It is not just the abundance of vibrant coloured blooms and a house dense with green front yard that makes Vasumathi Raghunath bag prizes from the Mysore Horticultural Society (Lalbagh) regularly for the last nine years. Her green thumb is an effect of her intensely dynamic and progressive mind. “Good temperament is paramount for growing an assortment of greens. Don't believe in the ‘thorny theory,' said to be in vaasthu, that is unfriendly towards non-flowering plants and dismisses cacti as barriers to growth,” she says.
Prod her more on her mind-set and she is even more firm. “There's a popular notion that plants often pine for human caressing. But in my six decades of gardening experience, I have come to believe that occasional friendly pats gratify one's efforts. But be careful not to get irritatingly close, for, the greens do value their privacy. Consistent affection that involves maintenance factors are far more practical. Nature's breeze and some regular musical strains are by far better supplements to see them sensuously sway, grow and flower.”
Vasumathi's 100-year-old house with a 1,400 sq. ft garden area on Police Station Road in Basavanagudi greets one with nearly 500 ornamentals, 60 kinds of cacti, 40 types of roses, 10 varieties of jasmine, along with a host of other flowering shrubs and medicinals — Tecoma, Acacia Arabia, Bignonia, Euphorbia, Dracaena, Arelia, Fantas, exora, Bird of Paradise, Plumaria, Fire of the forest, Magnolia, Hibiscus, Powder Puff, Cup and Saucer…the lady never stops describing each flowering season, the colour make-up in flowers, every shrub's physical make-up and of course a bit of history about their origins. Vasumathi lives more amidst her greens, that is, if she is not singing from the inside of her bungalow.
Her obsession goes back to her ‘estate living' in Salem as the little child would be overwhelmed by the burgeoning of green. “We would never buy vegetables, fruits and flowers, they were all home grown,” she says. Now a thoroughbred Bangalorean, the rewards of coming over to the ‘garden city' suited her as even her chanced living in this huge bungalow encouraged her to pursue her passion.
Even as a traveller, she is obsessed to bring back something for her home garden. Her home thus boasts of ‘Honey Suckle' from the U.S., Kanigle from Tirupathi, and Sapota and Guava trees from Nashik!
The bunches of Exora look singularly different in size and colour, the 25-ft. Plumaria ( Deva Kanigle ) ever shooting up is everyone's wonder, even as Lalbagh officials who come every year for their inspection and assessment marvel at many of her shrub-variety that have grown into trees, including her 45-year-old Magnolia and the 70-year-old Kanigle .
The miniscule divisions in her miniature garden are amusing…modest rock-cascade water flow, the tiny carpet of landscape, the spot lights, the boundary gates and the curved pathway!
“I wanted to have separate spaces for my roses at the terrace,” she says, even as her enthusiasm to show her associates Kanigle, Nandyabatlu, Saugandhika, Parijatha , and Brahma Kamala is a narration going back to several decades.
Ardent lovers of green needn't abhor the ‘maintenance hassles' that gardening is generally associated with, she says. “Even with an over-stretched budget, making way for some untimely fungi infections and re-potting, it wouldn't cross Rs. 3000 a month. Use neem cakes, vermin-compost and gammaxine mixed in mud and sand for the pots. See to it that pots don't retain water, this is important for the greens to remain healthy,” are Vasumathi's basic recommendations in most of her informal talks at Lalbagh Senior Citizens Association.