Ram Vilas Singh, a businessman, started his gardening journey in 1997 with eight pots. Now, his terrace garden has almost all varieties of seasonal as well as exotic vegetables, fruits, flowers and ornamental plants.
Even though Karnal in Haryana is known for its farming, the air pollution by stubble burning constantly causes the air quality index (AQI) in this region to be of ‘unhealthy’ status. But it’s not the case with the surroundings of Karnal-resident Ram Vilas Singh’s house. It remains unpolluted and fresh throughout the year, thanks to his love for gardening.
The wide terrace of his four-storeyed house is home to thousands of vegetables, fruits, flowers and ornamental plants. Over 4,000 pots — including old plastic buckets, containers, clay/cement pots and drums are organised on the green-matted terrace floor that remains cool even during scorching heat.
Ram Vilas is a businessman in the field of construction by profession, but a gardener by passion. He says that he started off with just eight small pots around 25 years back.
Other than gardening, Ram Vilas runs a YouTube channel that has over three lakh subscribers with whom he shares tips on gardening. For the past two years, he has also been conducting online gardening classes in which over 100 students have already participated.
“I did not learn gardening by reading, watching videos or seeing others involved in the hobby. It’s a skill that came with practice, experience and moreover, because of my love for plants. Apart from the virtual audience, people from Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and even countries like England and France have arrived to see my garden,” says Ram Vilas.
The valley of flowers
Even though his garden has all types of plants, Ram Vilas shares that what attracts everyone the most is his vast collection of flowers. Hundreds of plastic buckets, containers and pots are adorned with numerous varieties of hibiscus, jasmine, rose, orchid, sunflower, dahlia, cactus, petunia, bougainvillaea, chrysanthemum, dianthus, cineraria and more. The terrace looks like a valley of flowers.
“I have been fond of gardening since childhood. My fascination for flowers is never-ending. Whenever I see colourful flowers, I get an urge to take a sapling and grow it in my house. This is how I began gardening. Slowly, the number of trees and plants kept expanding. In the last ten years, many seasonal and common fruit and vegetable trees have also been added to my garden,” he says.
Ram Vilas grows vegetables like white brinjal, lemon, mushroom, radish, chilli, snake gourd, ash gourd, tomato, cauliflower, zucchini, beans, cabbage and beetroot. He also grows fruits like banana, plum, sapota, guava, dragon fruit, papaya, peach, mango and strawberry, along with greens like coriander leaves, mint leaves, spinach, basil, ashwagandha (winter cherry) on the terrace.
The gardener says that he harvests at least five varieties of them on a daily basis.
“All these plants are grown organically by using homemade compost and fertilisers. The sudden growth of plants after using chemical fertilisers is only temporary. It degrades the soil and consuming such produce is like eating poison. Regular intake of organic crops will let you live a healthy life,” he says, adding that his goal in life is to attract people towards “growing organic and eating organic.”
Although his cultivation is vast, Ram Vilas doesn’t consider gardening as a source of income. He is more than happy to share the harvest with his neighbours, friends and family, but monetary sales are a strict no for him. “Sometimes people come and ask for certain plant saplings which are also given for free unless they are any rare plants,” he says.
He continues, “All the saplings are collected from experienced gardeners in Haryana or from garden nurseries. I also have a habit of bringing plants after trips made to any part of the world.”
Reena Jain who tried her hands on gardening after attending Ram Vilas’ online classes says, “I took his gardening class on Google Meet for about a year and a half. For someone who is new to the field, it provided me with self-confidence. Earlier, I had only a few flowering plants in my garden, but now I grow vegetables too. Ram Vilas ji patiently explains and guides you in every way.”
Ram Vilas says, “For me, the motto of gardening is self-satisfaction and happiness. What is equivalent to the pleasure of seeing a new flower in a sapling that you planted? This is the only reason why I manage a garden despite my busy schedule.”
He plans to add more varieties to his collection in the coming years and inspire people to grow their own plants which will also help in decreasing the air pollution in the city. “Despite the bad air quality, my family manages to breathe better air while at home. I hope people realise the importance of having a green cover around them and put together a small garden,” he concludes.
Read this story in Hindi here.
Edited by Pranita Bhat