Ms. Rachna Jain, the founder and secretary of Indraprastha Horticulture Society was interested in plants even as a young child, but it wasn’t until she joined the All India Kitchen Garden Association that she took this interest to the next level. She attended courses and honed both her academic and practical skills in gardening. Inspired by the late founder and president of AIKGA Smt. Sarla Bhargav, and finding a lack of horticultural activity in East Delhi, she decided to hold a Flower Show. This first show was a small community affair. Ms. Jain and her small army of family and friends went from door to door in the neighborhood collecting plants to display at the show. The second show contained all the ingredients of future shows including the much loved children’s painting competition, an event that was the beginning of the society’s commitment to fostering the love of gardening and the environment in the young.
The third show saw the event reach Bahubali DDA Park, the venue that is now synonymous with the Annual IHS Flower Show. At this time, Ms Krishna Gupta ( president) joined Ms Jain in her endeavours; bringing her own visions and talents. Both ladies with their enthusiasm, determination and ‘ everything is possible’ attitudes are the driving forces that have taken the society from a handful of members to the hundreds that span Delhi and beyond.
Ms. Gupta recounts how she would have a dozen plants in her home, some of which would ultimately die, until she acquired the knowledge and skills to nurture them. Now her home, garden and the wasteland she developed is a ‘ veritable fount of plants’ whose supply never ends! Her ‘big heartedness’ ensures that members seeking to develop parks, society grounds, wastelands or simply adding to their collections are never short of plants; and of course knowledge and guidance is always available from both the ladies.
Very quickly after the formation of the society, the ladies realised the importance of organic gardening and the need to remove reliance on chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Members were encouraged to adopt natural gardening techniques. From there it was an easy progression to recycling, reusing and thereby reducing waste, especially plastic.
The monthly meetings of IHS offer a wealth of information to the members through lectures, demos and workshops. They not only cover all aspects of gardening, from preparing soil mixes, to growing seeds and plants, but also more specialised forms such as tray gardens, terrariums and kokedama to name a few. Apart from these, there are demos and workshops for other art forms, such as creating gardening items and accessories from waste materials, fruit and vegetable carving, ikebana, festive decoration, rangoli, candle making and cooking. In fact IHS is always ready to provide a platform for new and innovative ideas and techniques.
There have been many firsts in the journey of the society, with of course the very first being its formation.
Another first for IHS was the formation of the Bonsai Club. Again recognising a need in East Delhi for members interested in growing bonsai, Ms Jain organised monthly meetings where knowledge and skills could be developed for making, growing and maintaining bonsai. The society held its first Bonsai Show in 2010 to mark the 5th anniversary of the club.
Each year saw a bigger and better Flower Show, and in 2013 the society launched its first souvenir magazine to commemorate the show. From then on, each show had a theme, a focus on a certain aspect of gardening. The articles in the magazine were chosen to impart knowledge on that theme and the show itself would highlight the theme through specific displays. This proved to be a great attraction for visitors.
Through the years, the society has highlighted the needs of the hour, inspiring visitors through their displays and demos to do the same in their homes and gardens. It has had the privilege of being invited by other organisations to create unique landscapes at their events, winning many awards and accolades for the same.
At the heart of the society’s mission is to create awareness and encourage the young to actively participate in making their environment a clean, green and safe haven for all those who dwell in it. The Annual Flower Shows have always had competitions for children with topics pertaining to the environment. Many members bring their children to volunteer at the shows; ‘ budding environmental warriors’ in the making. In another first, the society has reached out to organisations working with underprivileged children, schools and colleges to provide events, talks, demonstrations and workshops for them. It is most rewarding and fulfilling to see their enthusiasm and eagerness to learn gardening skills and create unique items from waste materials.
Each passing year has seen the membership of IHS grow, and in 2019, in yet another first, the society opened a new chapter in Ghaziabad, followed by a second unit in Dehradun in 2022.
Even the Covid pandemic in 2020 did not deter Ms. Gupta and Ms. Jain from imparting knowledge and keeping the membership together. The members all became ‘tech savvy’ through the zoom meetings that were held more than once a month. The pandemic also provided an opportunity to IHS to hold its first ever Virtual Flower Show; a video in 4 parts that presented to the viewers the essence of IHS.
Always ready to take up the gauntlet, Indraprastha Horticulture Society seized the opportunity offered in 2021 at the end of the lockdown, to hold a small Flower Show with all the necessary precautions; offering a respite from the isolation felt by all during the pandemic.
Finding a scarcity of gardening information online with regard to the specific climate of Delhi, Ms Rachna Jain encouraged the society to set up its own website that would provide this valuable information to all that required it. Along with its Facebook page and Instagram presence, the society has made its mark on the online platform.
This remarkable 25 year journey of IHS could not have been possible without the help, encouragement, guidance and support of many people and organisations along the way. The society acknowledges and extends its gratitude to the esteemed chief guests, the learned judges and the institutions and organisations who have graced and actively participated in the shows through the years.
The journey IHS has embarked on is a never ending one. The wish is to give our children a world that lets them breathe pure air and eat healthy food. We will make the journey by sometimes taking tiny steps and sometimes giant ones, and then repeating it again and again until we reach our destination.
In the words of the famous Chinese proverb: The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. The first step was taken in 1998 but the journey continues.