By Ambika Nagaraj
Ever heard of a fairy garden? If no, a fairy garden is a miniscule plot with tiny plants, herbs, garden tools and tiny stumps of trees, making the whole thing look picture perfect with miniature fairies and dolls seeming like real creatures living there.
Now, visualise the feeling of you entering one such dreamy yard with the prettiest of nature having lushly filled the area; every way you turn around, your eyes only get to feast on greenery; whimsical water streams cascading down the rock swathes and revel in effervescent blooms like you’re living a lucid dream…
Rejoiced in fantasy? But that can be for real. We just put you through glimpses of those beautiful gardens a few lively women in Mysuru have done up in their open courtyards for the Dasara Home Garden contest organised by the Department of Horticulture as part of the festival every year, while each of them have won the ‘outstanding’ prize under different garden categories.
Come, let’s odyssey through their enviable green spaces. And for all we know, a few of you might even get inspired by them to grow something lively in yards at your home as well …
Shyamala and her beautiful home garden aren’t probably new to our readers. The lady has dedicated a whopping 22 constant years of her life to beautifully landscape and maintain the huge space at her home, while the same has in turn been obediently winning her accolades and prizes year after year.
A huge space that looks like a live fairy garden in itself, there is something new that she adds up in the form of plants as well as knick knacks, just to make her favourite space at home more interesting each season. And contest or not, she will ensure her garden is kept decorated with the same interest all-around the year.
Located in Lakshmipuram in city, Shyamala’s home has a very specious garden that includes plants, shrubs, herbs, trees and bonsai to mention a few is decked up exclusively during the Dasara festival for the contest. “I am glad to say I have never missed participation even a single time ever since the contest was first started and I have been winning the first place continually”, Shyamala explains out of excitement, “and each season, the themes in my garden change with new plants and curios added. For me, my garden is a celebration in itself.”
And as mentioned, the new additions to her plot this season include a tall vertical garden also called a living wall and is filled of colourful plants by Shyamala that make the vertical display more colourful and lively. And then there is a new and exclusive bonsai display stand, while different spaces of her garden have been turned into interesting themes varying from a ‘China corner’, an angelic Christmas segment, an area dedicated to the Mysuru Dasara procession, a Peruvian village and a dreamy garden view by the waterside with water plants, a permanent waterfall, a swing beside and ornamental curios that perfectly tone with the space and add to the vigour.
What’s more, this season, she even had a specific area dedicated for the display of traditional Dasara Dolls which won her accolades from not just the department but a prize from the Bharatiya Vikas Parishat in association with Ramsons Kala Pratisthana as well. Then, in Shyamala’s garden, there are also the ornamental plants, bright flowering plants, different types of cactus and foliage, fruit bearing bonsai trees such as those of mosambi (sweet lime), gauava and orange, desert roses, a cactus mural made out of an unused wooden window, flower bearing bonsai such as bougainvillea and gulmohar, a large space filled with neatly conserved lawn and much more.
Nevertheless, maintaining a large garden all tidy and neat is not easy the lady admits. “And to worsen the things, flowering was badly affected due to unexpected rains this year. But luckily, a few still bloomed exactly during the time of the contest,” she says.
“Maintaining my garden is like a full time job. I spend about four hours here each day and while I have a gardener who helps me maintain the area, there are some plants that I do not allow anyone to meddle with and handle myself. Especially, my bonsai are completely taken care of by me alone. I prune, re-pot and care for them for they mean a lot to me. I have several bonsai and plants since over four decades with me. Contest or prizes or neither, the green space will forever remain special for me” she says.
Shanhnaz Mushtaq Shariff owns a cosy garden but with a huge visual impact. Her green space has so many varieties and collections that the area appears delightfully colour splashed. There is everything from a huge pepper tree to miniature bonsai and hydroponic plants; murals and vertical gardens to many a variety of flowering plants that add a special warmth to the home that houses the yard in Yadavagiri. In Dasara Home Garden contest organised by the Department of Horticulture, Shahnaz, an enthusiastic septuagenarian, has been consecutively participating and winning prizes since about 12 years now. However, though declared a winner even this season, the lady wasn’t in country to receive her prize and the same was received by her son Faizy Mohammed Shariff. Explaining of his mother’s fervour for gardening, Faizy, in his mom’s absence in town, explains, “My mother is a true gardening enthusiast. She is now 71-year-old but her love for gardening simply never seems to fade. She believes in solely gardening on her own while our gardener visits once a week just for her assistance. She always says she holds a special relationship with her plants to which the plants respond to her in turn. She is ever thankful to my dad who has been extremely supportive of her passion till date. In fact, she travels places across India just to purchase plants of different varieties that are exclusive to specific regions.”
