Awake gardeners replace green deserts with urban jungles

Prim’s manicured lawns are grazed. In their place, sassy urban jungles spring up across the country, ablaze with fruit trees, flowering shrubs, bodies of water and verdant greenery, much to the delight of conservationists and environmentalists.

A colonial heritage from the British, a lush lawn was the hallmark of the buildings of the Raj. Regardless of geographic locations, the lawn spread across India with the imperialists. Like many British heirlooms, it remained, even after the uprooting of the Raj from India.

However, grassed lawns are greedy for water and are avid consumers of pesticides and fertilizers to stay shiny. Sheetal Patil, researcher at Azim Premji University, says: “The chemicals silence crickets, ants, birds, butterflies and bees.

That’s why architect Vinod Mathew, who trained with renowned Bali landscaper Made Wijaya, used plants endemic to Kerala to furnish the upscale Villa Maya restaurant in Thiruvananthapuram.

Expressing disappointment to see gardens filled with hibiscus, jasmine, moon ray, coral jasmine and other common flowers, which thrived in the 1970s and 1980s in Kerala homes, replaced by lawns and plants imported in recent decades, he says he focuses on environmentally friendly landscaping.

He is not the only one. Landscape designer Roshni Nair says homeowners don’t realize the downsides of a grass lawn until after they’ve lived with it for a while. “Prohibitively expensive to maintain in a hot, tropical place like Kerala, the lawn needs to be lovingly and lovingly groomed to maintain its lush green appearance. Since grass needs sunlight, canopy trees cannot be grown. The house is exposed to the sun and becomes unbearably hot, ”she adds.

This is why Suchitra Radha Vinod in Thiruvananthapuram decided to replace its lawn with a tropical garden and a body of water. Suchitra discovered that her house, which faces west, would become unbearably hot from direct sunlight falling on the walls. When she planted trees to protect the house from the sun, her gardener was not happy because the trees “spoiled” the lawn. In the end, she decided to completely remove the lawn.

Landscape designer Malavika Mohan refuses to create lawns and instead focuses on empowering her clients with alternatives. “It is important to know your garden well to know when and where you will have sunlight. The garden is therefore scalable. First of all, trees are planted with bushes. Ferns and plants that need shade come next. The trees grow in a few years and then I add loads such as vines and leafy plants that can come under them and the garden looks lush. It all depends on the configuration of the garden, ”she says.

Architect Tony Joseph in Kozhikode had his lawn removed because he wanted his house to be cooler, says landscape designer Jacob Klavara. He replaced the turf lawn with pearl grass, vines and leafy plants. Jacob says many residents remove their lawn mats because they realize their high environmental cost.

Ravindran Daniel, a former UN official, asked architect Liza Natarajan to redesign her garden to create a more convivial space with endemic flowers. After the redesign, his large garden began to attract many birds and bees.

“In most cases, architects plan the house and the garden is done at the last minute, usually a lawn lined with flowers or palm trees. I insist on doing the inside and the outside simultaneously so that each corner has its own surprise and a little green, ”explains Vinod.

To avoid “green deserts”

Chennai-based architect Benny Kuriakose says many clients are asking for trees, ferns and conifers. “Unlike ten years ago, most of my clients don’t want lawns, they want green spaces with bodies of water and a garden that is not so neat and tidy. Benny says that in water-poor areas like Chennai, having a lawn is bad for the environment because it sucks available water from the water table.

A study conducted by Prof. Seema Purushotaman and Sheetal at Azim Premji University in 2018 focused on the impact of lawn grass cultivation on agroecology and livelihoods in the peri-urban region of Bengaluru. . Grass lawns in government buildings, hotels and hospitals often come at the expense of fertile topsoil and farmland water. Whether these rugs can be green deserts is often overlooked, Sheetal explains.

The study found that lawn grass replaced finger millet, legumes, paddy, and cleared bushes and trees. Even common pastures in the villages have been encroached on to grow lawn grass.

“Many farmers on the outskirts of Bengaluru have rented their land from commercial turf growers. When huge acres of grass are dug for lawns in cities, it irrevocably damages the topsoil, ”Sheetal explains.

Seema Mundoli, co-author of Cities and Canopies: Trees in Indian Cities, says she and author Harini Nagendra are bringing out a book about common flowering plants to grow in gardens and balconies to attract birds and bees. Many alternatives to sod such as bison grass and perennial climbing plants are now offered by savvy landscapers. Another way is to plan your garden with different types of leafy plants, flowering shrubs, shrubs, and trees.

“A garden must grow with the gardener,” says Malavika. “Instead of going for carpet lawns and mature plants, the joy of gardening is watching your garden grow and bloom.”

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