” Mary Kulnu profoundly expresses. The act of gardening, she further impresses upon, has a healing effect in many ways.

While the sight of blooming flowers naturally makes anybody happy, “sometimes, you feel like some plants are dying but when you see them surviving and thriving again, it gives you extra joy,” she goes on to state. Recalling that the initial period of the COVID-19 lockdown had been a bit harsh on the business, she however observes that during the period, a lot of people also developed a new interest for growing flowers. “And for us, we kept ourselves occupied tending to plants we have in the nursery despite not being able to sell them during the lockdown,” she says.

Growing flowers, Mary Kulnu feels, is an expensive hobby, but emphasizes that “it can bring a lot of joy”. “Nagas have very high taste, a good taste in everything and flowers are no exception. We are good at decorating too and as of now, we mostly bring cut flowers from outside,” she points out while articulating the potential that the state has in scaling up flower farming.

On the business aspect, she says, “sometimes we lose also, but it is profitable. Because we deal with perishable goods, it’s very risky and when we order stuff, we are wondering about it till it reaches us. Sometimes, circumstances are beyond our control but God has been so good to us.” Mary Kulnu has a master’s degree in Commerce and never imagined that she would get into flower business. She also briefly ran a flower shop before initiating “Janet Blossoms”.

There is never a dull day for the two sisters in the company of flowers. “We can spend the whole day at the nursery and not feel tired,” they both express. “When flowers sprout, it brings you so much joy. I have learnt so much with every plant and still learning every day. We are bending and working all the time, so it can be physically tiring, but there is never a day when I feel lazy to work around the nursery,” Marina Kulnu, a graduate of St. Joseph’s College Jakhama (Autonomous) puts across.

Janet Blossoms procure flower saplings and plants from places like Bangalore, Darjeeling and Delhi, and their clients are spread across North East and different districts of Nagaland. Towards this end, Mary Kulnu adds, “there are some plants that stay with you for so long and there are times I feel sad to part with them.”

90% of the sale has been through social media and the sisters have also observed that with changing times and season, people’s taste for plants also keep evolving. Mention may be made here that Janet Blossoms also makes candles, lighting up lives alongside flowers, exuding hope even on a rainy day.