Thus, Shahnaz’s collections include: a three-decade-old Banyan tree bonsai, a Shefrella bonsai that’s about 25-year-old, the cactus murals, vivacious violet orchid plants, colourful anthuriums, table roses, adeneium plants, plants with brightly bloomed bird of paradise flowers, Duranta bonsai, ivy plants brought in from Nainital and Ooty, Ixora, Bermuda grass, live landscapes on stone, a twin trunk peepal tree, pentas plant with multi-coloured flowers, begonia, hydroponic plants that grow with no or least water, different coloured cacti grafted as one and many more of them.
To mention some from her herbal and kitchen plant collections, there is a huge pepper tree, a coffee plant, an orange plant, a tomato plant, chilli plant and an Apple tree.
An avid nature lover, the senior citizen spends hours of time in her garden daily her son says, adding, “no amount of space is enough for my mom for gardening and its decoration. As the land space at home seemed less for her to sow her favourite plantations, she has covered up the entire terrace area too, making even that portion of home look lively and cheerful. In all, we have over a 300 type of plants in many different varieties. And since she is also very artistic, she chooses to hand-make the curios that she uses to decorate the garden, bonsai and murals with; all of which are truly a thing of beauty not just for us, but to all our guests and visitors as well.”
Serenity welcomes you with a warm hug the minute you enter Lisa’s garden in Gokulam. If the meadow with those tiny ponds mimic the look of an English garden straight out of some children’s fairy-tale book you read during our childhood, you on the other hand will be surprised to know that Lisa gets to pick many of the vegetables into her kitchen to cook delicacies from her own kitchen garden in the backyard.
“It has been 35 years since we are living in this home and the garden has been a part of it ever since. But I partake in the Dasara Garden contest only when I am in a mood to do so. I have done it just thrice and have won a prize each time I have participated,” says Lisa. Ask her about her garden and its maintenance and she further explains,“It’s never about the contest alone. I have been generally interested in gardening ever since childhood. I spend about two hours here every day, I have a gardener who helps me during the weekends and I purchase plants from various places. I even get them online from places abroad and when they bloom is when my heart is filled with extreme happiness. This is a permanent garden at home. But I re-arrange and decorate the place a bit additionally when I participate in the contest.”
Each of the women who have participated in the contest have their own unique collections. As part of her collection in the ornamental section, Lisa has plants like miniature anthuriums, airy plants that need no soil or water, colourful orchids, variety of colourful lotuses in purple, white, peach and yellow, vibrant euphorbia in multicolours, heliconia plants with flowers in yellow and pink, torch ginger plants with white, red and pink flowers, creeper bamboo plants and then the poinsettia plants with flowers that brightly bloom during Christmas to name a few. As we move further towards the backyard, the distinction of the collection is more unique. In what she grows for her kitchen, she has veggies like French beans, Kerala banana plantations, tapioca plants, plants bearing nitya vazhuthana or the clove bean that belongs to the brinjal family of vegetables, turmeric plants, delicious java apple or rose apple bearing tree with lots of fruits and then the billimbi or tree sorrel of which one can prepare delicious juice.
A few sections have been distinguished as rock gardens too which add to the beauty of the space. However, Lisa will once in a way have some rare visitors in the form of snakes if she manures them heavily so she avoids doing it she explains. “It’s a huge garden and if not kept a watch on, the whole thing can turn into a huge mess. So I am choosy about a few varieties and garden techniques though they can add to the beauty of the space. I am happy the way it is. I am glad I get to spend some quality time in my own beautiful space each day,” the lady gushes. She too has won an outstanding prize from the department for beautiful maintenance of her garden.