In an era where bungalows are giving way to luxe apartments and plush penthouses, Ahmedabad continues to cherish the old way of life. Of course, like the other big, bustling metros this city too has its share of towering building blocks, but there are still a huge number of independent homes with manicured lawns and elegant landscaping. Increasingly, even apartment building owners are opting for lush greenery in and around their complex and hiring professional landscape artists to create an oasis of green in a concrete jungle. We meet some of them to find out how they’re greening not just their own cities but other parts of the country as well.
His passion for gardening began in childhood during visits to his uncle’s orchard and garden in Pune which led him to take up professional courses in garden design and horticulture. It was also in Pune that he honed his skills by designing a variety of gardens, ranging from small private homes to sprawling estates for industrialists.
On returning to Ahmedabad in the early 1990s, he found that there were many people in urban areas investing in second homes and farmhouses in the outskirts where they wanted large gardens, lots of trees and shade, flowering shrubs and water bodies like ponds, pools and fountains. “They want to make these weekend homes as therapeutic as possible, with water features, fish, sitting areas, paths, decking and aesthetically appealing plants, to get a break from a hectic city lifestyle,” he says.
Teli says he begins the landscaping process by first understanding the requirements and budget of the client. Then comes the design and layout part and selection of plants based on their appearance through the season, suitability to the horticultural conditions, lifespan, combinations with other plants and hard features.
Besides Ahmedabad, Teli has done some exciting projects in eastern India, specially landscaping around steel mills. “Working in Kolkata and Orissa is exciting because easy ground water availability allows us to play with features like ponds and fountains,” he says. He is currently designing a private estate at Bhubaneswar where he has created an attractive, natural-looking lake which, besides being the main landscaping feature, will also be used for water sports. He is also looking forward to a new project near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan where the property is coming up among sand dunes. “It poses new challenge for me as I have never worked in such a desert environment before,” he says.
A hobby gardener whose passion for gardening became a profession, Kekobad’s green thumb was noticed by friends in the mid-1990s. “I began to be approached by people who had seen my own garden to assist them for a professional fee,” he recalls. Thus began his landscaping journey which by now includes houses, clubs, a spa resort, educational institutes and corporate premises in Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar and other sites. Kekobad also takes turnkey projects for creation and maintenance of gardens, using a team that includes technically qualified people and administrative staff.
The key to good landscape design is exposure to worldwide trends and the ability to translate them locally, says Kekobad. Understanding client expectation is another major factor. “People are travelling globally now, they are inspired by the stylistic genres they see in gardens from Kashmir to Amsterdam, Japan or USA. They come back with ideas like they want a Japanese garden or they want topiary and hedging like a European garden or a very formal garden with a clean manicured look or a slightly wild tropical garden, all this has to be kept in mind besides their use of the garden,” he says.
Plant materials play an important role in the gardens, he adds. “As people want to see results very fast once they commission a designer, we select a mix of plants based on climatic requirements, their changing appearance through the seasons, lifespan, growth habit, size, and also speed of growth, so that the client starts seeing some growth at an early stage,’’ he explains, adding, “understanding how the garden is used, for example: is it primarily an ornamental feature or a place of recreation, also helps. High quality plant material is essential to keep the garden looking good,” he says.
Besides Ahmedabad, Kekobad has worked on projects in different parts of India like Rajasthan, Lonavala and Raipur. “The real estate boom has been a boost for the garden design business. Developers realise that plantations and well laid-out gardens will draw people to buy plots, villas or apartments at their project sites and they come to us to help create that look,” he says.
After working in the healthcare industry for some years, Dalal felt she needed a more cheerful profession. “Thus, I became a garden consultant. But after working on some gardens, I realised that landscape design was more than just gardening. This led to my going to Oxford Brooke’s University, UK, for a diploma course in Garden Design,” she says.
Armed with this qualification, she returned to Ahmedabad and started her consultancy under the name, Arianee Landscapes. “We provide strong but simple solutions that meet the practical constraints of the site in an innovative way. Much of our work is concerned with integrating new development into architectural, cultural or historic settings,” she explains.
“If the design is strong, the garden is ultimately going to look good. The innovative use of space and the right mix of plant materials is important, together with practical considerations like usefulness of features and maintainability of the materials used,” she says. Dalal recalls a garden for a farmhouse where she created spaces using salvaged railway materials like sleepers and benches. For another, she gave a wooded wonderland feel with pathways seeming to lead into nowhere. “This kind of imaginativeness lends so much character to a garden,” she feels.
While her practice is based in Ahmedabad, Dalal has worked on interesting projects in Lonavala, Dehradun, Alibaug and other places in India. “For a gas pipeline project in Pune districts, I designed gardens for gas stations in Lonavala,” she says. Really, from residential projects to industrial houses, corporate parks and institutions, clients everywhere are becoming aware of the need for garden design.