This is a one acre (4100 sq. mts) landscape designed for a contemporary ‘wada’ (a traditional courtyard dwelling) on the outskirts o fSangamner, a semi-rural town in Maharashtra, India. Average annual rainfall here ranges from 300 mm to 600 mm. Inspiteof having a semi arid climate, this is a highly fertile, agricultural belt of the country.The larger landscape around the site consists offields of sugarcane and pomegranate as far as the eye can see. However, on closer inspection, the land reveals a range of smaller, cultivated mosaics –scattered fields of different types of flowers (chrysanthemum, marigold, roses), citrus trees, farm ponds and thick groves of dense trees (near houses). While these were like dots on a large canvas, they offered valuable clues to the range of indigenous and cultivated plant material that existed around. A botanical garden tucked away in a local college offered further clues to the potential of extending the plant palette. It gradually became clear that the land has the capacity to produce a wide range of plants through human effort – a range of flowers, vegetables, fruits, trees – everything needed to live and enjoy life.
The landscape design for the house uses these as an inspiration, and as a starting point to create a garden that celebrates this relationship between land, people and the act of cultivation. This was critical, since at the beginning of the project, the site was completely devoid of any vegetation, except one, single, Neem (Azadarichtaindica) tree. The landscape tries to achieve a sense of continuity between the house and its garden, while responding to the strong architectural language of the house, accommodating the clients’ requirement of a large gathering space (specifically, a lawn) and also, organizing vehicular access and movement. The design attempts to weave together these requirements with a wide palette of plant material derived from the observations of the surrounding landscape.
The space immediately outside the house is an avenue of trees. This, then, connects to a large lawn with a thick layer of vegetation that conceals a walking track, leading you around the rest of the garden that contains – a lily pool surrounded with grasses and shrubs; an orchard under planted with flowers and grasses, a kitchen garden planted with herbs, and; a garden of produce. This part of the garden has many fruit trees on the periphery; with a grid of citrus trees and large blocks of fragrant roses and jasmines.
Absence of any kind of existing vegetation meant carefully curating the planting material to allow for a quick green cover by incorporating enough grasses in the planting (that could eventually be replaced). The grasses were up in a few months and created a microclimate that helped the other plants to establish and grow. Materials for the hardscape are locally quarried basalt and bricks from a local kiln. The walking track is made of burnt brick that is usually discarded. These materials were decided in close consultation with the architect of the project. The client requested a terrace garden after the house was complete. Succulents in pots were used to create this, with the shallow pots hidden in a layer of gravel.
The landscape design weaves together the house and the garden using a palette derived from the cultivated land. The garden attempts to extend these mosaics to create a landscape that can house insects, butterflies, fishes, frogs and birds; as well as fulfill the requirements of the residents – of gatherings, walking, fresh produce; fragrance and delight.
Name of the project: Garden in the Fields
Project category: Private garden
Project location: Sangamner, Maharashtra, India
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2016 – present