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Garden of thorns Seetha Shelton and her unusually large collection of cacti

Seetha Shelton’s family in Neelangarai are animal and plant lovers. They feed and neuter neighbourhood strays, move wayward turtles to marshy areas and have a large collection of cacti from all over the world.

With more than 110 varieties occupying their garden over three levels, their home is a maze of prickly and hardy green. Seetha agrees that it takes regular care to maintain her plants but also says it's an exciting hobby.

"I’ve always been interested in gardening but never had the time. A few years back, I began taking a keen interest in cactus because they’re so unique and different. Of course, succulents, agaves and some other plants are also broadly classified in the cactus realm, so there are many varieties when you come to think of it," says Seetha.

Her garden begins on the ground, moves to two open areas on the first floor and ends on the terrace. Stacked in smaller pots in three rows on each level are her smaller cactuses.

Seetha also gives away her plants for charity but doesn’t sell them. She has done this for four years now. With charity and a growing collection on her mind, Seetha is always investing in gardening. "I need a lot of pots and ask people to gift me these. I read books on it. I compost gardening waste and use it as manure. January is the best season to change things in your cactus garden.” Seetha also improvises and uses anything to pot plants — from small glasses to big tea pots. Driftwood and shells embellish her garden.

Cacti, according to Seetha, flower at night and do well in the Chennai weather. “They are slow plants and take time to grow. They need just a little water and lots of sunshine. They grow really fast in February and March and stay dormant through summer. "

Her garden was recently affected by cyclone Nilam but, says Seetha, her cacti are alright. "They survived."

ANUSHA PARTHASARATHY

More than 110 varieties thrive in her home

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