Sarla Modi’s garden is not just hers, but is also her neighbours' pride. Ever since she moved into Sanjeeva Town 10 years ago, she has toiled on her frontyard and it now boasts of a manicured lawn and everything from Petunias and Roses in winter to Jasmines and Champas in summer.
In fact, not just her neighbours, who bring their guests over to show her garden, this colourful oasis impresses even the judges of the Agri Horticultural Society of India (ASI) year after year.
“My mother used to grow plants in our Delhi house. Later my father got a farmhouse where we had an even bigger garden with vegetables. She used to grow creepers where grapes grew. She covered them with bags to protect them from birds.
When I came to Kolkata after marriage, I started a garden in our Kumartuli house. When the time came to shift, I gave away the matured plants to my brother who owns a school. My husband (Vijay Modi), who also takes keen interest in gardening, and I were determined to get a place where we could pursue our hobby. That's how we came here and started the garden from zero.
There was hardly any area in the house where we did not have plants. But the house started getting damp. So we were advised to remove much of the greenery from the roof. It took a few years to get the right gardener and set up the garden.
In Kumartuli, I used to specialise in ferns. I got the third prize in the ASI contest in that category.
In New Town, I compete in the E section of the home garden contest. I got the winner’s trophy for four years for both summer and winter before Covid struck. One year, I was unwell and got the second prize. This December, when the call came from ASI, half the season was gone and my husband, a perfectionist, was hesitant to participate. The masons working on the house had ruined the garden and after two bouts of Covid, I also was not feeling up to it. Yet, I thought it would give us a chance to get the garden back on track. Not every child sitting for the exam passes. So I enrolled.
The judges came in end-January. They have separate marks for every point — grass, water garden, flowers, cleanliness… Guess what? This time too, I have won!
But I am not satisfied with the garden. I would not give it more than four out of 10 yet. There is a lot to do. During the Covid phase, I attended online classes in gardening and realised how little I know.
I love fruits but I don't have much space. I only have some like Chiku (Sapodilla), Star Fruit, Mulberry and Guava. I have planted Pomelo, Sugar-apple. Sunflower, Gomphrena, Kochia, Wimca, Portulaca... I will plan Gaillardia and Balsam in monsoon. The seeds in my seedling pot did not germinate well. So I am trying one more time for the ones that failed. So I am running late for the season. People buy saplings. But I want to learn to germinate seeds. I am very greedy when it comes to gardening.