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The terrace with 20,000 plants

A garden atop a DDA flat is also home to plants that grow in alpine conditions

Written by Ruchika Talwar | New Delhi |
July 7, 2013 1:09:31 am

Madan Gopal Kohli will have you believe it is a terrace garden. But it is actually a lesson in making the best use of waste plastic. On the terrace of his DDA duplex apartment in Keshavpuram,Kohli,who is famous in the area as toffee waale (his other passion is distributing candies to kids and rickshaw pullers at temples and traffic signals),grows 20,000 plants in plastic bags,empty cement sacks,ice cream cups,vegetable baskets and mushroom tubs.

If that’s surprising,here’s more: he grows flowers and fruit which need alpine conditions and topography in the scorching heat of Delhi. Further surprise: his plants flower and bear fruit even outside their seasonal cycle.

Kohli’s love for horticulture dates back to his days as an administration officer with Greaves Cotton at Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. “I used to visit the Mughal Gardens at Rashtrapati Bhawan,flower shows at Pusa Institute and other horticulture exhibitions. Then I thought,instead of going to these exhibitions to display my plants,why don’t I get people to come and admire my plants? So I’ve been organising a Mini Terrace Garden Flower Show for the last 20 years at home,” says Kohli,whose plants have won him mention in the Limca Book of Records in 2009,2010 and 2012.

The leaf of a mango tree in a cement sack measures 16 inches in length and over 6 inches in width. Mint,which tends to spread horizontally,hangs seven feet below Kohli’s terrace. He claims to have invited every Delhi mayor,several MPs,including Shahnawaz Hussain,and the late Sahib Singh Verma to his terrace garden show. He shows you pictures with former Delhi mayor Rajni Abbi and Shahnawaz Hussain.

When the temperature is in the range of 45 degrees Celsius,the place is dusty Delhi and the month is July,it is unthinkable to grow strawberries,peaches,plums,chikoos,black grapes and custard apples.

Ditto for delicate flowers like saffron,tulips,sweet william and calendula,which need either alpine conditions or cool plains to blossom. His terrace is crammed with flowers,fruits and vegetables and it is difficult to tell where one plant ends and the next begins.

“I’ve employed the concept of bonsai by trimming the roots of plants and accommodating so much in such small space. The human head has millions of hair. Does our body groan under their weight?” asks Kohli,explaining how he lives with 20,000 plants on his small terrace.

If you want to see six palms in one plastic bag,or sugar cane sharing space with tomatoes or jamun rubbing shoulders with a gorgeous blue lotus in an iron drum,just reach Keshavpuram’s C-8 bus stop and ask for the house of toffee waale.

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