Away from the rush of the city, this secret garden is situated in Green Acres, Raiwind
By Aarzoo Naeem Chaudhry
Tucked away, far from the dust and smoke of Lahore is a ‘Secret Garden.’ As pretty as the place is, not many people know about it. It is a heaven for those who want to give their eyes a rest from the insane traffic and pollution clogged city of Lahore. Slightly out of the ever-growing radius of Lahore these gardens are near the Raiwind Road in Green Acres area. In the original story of The Secret Garden, there is a key that opens the hidden doors of the garden. The ‘key’ of this ‘Secret Garden’ however is not hidden as the gates are open to public on special occasions or on permission. There is even a bed of flowers arranged in the shape of a huge key-hole at the back of the house.
Mohammad Ashraf Sheikh, the proud owner of the gardens is passionate about his garden and flowers. On entering the home, we saw him standing in the warm spring sun, slightly bent over, instructing the gardeners on picking out weeds in the grass. His passion for gardening was evident as he talked about his plants and the way he manages his garden. “I have nine to ten gardeners working here, in fact eleven, if you include the ‘Head maalee’ – me.” Ashraf Sheikh is one of those people who have a natural flair for gardening and keep their garden bursting with colors in every season. “I don’t live in this house; my sons live here with their families. But, I come here everyday to check on my flowers and plants,” he said.
The conversation with him turned out to be quite informative and educational as he gave us a tour of his gardens and explained the botanical and common names of each flower under review. The pathway leading to the back of the house is lined with Sweet Peas and shaded with fruit trees. The fruit trees bear figs, oranges, mangoes, cheekoos and lemons amongst other fruits. “The fruits from my garden are juicy and delicious, we don’t need to buy fruit from the market, we have all that in our own garden,” he says with a smile.
There are a lot of potted plants near the swimming pool area that include exotic flowers like Lillium and Tulips. There is a range of Cacti, some of which Ashraf has bought from Faisalabad and other areas of Pakistan. He brushes aside any superstitions related to planting or keeping cactus in the home. “Cactus, like all other plants and flowers, is a creation of God, and nothing that God has created can ever be cursed!”
There is pride and happiness in Ashraf Sheikh’s tone when he talks about his property. “The contouring and landscaping of the land was done by Aamir Qureshi – an intelligent and creative designer. I give him and my gardeners credit for the beauty you see here,” says the ever-humble Ashraf Sheikh.
There is a jungle gym and a pair of swings for children’s recreation. And if that was not enough Ashraf Sheikh has built a barbecue area and even a tandoor opposite the pool. There is also a beautiful small annexe in the farthest corner of the garden that adds to the life of the ambiance.
Once you’re inside the gardens you can feel positive vibes running through you. This is how it always feels to be close to the beauty of nature. We can all create a ‘Secret garden’ of our own in our homes even if we don’t have acres of land. The important thing is not the number of plants and flowers but the closeness you share with nature.
This article was originally published in the print edition of Valuemag, issue 1, May 2008.