In a quiet corner of the city lies a mini-garden with over 400 varieties of plants — mostly rare ones which one would have to hunt to find. It is not located in a traditional garden setting, but probably in the last place one can expect it to be — a balcony on the fifth floor of an apartment at Sanjeev Reddy Nagar in the city.
Meet Meenakshi Raj, a 45-year-old English language trainer, who collects rare plants as a hobby, and the balcony of whose house is neatly stacked with the flora in pots perched on metal racks built by her just to accommodate the greenery. And since the space on racks was not enough for the growing plants, she had to commission a welder to forge chains at the ceiling’s edge, for hanging pots.
“My mother had a nursery in our house at Chennai when I was a child, because of which my hobby of gardening developed. Since I don’t have an independent house, I decided to rear the plants in my balcony,” said Ms. Raj, whose flat hosts several species of flora such as rose, hibiscus, chrysanthemum, cacti, caladiums, creepers, begonias, orchids, and others.
“In my collection of 400-odd plants, 150 are of varieties of the cacti. Then there are orchids which bloom only twice a year. I have bought them all, spending quite some amount, since 2005 when I began collecting,” explained Ms. Raj, and added that she would not have been able to maintain her plants without help from her husband Pankaj Raj, and children Nidhi and Manas.
Ms. Raj also spends an allotted sum on her plants and soil each month. She keeps adding new varieties as and when she finds them. “I have to wait for the horticulture show every year so I can buy more plants. Now I have most of the ones exhibited at the event,” she laughed. With summer approaching, the English trainer has to be extra careful, as some of the plants need more care, or may die due to the intense heat. “This year I plan to install a net in my balcony for protection from the sun,” she said.
Yunus Y. Lasania
English language trainer Meenakshi Raj has over 400 varieties of plants in her balcony garden