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Passion
Kavita Poddar creating one of her flower arrangements

There’s this elderly woman, about 86, who spends over an hour walking through the flowers and the outdoor gardens created at Chelsea Flower Show. She usually has her husband with her and they come every year. At times, their eldest son has a garden on show at this festival of flowers too. People stop whatever they’re doing to watch them. This year, the lady was wearing a lilac dress. You may have seen her on television — Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, also known as Elizabeth II, Queen of England.

The Chelsea Flower Show is a five-day garden show held in May in Chelsea, London, and is dubbed the most famous flower show in the world, bringing visitors from all over.

This year, Calcutta was represented by Kavita Poddar of Pushpabitan Friendship Society, who is regularly invited to participate in the Chelsea Flower Show.

“My tryst with the Chelsea Flower Show started about 25 years ago, at the behest of a British friend who was one of the organisers. She insisted that I make one of my UK trips coincide with the show and I did. The next year, she insisted that I participate and ever since, I have. I go every few years because an annual trip is too expensive and involves a lot of work,” says Kavita.

This year the theme given to Pushpabitan Friendship Society was ‘60 glorious years’. “It involved a lot of brainstorming but we knew that it had to be something to do with the Queen’s coronation. We finally decided to recreate the crown. It was made here by our members with plant material, like cornhusk, peppercorns and pressed flowers among others, painted and varnished and then taken to the UK. The backdrop had jute thread wound on it and was made on site. Fresh flowers were purchased there and used,” Kavita explains.

How does it feel to be in the presence of the Queen? “It is an honour. And she devotes so much time, seeing almost every bit of it, devoting close to an hour or more to the show. She comes every year and Prince Charles, who is passionate about gardening, often has a garden in the show gardens segment. This year he wasn’t there, but Prince Philip accompanied the Queen,” she adds.

From pyramidal flower gardens several storeys high to a Monet-inspired flower exhibit, there was much to see and wonder at, according to Kavita. But this being the Jubilee year, perhaps the lady in lilac won over the nature-lovers just as much as the flowers did.

Easy-to-do flower arrangements

Kavita Poddar suggests we make use of Calcutta’s green foliage to bring colour into our homes. Here are two arrangements:

Take a bowl and fill it with water. Place a dot of blue — ink or paint — in the water to add colour. Float two or three lotuses in it. Add leaves cut in the shape of a lotus leaf.

Take an elongated bowl, pour a little water and place jui or bel malas. Place an oasis sponge on one side and stick two colourful gerberas in it. Add a flat leaf horizontally, so that it rests on the bed of the white flowers.