HYDERABAD : With over a hundred trees, 500 bonsai, and 40 varieties of bougainvillea, Suseela Vergis’s garden is a botanical world filled with colours. The functioning of plants fascinated her since childhood. Despite several options in Science, she opted for Botany and completed her masters in Horticulture in Kerala. After marriage, she settled in Chennai 45 years ago.
During her early days, she came to know about bonsai plants and decided to invest time in them. “The bonsai Ficus Benjamina has been with me for 43 years. It is as old as my son. Some people buy bonsai for its aesthetic value. You can grow any plant in a container and there is nothing scientific about it. Bonsai is special as you can make it look like a miniature version if you trim the branches in a specific shape. It is an art,” says Suseela who lives by the beach on the East Coast Road. She is the president of Bodhi-Chennai Bonsai Association which started in 2007.
The bonsai artist feels that it is a common misconception that bonsai is hard to grow and difficult to maintain. “The task is to spend some time with the tree. It has its own mind and can grow in different directions. One needs to trim, safe guard, and achieve the desired shape over time. One of the common mistakes people make is deciding the soil composition. One needs to add the right amount of manure at the right time. If it does not get enough nutrients, then the tree withers. This requires basic knowledge of gardening,” she says.
Alongside bonsai, bougainvilleas are also her passion. They flower in December and January. She also has seasonal fruit-bearing trees. Suseela avoids pine and junipers as they do not sustain in this environment. She suggests people opt for indigenous varieties like bodhi tree, rain trees, and casuarina as they grow well in the current weather conditions. You can also grow shrubs like Lantana and Ixora and make them look like a tree. Creepers are a good addition too.
“During the 2015 floods, my bonsai started floating in water. However, I dread the summers. The sea breeze, laden with salt molecules gets deposited on the leaves of these plants. This results in drooping and plants’ death. So in summers, I put the plants in my green house,” shares Suseela whose inspiration is Jyoti Prekha, a Mumbai-based pioneer in bonsai. To Suseela, bonsai is a replica of God’s creation. She spends about four to five hours a day with her bonsai. The morning and evening sun are considered to be best for the plant.
Afghanistan to Japan
Bonsais were also carried by Buddhist monks in small potted plants that turned into full grown bonsai during their journey from Afghanistan to China and Japan. The Japanese took this as a hobby and planted bonsais everywhere including temples. The Japanese believe that it brings peace and happiness.