Sunday, August 02, 2009


A 1,800 sqft area has been transformed into a green patch in Basavanagudi, including a spice garden and a waterstream

Amore-than-a-century-old building, 1,800-sqft garden, 350 species of plants, including a spice garden, and a mini waterstream. This isn’t a home resort tucked away in some hill station. It’s a home garden located right in the heart of Bangalore.
This ‘once-dry’ piece of land in Basavanagudi is home to Vasumathi Raghunath and her family. This green park, a result of years of sweat and toil, has been rewarded time and again. It has been awarded 14 times by the Lalbagh Botanical Garden.
This affection towards plants dates back to Vasumathi’s childhood. Being born and brought up in an estate in Salem, in Tamil Nadu, she grew up in the lap of nature. She shifted to Bangalore and went on to study Botany from Mount Carmel College. “But I did not complete my degree. After first year, when I was about 17, I got married,” she recalls. She then started gardening in her house, which itself was 100 years’ old in the early eighties.
“At that time, there was nothing. The area in front of my house was covered with concrete. After days of layering it with soil and making the required elevations, I began gardening. The first tree in my garden came with the house. Oleander, the Kannada name being ‘kanagillu’, is the oldest tree in the compound and has been around for close to 70 years,” said Vasumathi, who is also a trained Carnatic singer as well as a teacher.
Her initial tryst with plants was in the form of flowery creepers. Gradually she moved on to other plants. She avoids buying plants that die in a short span of time. “I choose only perennial plants. Plants are like rearing children, so why should I choose something that will die easily?” she asked.
Her garden, which comprises 350 species of plants from roses to flowery creepers to 15 varieties of Hibiscus, caught the fancy of Lalbagh authorities. Lalbagh has awarded her 14 times since 2002 and 2007, she received a rolling trophy that declared her garden as the best in the entire city. “Initially I was a bit hesitant to participate, but after my efforts were heralded, it felt nice,” she said.
Vasumathi is also fond of ornamental plants, the evidence of which can be found in her garden. “I have annual ornamental ones like Salvia, Petunia and also foliage ornamental plants which provide a green cover. I also have plants like ‘suzi mallige’, ‘mulle’ and ‘nitya mallige’,” she said.
Lime and ginger are also grown there. “Sometimes we use them for household purposes,” she added.
Vasumathi has two unique and an international plants. “I have Creeper Sampige and Manoranjitam, which I brought from Tamil Nadu about 20 years ago. I have not seen them anywhere in Bangalore as yet. These plants grow in very hot, almost tropical climates, but they are growing very well in Bangalore’s temperate type of climate as well,” she said.
Vasumathi requires 10,000 litres of water every month for her plants.
She has travelled to the US and brought plants from there as well. “Bangalore climate is very good and plants from different parts of the world can grow here. I brought Honey Suckle and Passion Fruit from the US and both are growing very well,” she said.
This gardener also makes her own manure. “The flowers and leaves that fall off the plants should not be discarded. I dig a pit and put them into it. To it, I add vegetable waste and sand or mud mixture and then cover it for three months. This makes for very good manure,” she said.
Earlier, gardening was entirely her prerogative but for the last 12 years she has kept a gardener. “Now, I don’t do much but I teach my gardener the techniques required,” she said.
Vasumathi lives in the house with her son Sreeshan, his wife Chitra and their child Raghav, all of whom chip in with the gardening work. “In 2006 I went to the US to be with my daughter, Hemamalini, and in my absence Chitra enrolled my name for the Lalbagh botanical competition. She said she did not want her winning spree to be broken. My grandson plays cricket on the garden with his friends, while my son has been supportive of my hobby,” she said.
The garden completely envelopes the house, but Vasumathi says there is no fear of insects or any creepy crawlies. “I spray the place with pesticides. But bandicoots are a major problem as they uproot the plants,” said Vasumathi.
She also keeps doing something new in the garden all the time. “I believe if the mind is idle, you keep thinking about the past. Concentrate and focus on new things, that’s the best way to keep your mind healthy,” she added.


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