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Tired of a dreary patch before his house that was turning into a rubbish bin and public convenience, Shell Jhanb converted it into a garden over ten years ago after cleaning the place up thoroughly. When we say garden, we mean it in every sense of the word. The approach is through an arch of green that reminds you of a temple arch. All around are low, manicured hedges. It also has a lawn, foliage plants like ornamental kale and flowering plants through the year. It also has a verdant lawn. And it is landscaped and planned with garden furniture. A winding cobblestone path takes you from one surprise to another delight. Accessories like a pair of storks or giant tea cup planters are carefully and very appropriately placed.

Shell Jhanb refers to his garden as his temple – a tribute to his parents. What started off as an attempt to beautify an ugly patch has turned into joy for an entire neighbourhood and for dozens, even busloads, of visitors from all over Delhi. When he lost his parents in quick succession, Shell Jhanb began to think what he could do to keep their memory fresh. His mother loved plants. His father was deeply devoted to bhajan sessions. A pristine garden where neighbours gather to sing devotional songs and listen to holy readings or path was perhaps one of the most appropriate answers.

One corner is dedicated to the shelter for cacti and succulents that can be said to be some of the most prolific collections in the country. For Jhanb, each plant has its own identity. If he does not know the name of one, he requests the visitors to try and identify it. Most of these succulents have been chosen personally by him from gardening fairs overseas.

Since Jhanb gets nothing but the best for this neighbourhood garden (his own home across the road has its own greens), he scours the country also for the best it has to offer like he has sourced plants that are unusual for his region from, say, Nainital. One corner of the garden has been turned into a tropical rainforest that houses his collection of ferns and orchids.

What is his secret? The first, of course, is the heart. Shell Jhanb is passionate about plants and specially, flowers. Then comes the head. He has taught himself a lot about gardening. He uses vermicompost and treats his plants to Okhla fertiliser which is basically city sludge.

Although there is no guard to secure the garden, Jhanb has never found anything missing or noted a flower plucked. His personal guards stand at his gate across the road, but he says what secures his garden is “positive energy.”

Benita Sen

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