While large metropolises are found replete with concrete structures, a few driven citizens are studding them with swatches of lush green.
One such green warrior is bonsai artist Veena Nanda of Bengaluru, who has been designing homes and open spaces with greenscapes of tiny trees and fruiting plants for over two decades now. She is a professional landscape artist who runs Sunshine’s Garden Boutique.
Veena’s roots lie in childhood memories of gardens and open spaces. Her grandfather managed a coffee plantation of his own, while her mother was a gardening enthusiast. “I have always been passionate about gardening. Thankfully, I found a channel in the art of bonsai making,” she tells The Better India.
Bonsai making is a technique that originates in China, where the concept of tray-planted trees was first introduced. This was taken forward by the Japanese via development of more intricate techniques as well as widespread practice. Bonsais are created by stunting the growth of ordinary trees and plants by pruning and trimming.
While the aesthetics of such arrangements are highly appealing, mini landscapes thus created also make for feasible green carpets in space constraints of urban settings.
As Veena puts it, “They use less water, less space, and look great.”
Veena was introduced to the world of these mini plants some 25 years ago, when she moved to the crowded streets of Mumbai after marriage. “India’s leading bonsai artists Jyoti and Nikunj Parekh happened to live in my neighbourhood. Naturally, I decided to make the most of it,” she says.
She did her first courses in the art — a bonsai basic course as well as an advanced course under the duo. Later, she shifted to Bengaluru and furthered her passion from there.
Her desire to work with plants soon started bearing fruit. Starting from 1999, she participated in the Lalbagh Bonsai competition for five consecutive years and won each time. “After that, I stopped participating and decided to do bigger things with the art.” She even went on to garner recognition pan-India by appearing on various news channels and shows for her work in landscaping, Feng Shui, and with garden accessories.
“I also teach courses on bonsai making,” Veena says. Her passion for working with greenery has expanded to services for greenscaping, hardscaping, gazebos and more.
Along with this, she takes several workshops and courses to spread the art and has taught over 500 people.
Having begun with just three bonsai after her shift from Mumbai, Nanda has built a whopping 1,000 over time. She reveals from experience, “All kinds of fruiting trees work great for creating bonsai. I have worked with a variety of fruits including mango, chikoo, and guava.” She has created a variety of bonsai over the years and currently specialises in landscapes created on hard surfaces such as rock and driftwood.
Commenting on how she has seen the reception of bonsai art evolve, she says, “A major issue I faced back in the day — and still do sometimes — is superstition. Many believe that bonsai bring bad luck due to the presence of stunted trees. But if that was the case, Japan would be on the streets! Even here, more and more people are taking up learning about this skill every day.”
The landscaper says that the gender ratio in gardening is equalising as well. “In the beginning, 80 per cent of my students were women. But today, I have a significant number of men in my workshops as people are opening up about gardening as a hobby for all.”
Bonsai planting is a skill that requires patience and practice. But Veena believes that to be a small investment for a beautiful technique and advises everyone to try it at least once.