Where have the gardens gone?

A beautiful garden has attracted humans since time immemorial.The British, Japanese, Chinese, Persians, French, Romans and also the Mughals are examples of civilisations that inspired the world with the beauty of their green landscapes. In those times, gardens were intrinsically linked to the concept of structured leisure and were also at the centre of commerce, research, human connections and medicine. I have had the pleasure of visiting various Botanical gardens in various parts of the world – Mauritius, Sri Lanka, US and India and was struck by the scale and the diversity of flora and fauna that were nurtured and preserved. I have often wondered : why have gardens grown smaller over time not just in size but also in terms of the role that they play in our lives? The answers are perhaps both commercial as well as social in their context.

Blame it on the economy
The gardens were the buffer zone where wild plants were explored for commercial opportunities. As the dependency of our economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing and services, the gardens started reducing in their commercial importance and shifted their focus towards leisure that has proved relatively unsustainable over time.
A shift in patronage from individuals to institutions
Essentially the garden ecosystem lost its mojo as the management shifted into the hands of institutions that were driven by altruistic objectives of public good. It’s a well known fact that when the management of any entity shifts from commerce to public administration, it loses its edge. Uninspired management has a ripple effect & the profession over time also declines in its appeal as an employment avenue. After all how much does a gardner earn? I asked my teens if they know anybody in their peer group who plans to become a gardner when they grow up. The look of ‘dad, has your brain gone to seed’ said it all.
There are more of us than ever before
Our ever expanding numbers is an unprecedented burden on the finite land space available. Urban space design has hence evolved to accommodate our exploding demands at the cost of open parks and gardens. Leisure space for public good has been de-prioritised and replaced with commercial spaces ‘that can drive the economy’.
It’s no longer the coolest place to hang-out
Social and electronic media meet ups are now increasingly in the virtual world. A garden is not centric to the entire context of human connections any more. Even the mating game has shifted to the realms of virtual forums, social chat rooms and tweets!
Walk in the park v/s the treadmill
Gardens were also a space that enabled humans to stay physically active. However when you see the evolution of the fitness industry the delivery of fitness is now through commercial spaces such as gyms. Gardens do not feature in the current business model of the fitness industry. Treadmills have captured the sweat market!
The shifting sands: From public parks to kitchen garden
What’s growing however is the kitchen garden phenomenon where small urban spaces around homes are sprouting with a variety of green. Gardening today is a hobby that a few enjoy. I am one of them and for me the sight of a flower blooming or a vegetable hIMG_0326arvested is a source of immense joy. It’s my little kingdom of a few square feet, where every plant is my ‘creation’ and it’s a space where I connect with nature. Sometimes i feel that my neighbour gazes at his car collection with as much fondness as I bask in the glory of the beautiful tomatoes and aubergines that thrive in my garden.
Every patch of green is a bed of miracles
It takes little effort to plant a patch of paradise in any available space. Plant a seed. See it sprout. Watch the leaves grow. See the flowers blooming. Notice the butterflies and bees looking busy playing their destiny. In your hurry to live do not ignore this joy. Plant your own little garden of eden.
Live the moment!

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