“When you like a flower, you pluck it. But, when you love it, you water it daily and let it flourish,” says 28-year-old Kusini Jyothi Priyanka, a nature lover and an avid urban gardener. In her hometown – Bhadrachalam, Telangana, she is growing 20 varieties of seasonal flowers in 700 flower pots on her 600 sq ft terrace!
How does she manage them? With a deep passion for growing plants, consistent efforts, and by dedicating all her time to raise the plants. Today, tending to her garden has become a full-time job, and Priyanka says that she would rather do this than anything else.
How did it start?
Gardening was something Priyanka was passionate about since her childhood. Her mother would grow many plants such as mangoes, guava, custard apple, pomegranate in their backyard and today they have grown into large trees.
“After I completed my engineering degree, in 2015, I moved to Hyderabad to work with a corporate company. During my time there, my lifestyle turned stressful. I would work until the late hours, not eat healthily, and skip meals. In 2018, I decided to move back to my hometown and take care of my health. The first step I took on that journey was to eat healthy and nutritious food. To do that, I decided to grow my vegetables,” says Priyanka.
The same year, she purchased 30 flower pots to grow only tomatoes. She got the saplings from a nursery near her home.
“I made a potting mix with garden soil, cocopeat, cow dung, vermicompost and rice husk, which adds nutrition to the soil and enables water retention. Within a few months, most of the flower pots had tomatoes growing in them, and I not only used it for cooking all my meals that month but also shared it with my neighbours for free. I started growing tomatoes because I wanted to start with growing something simple.”
After her first experiment was a success, she decided to move on to other vegetables and in the next few months, she got a 100 pots to grow tomatoes, ladyfingers, cabbage, cauliflower, brinjal, capsicum, ginger, peas, some leafy greens, turmeric and more.
Though her vegetable garden was a success, and she had started to eat healthily, Priyanka wanted to add more colours to the terrace. She always enjoyed looking at pretty flowers. If it were on the side of the road or in someone’s wedding, she would pluck a few and try to identify the name of it.
“At one wedding, I came across very exotic flowers. After looking it up online, I learnt that it was a white exotic lily. By this time, I had an entire list of flowers I wanted to grow such as Amazon lily, oriental lily, freesias, frangipani and more. But, these saplings or flower bulbs were not available at the local nurseries. So I went online and sourced it from a vendor in Delhi who was selling a variety of flowers. I planted each variety in a minimum of 15 pots, and within the next six months, I had around 700 flower pots on my terrace” says Priyanka.
Space is never an issue for her because the 9-inch pots are placed close to each other, in a systematic manner, with enough space for her to walk alongside them. There are a total of 20 varieties of flowers which includes lilies, marigolds, jasmine, night-blooming jasmines, adeniums, chrysanthemums, orchids, and more.
It takes eight hours of hard work and dedication to maintain her garden. Priyanka’s day begins at 4 AM so that she can watch her flowers bloom, birds and butterflies flutter as the sun rises. Then she spends one hour watering her plants and speaking to them.
“I do not have the funds to install a drip irrigation system, so I water the plants using a mug and a big bucket. But I never feel tired. In the evening, I have tea or coffee with my plants and again spend a few hours admiring the flowers and checking for any pests or insects. I consider myself very lucky because till now there have been no infections on any of my plants,” says Priyanka adding that she never found the need to use any organic pesticides or insecticides.
Sharing the flowers
Apart from growing the flowers, Priyanka started to share pictures of her garden regularly on her Facebook and Instagram page. Seeing this, many of her followers would ask if they could get a few propagations or bulbs of the flowers growing in her garden. Without any hesitation, Priyanka would carefully take a bulb, pack it along with coco peat in a newspaper and send it across through a courier service. The price of the bulb depends on the variety of the flower, weight of the package and the delivery fee.
Vinit Khandelwal, a resident of Kolkata, purchased the bulbs of Asiatic lilies and freesias from Priyanka and said that they had bloomed really well.
He says, “I work as an interior designer and manage a garden as my hobby. 6 months ago, I saw some pictures of Priyanka’s garden on a group on Facebook. I was stunned at the number of plants in her pictures, and the flowers looked magnificent, so I placed an order and got them delivered. Today, all the plants have given flowers, and I am pleased.”
Priyanka believes that every human on earth is sent with a purpose, and hers is to grow food, beautiful flowers, and share that with others. Today, she claims the number of plants on her terrace is at 1000, and she plans to expand her garden by adding hanging pots and a vertical garden.
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)