Chennai

Octogenarian finds joy in the company of plants

Eighty-one-year-old Saroja Thiyagarajan is the go-to person for residents in and around B Sector in Anna Nagar for any information about plants.

Tell her you want to buy organic manure or a rare variety of adenium, and the octogenarian will in all probability get them for you at a discount.

She nurtures people’s interest in the hobby the way she nurtures her own plants.

From an independent house decorated by around 500 plants, her expertise as a gardener is evident.

Visitors to her house are greeted by white water-lilies at the entrance.

From there, the visitor can move on to a display of hibiscus and adenium varieties. Over the veranda, hanging jars held by grilles offer another facet of greenery. Shrubs dotted with pink flowers; greens and potted vegetables give a lush look to the rooftop.

Saroja aunty, as she is called, believes her garden holds the secret to her good health, and encourages many others in the colony to do what she does.

The women’s wing of the B Sector will vouch for that. Of the 25 members in the WhatsApp group, more than half of them have started adding to their collection of plants at home, and they have only her influence to thank for that, says Arunthathi K, a member of the women’s wing.

Octogenarian finds joy in the company of plants

Saroja sources a variety of composts from nurseries and distributes them to neighbours.

“For the last one year due to the pandemic, aunty has not been out much but she has saplings sourced from bullock cart vendors who go around the streets,” says Arunthathi.

Every year, in November, Saroja throws a garden party at her home to which she invites friends and neighbours, taking them on a tour of her garden.

“A majority of her plants are in full bloom in November and sitting amidst the plants, one is temped to grow more. If your child is along with you, they will force you to add to the selection at home,” says Arunthathi, adding that every guest walks away with a plant.

For the source segregation initiatives of the women’s wing, Saroja aunty gives a sweet and a glass of juice that is made from the fruits plucked from her garden.

“For my daughter’s biology project we needed Hibiscus flowers and we got it from aunty’s garden. She gladly gives flowers to students and teachers,” says Naga Soundari, a resident of the neighbourhood.

Hibiscus flower juice is a signature drink served to guests coming home to take a tour of the garden.

“The juice from chembarti flowers have medicinal value and I enjoy serving them to all visitors,” says Saroja, who is a member of Organic Terrace Gardening.

The garden enthusiast has won many accolades over the years.

In 2015, the Tamil Nadu Horticulture Department gave her an award for the way she maintained her garden, and another award in 2019 for one of the best-kept gardens.

Saroja is helped in the garden by a worker she has engaged. Yet, she makes sure she spends at least an hour every day tending to the plants.

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Printable version | May 15, 2021 7:58:40 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/octogenarian-finds-joy-in-the-company-of-plants/article34290544.ece

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