BENGALURU : Gardening has always been a part of Nalini Karunakaran’s life. “My mother was passionate about gardening and that inspired my brother and me to also take this up as a hobby,” says the retired Chemistry teacher who served for 38 years at CSI Ewart School. She learned to maintain a garden in her childhood. Over the years, the garden in her house grew and now, she has flowering plants, vegetable plants, cacti and bonsai trees.
Today, all the three storeys of her home at Thiruvanmiyur in Chennai are home to trees. She has set up her garden neatly and tends to them by giving equal time to trees on all the floors. On the first floor, there are flowering plants, cacti on the second and vegetable plants on the third floor.
As she takes us through the garden, we note that she has 73 varieties of cacti like succulents and aloe vera bought from various parts of the world. Karunakaran is an avid traveller and has been to the US, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, the Himalayas and hill stations like Ooty, Kodaikanal and Darjeeling. She makes it a point to pick up trees from wherever she goes.
But as much as she loves travelling, she is also afraid of the well-being of her plants, especially since she is away for months. “Once I was in the US for six months, and during that time, some of my cacti died. I had left my gardens in the care of a domestic help, but she could not find enough time to maintain both the house and the garden,” she says.
The third storey of her building is colourful and filled with vegetables of all shapes and sizes. It is an open terrace and Karunakaran cultivates bitter gourds, bottle gourds, beans, cauliflowers, brinjals, tomatoes and carrots. She also grows purple and orange capsicum plants that she brought from the US, which she says have adapted quite well to Chennai’s weather. “I don’t sell these vegetables for profit. I prefer using it myself or giving them to my family, friends, colleagues and domestic help,” she says.
While she has grown a variety of trees since childhood, she added bonsais to her garden family recently. “They’ve grown quite well and they look so pretty with their roots sticking out,” she says pointing us to some of her favourite pots.
Karunakaran has two huge containers that she has reserved for making compost. She makes it on her own by adding vegetable peels and other organic substance. “If this doesn’t suffice, I buy fertiliser, but ensure that they’re completely organic,” she says.Giving a tip for amateurs to start gardening, she says, is an inexpensive hobby. “You need not invest a lot of money in the earlier stages of building a garden. As the garden grows both in size and number, you can gradually add to your tool collection and other equipments,” she says.