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Rashtrapati Bhavan – Most expensive home in India

Posted by Williams on November 17, 2007

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We had recently written an article about the house being constructed by Mukesh Ambani in South Mumbai. Quite a few people have been landing up at the article after having searched in Google using the keywords containing “most expensive house”. This started me out on an interesting search… Is it really the most expensive home ever built?

The answer wasn’t hard to find. It isn’t. Not by a long shot. Not even by Indian standards. In fact all of us are already familiar with a more expensive house built in India – our very own ‘Rashtrapati Bhavan’.

RBhavan Front

Here are some interesting facts about it:

  1. 17 long years were required to complete (1912-1929) its construction. Then on its 18th year, India became independent. Interesting, because the house was built as a symbol of British Imperial strength. J
  2. The cost of construction was an astounding 14 million rupees. Not sure how much that would be in today’s prices, but that is astronomical by the standards of pre-independent India.
  3. At today’s real estate prices, the land itself will be worth more than 16,000 crores ($4 Billion). The house is built on an area of 335 acres or so, right in the heart of New Delhi. After all, New Delhi itself was designed by Lutyens with Viceroy’s house as its centre.
  4. The building has 340 rooms within its 4 storeyed structure.
  5. At one time 2000 people were required to look after it. Not sure whether that is still the case though. Might have been a colonial time extravaganza.
  6. Although Lutyens and Baker – the two main architects, quarreled bitterly over the details of New Delhi and Viceroy’s house (they actually ceased speaking to each other), the eventual results is considered to be an elegant mix of Western and Indian styles. Indian architectural patterns such as Buddhist railings, chhajjas, chhatris and jaalis are found in the building. Chhajjas are stone slabs designed for preventing the sunrays from falling on the windows and protecting the walls from the rains. Chhatris adorn the rooftops of the building through their elevated positions. Jaalis are stone slabs designed with delicate floral / geometric patterns.
  7. At 630 feet long, it is longer than the Versailles Palace.
  8. By the way, the place also has nine tennis courts, a polo ground, a 14-hole golf course and a cricket field.

To the west of Rashtrapathi Bhavan is the elegant Mughal Gardens, which occupies an area of 13 acres. It has Mughal style canals, fountains and terraces at different levels with flowering shrubs and Western style lawns, hedges and flower beds.RBhavan Mughal Garden

To the east lies a vast court with the huge Jaipur column of red sandstone. It is topped with a bronze lotus and the six pointed glass star of India, in the centre. RBhavan Court View

You can also view the Satellite image and the roadmap of the area. 

To all Indian Presidents’ credit, none of them have ever occupied the actual Viceroy quarters, deeming it to be too extravagant in nature. Instead all have occupied certain portions of the guest enclave of the building.

By the way, I can think of at least one other home building which might be even more expensive than the Rashtrapati Bhavan (not in India, though). Will cover that after some more research.

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Going carbon negative

Posted by Williams on October 18, 2007

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Check this link for information on how much emissions you are personally responsible for. The average figure for Americans is 7.5 tons every year. Now if you want to offset this by some carbon absorbing activity, pretty much the only thing you can do is to plant more trees. Unfortunately, the average tree can absorb only one ton of emissions in its lifetime (and that lifetime is usually very long, which means the offset is not done in the present time but in the future).

This leaves really leaves us in a corner as far as turning carbon neutral goes, leave alone the dreams of carbon negative. One has to plant something like 10 trees every year one is alive to offset our present modern lifestyle! This is too much to ask for, considering the fact that most people don’t have enough land to plant that many trees for even couple of years. Besides, ensuring that those trees grow correctly for the next 5-10 years is probably too paintstaking a task.

The other option is to drastically reduce our travels & power consumption patterns. However, even if we were to do that I doubt whether the 7.5 ton figure will more than halve, which leaves us with the same problem.

So the only way out appears to be in the use of clean energy like from wind turbines (nuclear as well?) and in the development of vehicles with hybrid fuels or biofuel. Indian market is not yet giving people these options, unlike in US where both these options are already being marketed. Let’s hope we catch up soon. 

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Posted by sudarsan on September 29, 2007

I have tried a few garden plants at different places, please adapt my experience to your space & location.

Home Grown Vegetables

Image Courtesy: homegrownwisconsin.com

Tomato/Coriander/Tulsi/Green Beans/Ginger/Turmeric/Yam/Guvar/Chilli – All these respond well to Indian weather conditions, and as long as you provide some sand in a pot, and get good amount of sun-light they yield good results without much pest attacks.  Green beans, Guvar, Chilli and Tomatoes should be planted 2 months before summer.

Cabbage, Cauliflower, Lettuce, Potatoes: Grows well in cool climate only.   Need loamy and wet soil. Need protection from frost and hail, best to be grown 3-4 months before summer.

Curry leaf, Plantain, Lemon, Sweetlime – Need clay type soil, with some amount of sun-light, but easy to take care.  Plant it before rainy season, to reduce your work. 

