Flowers surely bring people together. Blossoms can fuel a flaming passion, calm a raging jealousy, comfort a living being or earn a living. Presenting flowers is a romantic social folkway. Aside from romantic and literary delights, there is commerce in flowers too.
The town of Patoki is one of the most famous places in Pakistan for growing flowers. The town has one of the biggest clusters of flower, fruit and decorative plant nurseries in the country. Growing flowers and tree plants and selling is a major business concern in this sleepy town situated in the suburbs of Lahore.
Leave Patoki – a typical Punjabi rural market town – by road and it is like sailing through the ocean of green. All those who drive on the National Highway between Lahore and Sahiwal are familiar with over one kilometer of lush greenery and the fragrant stretch of nurseries on either side of the road on the edge of the town. Aside from the fragrance of the wares, the traders offer a large variety of flowers, creepers, decorative bushes, ornamental and fruit tree plants, flowerpots and seeds. ‘How to grow’ flower books (even if you have no space in your home) are also available. I saw a few breeding greenhouses on the roadside and hundreds of rows of crossbred blossoms on a fresh spring morning.
It all started when a migrated family settled here after partition in 1947. Two brothers set up a small nursery along the roadside. The concern started growing with the passage of time. Later, the family grew and divided the business assets, which resulted in more nurseries as a family business. Afterwards, more and more people started growing and selling flowers and now the small town of Patoki has earned its claim to national fame for growing flowers and decorative plants. Despite having potential for becoming a recognised industry, flower trade in Patoki is still a family business.
“Rose plants grown in Patoki are sent to places as far as Quetta,” according to Mubarik Ali, a proprietor of a well-laid nursery, “but what keeps us going are commuters on the National Highway who stop by and purchase flower or fruit plants for their home gardens. Or when we get a large order from some five star hotels or multinationals based in Lahore to provide them grown flowers plants (in pots) for special events. We deliver them the flowers, indoor plants, shrubs and even creepers in pots and the landscape experts and interior decorators arrange them for display on the site.” Besides growers and traders, a large number of people are associated with this trade: pot makers, gardeners, and laborers.
Another flower grower, Mian Khan, told Us about a beautiful tradition that has matured with the cooperation of his nursery in a nearby village Thatta Ghulamka, where German volunteers are working on different poverty alleviation projects. In the Village every newly married couple is presented a fruit tree whereas parents of every newborn get a flower tree by the community based NGO Anjuman-e-Falah-e-Aama.
Nature being on the side of agricultural Pakistan, flowers can be one of the best sources of earning for Pakistan. We have potential markets in Middle East and some European countries to start with. There is a dire need to explore these markets and grow more flowers.