Monday, February 13, 2017

The hanging garden of Mysuru​

Living amidst the greenery and hearing the chirping of birds in the urban concrete jungle is a dream for many. But not for Rev Benjamin Vas. The 59-year-old was determined to lead his life this way, so he decided to bring spring into his home by turning his house into a ‘green house’, literally.

The house, with a staggering 8,500 plants covering every inch of space, has become a familiar sight and a major attraction in Gokulam, Mysuru. The two-storeyed house named ‘Jericho’ is built on a 45x60 site. The plants are grown in every nook and corner of the house in discarded bottles, tea cups, tubs, clay pots and small containers.

Benjaminvas has taken the concept of gardening literally to new heights by completely using the terrace for his plants. Creepers and plants grown in pots dangle from the terrace giving the house a cool green effect. The ‘plant planet’ took root in January 2005. What started with hundreds of plants, today boasts of thousands. And the plants attract varieties of birds, where some have started nesting. This apart, he has an  aviary, which houses more than 70 birds.

Hailing from Somwarpet, Kodagu district, living amidst plants was quite natural for Benjaminvas. But when he shifted to Mysuru, he started missing the greenery. Thus he decided to plant trees. Today he has more than 200 varieties of plants grown in his two-storeyed house and has set up an aviary with over 70 birds.

He is doing his bit to save the environment. When one enters his house, one can feel the cool effect because of the natural ventilation. By growing plants in discarded plastic material, he is protecting the environment. Kitchen waste is converted into manure, and he is also saving electricity. He grows vegetables, medicinal plants, and several other plants needed for daily life.

Sitting in balcony one can watch the clourful butteries, squirrels wandering among plants, chirping of birds housed in aviary, and also several varieties of outside birds nested.   He has grown creeper plants on terrace and has made them to grow downwards, so that the house is covered with shades. He says with house covered with greens, there is no need of getting the house paint. He has used trees as the interior reminiscent of houses. One can spot rare birds if they come in morning. Covered with green the house looks very beautiful and gives a feel of freshness.

He says maintaining the plants is not expensive. Once in a week he sprinkles water in the pots and uses organic manure. His wife M H Rietta, a Physics professor at Maharani’s First Grade College, and children Jordanvas and Zion, who are studying in second PUC and Class 10 respectively, help him in watering the plants weekly once and in other chores.

‘We use bio-waste compost, neem oil, neem cakes, egg shells along with manure. So weeds will not grow and insects and flies are prevented,” he said. Hibiscus, rose and seasonal flowers are given to neighbours. Those who know about the benefits of medicinal plants come and collect the leaves. Vegetables are for home consumption.

His house has evoked admiration and curious comments too. “There are instances when visitors ask whether the hanging pots fall down. They are concerned that we might get injured if such an incident happens. Some are curious to know how we hang the pots. Some others look wide-eyed at plants grown in tea cups,” he says with a smile.

Says Kamalesh, a resident, “Once we wanted a medicinal plant, and my friend informed me about Benjaminvas. Was surprised when I visited the house, and saw the love he has towards plants and birds. He not only gives visitors stems, seeds and plants, but also teaches them how to grow and maintain them. I too have started gardening now.”
People aptly call the house ‘Hasiru Chappara’ (Green canopy).

'He has motivated several people to grow plants. Though we shifted out house from Gokulam, we visit the house oftenly and spend some time with birds, dogs, and enjoy the freshness of plants. Sometime we fell more freshness than visiting the parks. Because of Benjaminvas I also started loving points, and started growing plants. It gives a food feel,' said Lokesh, resident of Vijayanagar.

Bejaminv says: ‘Government should study other countries and chalk out measures to increase green cover. Dubai have convered desert area into a beautiful garden, and Mexico city is increasing the green cover through vertical gardening concepts. Following global warming the temperature is increasing every year, and to combat there is need of increasing green cover to bring down temperature. Also, government should allocate a budget for growing trees in urban areas, and every households should set aside some money for conservation of nature and growing trees. This helps to increase the green cover of the city, he adds.

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