By Sujata Rajpal
Gardening is not my whole life, but it makes my life whole — this saying truly defines Shamala Prasanna, a resident of Lakshmipuram, Mysuru, who owns a stunning garden with a motley variety of thousand-plus blooming plants. She has won the first prize for Ornamental Garden (in large garden category) 24 times consecutively at the Dasara Garden Show contest organised by Horticulture Department.
‘I would’ve won again but in the 25th year, the competition didn’t happen,’ she chuckles.
‘I like to call myself a gardener and not just an owner of a garden because except watering the plants, everything else is done by me,’ the uncrowned queen of gardening corrects me humbly.
Shamala takes me around her exquisite garden elucidating the themes it displays. Dasara procession complete with terracotta musicians and elephants marks the centrestage this year; Forest theme displays wild animals and trees; Christmas has a Christmas tree with tiny bells, a swing, cute little fairies, and Santa; Peru proudly exhibits artistic curios obtained from this South American country; China Town adds the Chinese flavour with Bonsais and Great Wall of China; Sea life buzzes with aquatic animals and plants; Indian village depicts village life and temples made of thermocol, are some of the themes forming the pride spots in the garden.
To break the monotony, the themes are periodically shifted from one spot to another. For some of the seasonal themes like Dasara and Christmas, after the festivities are over, the adornments are packed neatly in bubble wraps and kept away carefully, only to be brought back after a year when it is festival time again.
The colourful accessories which add glitter to the garden have been accumulated over a period of time. ‘Wherever I travel, my eyes look only for garden accessories,’ beams the lady with the green fingers.
Not just the innovative themes, the ornamental garden is aesthetically decorated proudly exhibiting the creativity of its creator. Shade-loving plants in one corner, cacti and succulents in another, bright colourful Marigold, Celosia, Chrysanthemums, Zinea and other seasonal flowers outside the front door of the house, echo the beauty and diversity of the garden.
‘My plants are like my babies especially the Bonsais,’ Shamala says, her eyes twinkling. ‘Some of them are 35 – 40 years old, they’ve grown along with me.’
It was 42 years ago when Shamala, a native of Badravathi (Shivamogga), made this house her home and transformed the bare land with spills of oil, into a blossoming garden which now befits a place of tourist interest.
Like everything else in life, all good things come out of hard work. Shamala spends 3-4 hours every day on the garden related work — pruning, cutting, putting fertilizer, checking for weeds etc. On the days when it is the turn of Bonsais, she spends the entire day in the garden taking only a short lunch break. ‘Gardening is meditative for me, I can never get tired of tending to my plants,’ tells this nature-lover whose life revolves around plants. ‘When I travel, I miss my plants the most,’ Shamala says, her face mirroring her words.
The beginning, I owe it to my parents who loved gardening and had a beautiful kitchen garden in their backyard. I have studied Botany in my graduation, but my passion has little to do with my academic credentials. Gardening became a passion when I happened to meet Maya Seetharam who introduced me to Bonsai art. I bought a few plants from her, attended a Bonsai workshop she was conducting and took off.
Later the duo along with a few others formed a Bonsai Club which now has around 45 members.
Many might think that it takes a large amount of money to create and maintain a garden. ‘That’s not true. I don’t buy new plants; I multiply them and exchange with friends. I also make my own manure so there are always more economical options,’ the gardening enthusiast clarifies.
For those who are fond of plants but neither have large spaces nor the time to maintain a garden, start with succulents and cacti which are low on maintenance and add to the beauty of the garden. ‘These days because of internet, it’s easier to pursue gardening or any other hobby. There is plenty of information available on internet, but one must be careful about what to follow and what to ignore,’ she advises.
Shamala is constantly updating her skills and learning and unlearning. She regularly attends workshops, international conferences to learn new techniques and has also displayed her plants at Ganapathy Sachchidananda Ashram, Mysuru.
Besides gardening, music and cooking are Shamala’s other passions. Trained in Karnatak and devotional music by the legendary S.K. Vasumathi, under her belt are a YouTube channel and six music albums of devotional and light music.
I get back home feeling rejuvenated, a morning well spent. Truly said, You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy (grow) plants and that’s pretty much the same thing.