Growing green fingers with first-of-its-kind online gardening contest

Nine hundred entries of lockdown gardening made it tough for the judges to pick the winners of the first online gardening contest
The garden of Dolores Arulappan, the winner of garderning contest under the senior citizen category
The garden of Dolores Arulappan, the winner of garderning contest under the senior citizen category

BENGALURU: Of the many hobbies that people acquired during the lockdown, honing culinary skills and growing a green thumb emerged as the top winners in Bengaluru. And so, Ayeshia Fernandes, along with the support of Alyia Krumbiegel, founder of GHK Foundation and the great-granddaughter of legendary German horticulturalis Gustav Herman Krumbiegel, celebrated lockdown gardening by hosting the first-of-its-kind online gardening contest with green enthusiasts in the city. 

Fernandes, moderator of Bangalore Gardeners, a Facebook group with over 19,000 members, tells CE, “Being an interactive group, we used to hold regular discussions on how to keep ourselves engaged and in the process, the idea of the contest came up. By the end of May, we had 900 entries for six categories, so choosing the winners was a tough job for the judges.” 

Garden of Priya Mascarenhas
Garden of Priya Mascarenhas

Alyia was one of the key members to initiate a contest. On her first visit to Bengaluru in 2006, she started the Gustav Herman Krumbiegel (GHK) Foundation upon realising how important a legacy he has left for her. “From gardens in North India to tea and coffee plantations in Ooty and Kerala, he is best known for redesigning the Lalbagh layout in the city as a superintendent in 1908. The economic botanist has also left an indelible mark by beautifying colleges and hospitals, NIMHANS, for example,” says Alyia, who lives in London, adding that the contest has been a great learning for many. “We were overwhelmed with so many beautiful photos of greenery,” she says. The prizes were sponsored by Greenhouse Blr, Nivys Roots And Shoots, Orchid Tree, Nature Sense, Earth Whisperer Store and The Green Tag.

In a way, the lockdown helped break the myth that gardening requires top skills and large space to grow plants, says Priya Chetty Rajagopal, founder-trustee of CJ Memorial Trust and one of the judges for the contest. “Not only did it ignite a sense of creativity, the long hours of staying at home made people want to beautify their homes with whatever space they have. The same thing happened with me as I took interest in the plant world during the pandemic. We spent a lot of time going through the beautiful photos and held online meetings to announce the winners for each category like senior, indoor, terrace, balcony, bloom and Madhuvan,” she says.

Priya Mascarenhas, who won the Madhuvan Award, needs no introduction for gardening buffs in Bengaluru. For the past 35 years, the Richards Town resident has continuously won the ‘Best Ornamental Garden’ Award for her half-acre lush green haven, organised by the Horticulture Department of Lalbagh. Hailing from a family of coffee planters, she tends to a variety of exotic plants like wild orchids, Ixora, Monstera, different kinds of shrubs, flowering plants, fruit trees and more. “I have been gardening for more than 40 years at my 140-year-old heritage bungalow,” she adds.

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