Bittergourd, Snakegourd, Sweetpotato, Grapes – All these are climbers, that grow quite well in Indian conditions.   For Grapes, pick local varieties for pest resistance.   Snakegourd needs a horizontal mesh, while the rest can take up vertical or horizontal mesh.   You can harvest 3-5 kgs of grapes with a single plant, that can be raised in a 1sqfeet land-space.   However grapes, like pepper needs additional plants in the vicinity as they need some level of ground cover near their roots.  Other than grapes and pepper , other plants have to be planted soon after the rainy season, so that they start yielding in Spring and Summer.   You can choose late spring planting too, but you may spend more water.

Roses, Groundnuts, Karamani (black eyed white peas), Leek, Radish, Onions – Respond well to loamy, red-soil.   In fact all the potted plants on the first line can be raised on this kind of land.   Groundnuts need to be harvested shortly after their flowers start withering.   Good to plant them shortly after the rainy season.

Pumpkins & Potatoes – If you do Vermi composting (organic wastes from the kitchen with live earthworms and sand), you can throw any seed on it and can be assured that you can get a healthy sapling.   Note that healthy saplings replanted elsewhere have a 80% higher success rate than direct sowing.   Anyway vermi composting locations are as such good places to plant pumpkins, and all you need to do is direct the climber to your nearest terrace or shed, and you will see lots of pumpkins.    In villages pumpkins thrown over rubble has seen 30-40 pumpkins within 3-4 months, provided the weather is cooperative (plant towards the end of the rainy season, so that harvesting happens around spring time to early summer).

Pumpkin and Potato

Image Courtesy : Google Images

There should be more vegetables and fruits, you may want to try for your kitchen garden. 

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Indian Plants : Easy, Aesthetic and Useful

Posted by sudarsan on September 27, 2007

Seeing places abroad as well as commercial establishments locally, influenced a lot of Indians to move away from fruit & flower bearing trees to landscaped gardens with exotic grass, palms and evergreen shrubs.    Lets analyze this in detail and see what works well for us.

Home Garden

 Image Courtesy: http://www.casabaan.com

Korean Grass

Though Korean grass does not need periodic trimming it need a lot of water, periodic manuring, as well as well prepared landscape. Arugam Pull(used in prayers to Sri Ganapathy), is a versatile local variety that grows well without much personal attention, and does not need big investments nor maintenance.  A big plus with this grass is that it is soft and cool to sit on.  Crab grass from Malaysia or US ($10 seed+manure packet can cover 1000 sq feet) consumes less water, but needs periodic trimming to maintain the green patch.

Ornamental plants for landscaping

1. Ixora – This is a shrub endemic to India, and very popular in Europe as well.   Ixora has thin stalks with star like flowers that comes as a bunch (as a child we used to take one by one and suck out the little honey out of these flowers).  It comes in colours such as white, pink and coral red.   It can be maintained as a small shrub or can be allowed to grow as  a tree.   A bunch of flowers remain fresh for at-least a week and adds a mild fragrance to the breeze.   With this plant you will have tiny bees and butterflies visiting your home.  The flowers can also be harvested to string garlands.  This is a perennial, so you can see flowers throughout the year. A picture is shown below.


Image Courtesy: http://www.tradewindsfruit.com

 2. Turmeric, Ginger, Chitharathai, Yam – All these plants have a similar look and grows very well in our climate.    Suited for planting on the side of the pathways.  These plants can be used for culinary and medicinal purposes.

3. Climbers – Sweet potato (Velli Kizhangu), Jasmine (Nitya Malli) are excellent climbers that need very little soil, manure and water, but offer extensive coverage.   Nitya Malli flowers daily throughout the year.

4. Flowering plants – Chrysanthemum (Samanthi), Bhadrakshi, Jasmine (Gundu Malligai), Kanakambaram, Sampangi are nice flower bearing plants.  My pick is Bhadrakshi for landscaping as it is easy to grow and is a perennial.

5.Exotics – If you have a large home with huge grass lawns, adding a lotus/lily pond would be very appealing.   However you may have to populate the pond with some fishes and frogs to get rid of mosquitoes.

6.Trees – Arecanut (Paaku), Jackfruit (Palamaram), Gooseberry (Nellikai), Plantain/Banana, Casuarina, Bamboo, Teak, Badam are the best picks for trees that add to landscaping value as well as good utility value for homes.  Mangoes, Coconuts, Sappotta, Maghizamaram, Shenbagham are very nice trees too, but may not necessarily fit into a landscaping profile.

7. Plants for remote spots – You may have noticed hard-to-reach points in your building that would look nice with some plants.  At such places Perandai (Cactus variety, but can withstand downpours as well), Aloe Vera (Katrazhai) can grow well without letting in pests.

 It is a long Indian tradition that food itself is treated as medicine, so lets look at landscaping the Indian way: Easy, Aesthetic and Useful.

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