She lives alone and gardens alone. Kajal Sen may be 83, but she remains fiercely independent. No matter how much her daughter pleads with her to get a gardener, she will not relent. A gardener would rob her of the satisfaction of toiling behind the plants and watching them blossom from scratch, she says. So Sen does everything for the plants on her terrace and balconies; and happily so.
Before moving to Salt Lake, we lived in a bungalow in Dakshineswar with an enviable garden. But those plants were cared for by a gardener, not me. I wanted to get my hands dirty and that’s just what I do now. It’s not uncommon for me to brave up to the terrace in the middle of torrential rains these days just to upturn the pots and drain out excess water.
Rain Lilies and Rajanigandhas are thriving now and I have more than 10 types of Hibiscus and Roses, including the rare black rose variety called Black Prince. There are Karabis, Togors and excellent quality of Ashwattha bonsai. But my favourite plant is the Adenium. How majestic they look with their thick stems! I have one Adenium that’s 30-year-old.
My balcony faces the southeast and so receives both ample sunlight and wind, making it perfect for growing plants. I have a beautiful variegated Bougainvilla up there that has deep pink flowers but whose leaves are just as attractive in yellow and green. There’s also Erica Palm, Chinese Banyan, Zed Plant and lots of Snake Plant. This last one multiplies very fast I’m always looking for containers to recycle and pot them in.
I’m also fond of growing winter flowers like Dahlia and Gerberas and vegetables like coriander, mint and chillies. My family does not eat spicy food but my son-in-law swears by it. And nothing beats the joy of running up to the garden and plucking fresh chillies for him as he sits to eat his food when he comes over.
In my family, gardening is hereditary. My grandmother Nirmala Dasgupta, a famous doctor of her time, and my mother Basanti Chaudhury, who was in the first batch of female graduates of Asutosh College, were both extremely fond of gardening. I’m happy that, through me, this hobby has passed on to my daughter and granddaughter.
If you have a garden you tend to yourself, send your address and contact number to The Telegraph Salt Lake, 6, Prafulla Sarkar Street, Kolkata 700001 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org