Engineer creates mini forest at home; grows 400 exotic plants

Subrat Kumar Nath cultivates rare flower and fruit plants, including Miyazaki mango that sell for Rs2.5 lakh per kg, at his home in Odisha. The engineer uses organic manures and also shares plants with nature lovers, helping in biodiversity conservation

Niroj Ranjan Misra
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Subrat Kumar Nath next to the Miyazaki mango tree (left) and with Sahasradala Padmam lotus (right)

Subrat Kumar Nath next to the Miyazaki mango tree (left) and with Sahasradala Padmam lotus (right)

Subrat Kumar Nath, an engineer working for the multi-national company Cushman & Wakefield (C&W), has created a ‘mini forest’ of rare flowers and fruit-bearing plants at his home in Budharaja in Sambalpur, Odisha. The most famous among his exotic plants is the Sahasradala Padmam, a lotus with over 1000 petals, which has a strong fragrance and also finds a mention in the Puranas.

Subrat was drawn to nature from a young age. When he was 12 years old, he used to spend time watering and taking care of plants like marigolds hibiscus, and vegetables in the kitchen garden at the official residence of his father, who worked in Hirakud at the Industrial Development Corporation Limited (IDCOL), Odisha.

His fascination with flowers and plants turned into a passion that continued after he completed engineering in electronics and telecommunications in 2008 from Bhubaneswar-based Eastern Academy of Science and Technology. Meanwhile, his father Surendra Mohan Nath retired as IDCOL's security officer and returned to his ancestral home at Budharaja of Sambalpur.

Also Read: This 29-year-old grows organic exotic fruits in his backyard, gets bumper crops

Biodiversity conservation

“Motivated by my parents, I raised my ‘mini forest’ with about 40 plants in the garden in the backyard of our house in 2011, when I was working for MSP Metallics Ltd in Marakuta,” says Subrat who joined C&W in 2022.

Subrat’s father encouraged him to plant more and more trees. “Today, over 400 plants of more than 30 species have come up in our garden, in the 500 square feet balcony and 2000 square feet terrace of our house,” says Surendra.

rare lotus
Rare Sahasradala Padmam, a lotus with over 1000 petals, at Subrat's home. Pic: Subrat Kumar Nath

Subrat’s work is helping in the conservation of biodiversity. 

His mini forest now includes 72 varieties of water lily, 28 types of lotuses, six varieties of insectivorous Pitcher plants, 10 types of orchids and ferns each, 12 types of cactus, Portulaca and snake plants each, 20 varieties of Adenuim, among others. 

It also hosts wild Ashoka and Arjun trees and fruit-bearing trees like apple ber, Thai guava, mulberry and grapes. He procured the tubers and saplings from local nurseries as well as from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. Subrat also grows rainbow sugarcane, procured at Rs 1000 a sapling. Its attractive features are the nodes with tinges of three hues— green, yellow and red. 

Also Read: West Bengal: Lotus cultivation in Bankura lifts growers’ fortunes as the national flower finds a global market

Subrat has planted a tree of Miyazaki mango, which has a unique aromatic flavour and retails at over Rs2.5 lakh per kg in the international market. 

Miyazaki mangoes are loaded with antioxidants, folic acid, and beta-carotene apart from other vitamins and minerals. “I procured the sapling for Rs1500. The tree has now yielded 10 mangoes,” he adds.

Investing in cultivation

Subrat has so far invested over Rs 1.5 lakh in phases in his mini forest. Besides, he spends Rs 2000 to Rs 3000 every month to maintain and manure the plants. “I use only vermin compost, neem khali (neem cake), mustard khali (mustard cake) and cow dung as fertilizer and insecticide,” says Subrat. “I gathered all this knowledge from the Internet and practice organic farming methods,” he adds.

goldfish f
Miyazaki Mango (left) and Goldfish Flower (right). Pic: Subrat Kumar Nath

Every fortnight, he feeds the plants with two to three grams of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate). 

“I take two to three grams of bone meal in a piece of paper and push it deep inside the soil away from the plant roots. I use five to ten grams of vermicompost after digging the soil. This helps a plant grow healthily and luxuriantly,” Subrat says. 

Though Subrat spends a lot of his time tending to the plants, he is not involved in their commercial sale. However, occasionally he sells the tubers of water lilies and lotuses to buyers who he finds to be genuine plant lovers. 

The occasional sale of water lilies and lotuses fetches him Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh annually.  

One of the buyers is Jyotismita Dhar, a health worker at the government community health centre at Majhipali under Sasan tehsil of Sambalpur district. She has procured four varieties of lotus and three types of water lilies from Subrat. While lotuses cost her between Rs 600 and Rs 1200 per tuber, water lily costs around Rs 500 per tuber. 

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“When I came to know about Subrat’s collection of plants, I immediately contacted him. He came with the tubers potted in plastic containers and set them on the terrace of my house in Bhalupali. He also briefed me about the methods of maintaining the plants,” says Jyotirmaya. 

tending to plants
Tending to his plants. Pic: Subrat Kumar Nath

Subrat who earned the tagline of ‘Prakriti Bandhu’ from the state government in 2020, played a key role in the transformation of the hydrophyte garden of Nandankanan in Barang, over 15 away from Bhubaneswar. He also provided 10 to 12 species of water lilies and lotuses to enhance the kaleidoscopic beauty of the hydrophyte garden. 

During his tenure as divisional forest officer in Samambalpur between 2017 and 2021, Sanjit Kumar came in contact with Subrat, who had played a major role in several plantation drives of the forest department. 

“Subrat helped transform the hydrophyte garden of Nandankanan during my tenure (2021-2023) there. He also trained the personnel in the garden on maintaining and manuring the plants. Besides, he visited the garden frequently for about a year to guide the personnel,” says Sanjit, now the director of the National Zoological Park, Delhi. 

(Niroj Ranjan Misra a Cuttack-based freelance writer. He writes on rural and tribal life, social issues, art and culture, and sports)

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