WHEN Mr and Mrs U.N.B. Rao moved into their government accommodation in Delhi's West Kidwai Nagar, all the green they could see was the tiny ground floor lawn from their first floor window. Today, the terrace, which the other occupants of the building had so far ignored, is a lush garden with a profusion of plants, a tiny lawn and a machan where the Raos do almost all their entertaining.
"The first thing you need to do is make sure of waterproofing," says Mrs Rao, who also grows sugarcane and seasonal vegetables on the rooftop. And, of course, a good drainage system is essential to prevent blockages, especially during the monsoons. Then the plants need to be planned out. For a few pots do not a garden make. If levelling is required, plants like bougainvillea, which need more sun, should be placed on top, with hibiscus and ferns at lower levels.
Spring is the best time for planting, and fertilisers can be used once a month depending on the plant or shrub. The soil needs to be mulched periodically. And since the soil requirement is low, the first filling should be a rich nursery soil. Once the seed has germinated, folio spray may be used periodically. In season, Mrs Rao's garden is a riot of colours with poinsettias, roses, dahlias and chrysanthemums, succulents, wandering jews and purple hearts. Beautiful bonsais and curtains of creepers make it an intimate retreat. A little wooden sit-out is where the couple have their morning tea. And a bar at the other end provides for the evening's entertainment. Complete with a rock garden, the Rao terrace has inspired neighbours to dress up their balconies too, though not many have been as adventurous.
And while the Raos have got the green in place, Delhi artist Kavita Jaiswal is concentrating on accessories to liven up gardens. Her furniture made from garden equipment is a revelation in innovation. With a few deft changes, Kavita turns spades into tables, forks and shovels into chairs and other assorted pieces. They make ideal outdoor furniture, for the metal is raw steel, finished with rust-proof paint. Gardens are no more an impossible luxury. If bitten by the green bug, you can grow one right in your flat.