A twig she was fiddling with turns into a tiny chair. Discarded pieces of cardboards turn into a hut. And then come the grass, the trees, the birds, the pebbled paths and a stream to form a fairytale garden - all in the space of your palm.
Welcome to the world of a Sector 4 Vaishali resident Neetika Vaide, who crafts miniature gardens in surprising detail. Behind each garden, there is a story. It could be one borrowed from childhood experiences or it could be a scene from a village, complete with wells, mud huts and cows. At other times, it could be a city park, with marble fountains and LED lamps that glow in the dark.
Aesthetics for sure, but what truly sets these gardens apart are that they are live, meaning you need to nurture them with air, water and sunlight, and prune them regularly. You don't, and they die.
That's precisely why Vaide doesn't want to sell her “babies” to just about anyone. "I make sure the person has a genuine interest in gardening; that he/she would take care of it. Only then do I feel comfortable giving them away," she says. That's also why she doesn't want to scale up production, despite requests from art galleries to stock up on her creations.
An executive body member of her residential welfare society, many of her neighbours are aware of her unique hobby. She has gifted and sold several of her gardens to them.
So where did she learn the technique? The answer will surprise you. She attended no classes, no workshops and had no formal training. She didn’t even look up YouTube training videos. It came naturally to her. Yes, she does love sculpting (making miniature models with Korean clay) and gardening. When both came together, the result was impressive. "It's god's gift, I would say. It just happened," says Vaide, a jewellery designer by profession.
Interestingly, every garden she creates has a crystal in it. "Crystals have healing properties," she says. So, in a way, she believes, these gardens come with lot of positive energy. Every element, such as the gates, chairs, light poles, huts and houses, are handmade by her. And no, she does not use plastic. Mostly, Vaide uses succulents – also known as fat plants with thick, juicy parts that retain water.
Priced between Rs 500 and Rs 3000 (depending on details and size), these mini gardens make for thoughtful gifts on birthdays, wedding anniversaries or even a casual visit to a friend’s for dinner. However, Vaide is quick to say that this isn't a profit-making venture: "Whatever I earn, I donate it to dog shelters," she adds.
Vaide feels these gardens are also ideal for apartments, especially in areas where open spaces for gardens are rare. She cites the example of her own neighbourhood, Vaishali, "Once an area with wide, open spaces, it is now devoid of greens and utterly congested,” she says.
And if miniature gardens can create the illusion of an oasis, why not?
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