"When we plant a seed, we keep waiting as we wait for our child. Gardening makes us patient and to me, it brings immense joy," says Vandana Saxena, a Biology teacher, who envisioned the ill-maintained community lawn at sector 25 as a mini urban biodiversity park and took up the mission to achieve it.
Vandana moved to Noida 11 years back and adopted this garden eight years ago. This beautiful garden is situated between the clusters of apartments of sector 25, Jalvayuvihar, Noida. The garden has been declared as Second Winner under the category of ‘Community Garden maintained by an Individual’ in the Garden Competition 2022 organized by Floriculture Society Noida.
A gardener by hobby and ex biology teacher by profession, Vandana herself did the landscaping and planted the perennial plants. Her efforts have turned this patch of the garden into a mini biodiversity park with many plants, shrubs, creepers and trees.
She says, "This Community garden was adopted by me 8 years ago which was just a basic lawn and huge trees in its SW direction, no flowers, full of dirt and with no maintenance."
Vandana shared that her interest in gardening goes back to childhood. "My father was in the Indian Air Force. So we moved from one station to another, living usually in bungalows with huge front and backyard gardens. The excitement, patience and anticipation of gardening that I saw in my parents were highly contagious. This inspired me to pick up the skills of gardening while growing up. As a cherry on the cake, I got married to an Indian Navy officer. My overriding passion for gardening took over even when we moved into a house with a small patch of green. I would always work in these gardens notwithstanding, my small children and teaching job. As I reflect, it gives me great satisfaction to have passed down ‘green-finger preoccupation’ to my sons and even to most of my students."
Vandana used to teach biology in Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan and was also the Convener of Eco Club and has infused the same knowledge in her garden. Thereafter, her garden became an educational hub for the students who stay nearby and want to learn about floriculture.
She continues, "Today the garden has seamless beds with floral diversity of shrubs, creepers, succulents, ferns, lilies, palms, cycas, fruit trees and medicinal plants. The garden also has a good variety of seasonal flowering plants such as Allysum, Cineraria, Calendula, Dianthus, Petunia, White Stocx, California poppy, Red poppy, Nasturtium, Marigold, hollyhock, Heliconia and Paper flower. In addition, the garden has some vegetables such as cherry tomatoes, lemons among others."
She elaborates that this year she took up the challenge to germinate seeds of flowering annuals like Sweet Pea which is a climber full of colourful and fragrant flowers. She also planted China Aster, Poppy, Sunflower, Carnation, Chrysanthemum, Calendula Officinalis, the seeds of which she had harvested in the last season. For this purpose, she had made a nursery in a sun-kissed patch. She distributed surplus saplings to other garden lovers.
While landscaping she has converted adversity into an opportunity. There is an acute shortage of sunlight due to huge trees growing in its SW direction. In her area, trimming trees is not allowed. But she has beautified this area with shade-loving contrasting and variegated foliage. These are plants with leaves containing partly white colour and partly green colour called variegated leaves. She used the patch of zero sunlight by planting the heliconia tropical plant which thrives in full sun in light well-drained soils. "There is also a huge clump of Heliconia, an exotic tropical plant. Last season it had 11 beautiful dangling red spikelets", says she.
To make the garden Self-sustaining and eco-friendly she made a dedicated vermicomposting bed. She explains, " I recycle Neem leaves, Gulmohar flowers, eggshells and tea leaves to enrich the soil. Inorganic chemical fertilizers and insecticides are a big NO-NO". By her efforts, she has produced 80 kg of vermicompost. There are two beds. One is the preparatory bed when the compost is ready after sieving she use this, while in the next she keeps collecting the falling dry leaves.
Vandana believes in using the maximum and best out of waste. They reuse the things thrown by someone. Broken Turtle, tortoise, Diwali wooden baskets, a treasure from trash. Discarded Waste such as broken tiles, water pipes, broken vases, have been repurposed as embellishments throughout the garden.
To promote diversity of fauna she has planted host plants for butterflies to lay their egg to promote the production of the butterflies. The Bael Patra, Mandarin (Chinese) orange, Lemon tree are an example of the host plant.
Fragrant night-blooming flowers and bell-shaped flowers attract nectar-sucking and insect-eating birds. She has planted Harsingaar, Devil’s tree, Night jasmine all these three spread their fragrance at the night and attract lots of nectar sucking and insect-eating birds.
She says, "I have also created several undisturbed Ecological niches for animals such as earthworms, toads, beetles, snails, slugs, garden lizards, and squirrels.
"My vision is to make this garden self-sustaining, evoke aesthetic sensibilities and ignite educative experiences," says Vandana.