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Mumbai’s young horticulturist, Shaan Lalwani, has a literally green solution to get rid of the pesky pests lurking in your house.

During monsoon all kinds of creepy crawlies sneak into the house. Using chemical sprays and repellants to ward off the intruders may be effective, but not an eco-friendly idea. Shaan, the owner of Vriksha Nursery in Vileparle West, recommends that you use plants to combat the menace in the most healthy and efficient way.

Can you tell us about your background? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and cool career?

His interest in horticulture and landscape shows his passion for green living that he inherited from his parents, who started a nursery 34 years ago in Mumbai.
Shaan literally grew up amidst pots and plants.

His father Ashok Lalwani was a self-taught landscape expert who designed the landscape of Joggers Park (Lokhandwala) among several other projects in Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat.

His mother’s creativity transforms stray flowers and twigs into beautiful Ikebana flower arrangement that she learnt from Japan.

Though Shaan inherited their nursery five years ago it is his vast knowledge in horticulture and thirst for finding plants beneficial to people that has seen his nursery expand manifold.

The workforce at the nursery has grown from 13 to 65 in 5 years. Operating from a 0.25 acre space currently, he now aspires for a bigger green plot in Mumbai that could let his customers experience nature in the very heart of this cacophonous city.

What did you study?

A horticulture graduate from College of Agriculture (Dapoli, Maharashtra) and holding a Masters in Landscape Management from University of Sheffield (UK), he is into innovations in gardening and researching useful plants.

How does your work benefit the society?

Shaan recommends that you use plants to combat the menace in the most healthy and efficient way.

His argument is ‘why chemicals’ when you have plants like citronella, which is a natural mosquito repellant.

Citronella oil effectively repels the mosquito Aedes Aegypti that transmits viruses that cause dengue fever.

“It can be kept as a potted plant. It needs 6 hours of sunlight daily and 50 ml of water only.

“You can just break the leaf of citronella plant and keep it near the window or rub the extract on your skin to repel mosquitoes,” says Shaan, 27 years of age.

Living in a metro he understands the space crunch in high-rise apartments and so experiments with urban farming, landscaping, rooftop gardening, and tries to use window sills and even ceilings to grow potted plants.

How is the future for Horticulture?

With rising vegetables prices Shaan suggests that you could buy saplings/small plants of chillies, brinjal and tomato at just Rs 15 each from his nursery and grow at home.

He has sold about 12000 pitcher plants since its introduction in the nursery 5 years ago. For one year, the plant was grown in controlled conditions to test its efficacy in Mumbai’s climate.

This insect predator could even devour cockroaches and small lizards (all foraging, flying and crawling creatures) but is quite harmless to kids and curious humans.

Shaan says one could grow herbs even in the smallest of apartments and they would meet your kitchen needs.

Whether one requires basil for Thai cooking or rosemary for Italian, freshest of organically grown herbs would be available right in the kitchen!

The only requirement is daily watering that will fetch fresh herbs like mint, basil, rosemary, ajwain, lemon grass, garlic chives, and thyme for 2 years in the most convenient and economical way.