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08.03.2017

As a child, Sunday was Karan Singh Parmar's least favourite day: it demanded pruning roses, exercising the tractor (the only four-wheel vehicle he can drive) and weeding garden beds. However, it is perhaps this very hate for Sundays growing up – which retrospectively became definitive of time and progress – that planted the seed of who Karan would become in his 30s: a striking, permanently suntanned gardener, coveted florist, and expert cocktail-maker.

Sitting on his terrace is a treat. If you are invited for lunch, the treat becomes a near psychedelic experience, unless eating home-cooked sweet potato gnocchi amongst freesias and California Poppies in full bloom is something you are used to. For Karan, who can’t get his hands off the flowers, this is just another other day, although he swears that most times he eats “the ordinary daal and roti lunch.” 

While he talks, in a few blinks of the eye, you can take in most of this extraordinary fertile land where we lunch, where overgrown plants are sometimes left just for experimentation purposes, and flowers bloom like they have no business (or commercial use). One could get pregnant just by being here. 

While he talks, in a few blinks of the eye, you can take in most of this extraordinary fertile land where we lunch, where overgrown plants are sometimes left just for experimentation purposes, and flowers bloom like they have no business (or commercial use).

Karan spends at least a few hours a day cultivating this spectacular urban jungle that he began dedicating a good part of his life to just over two years ago, with help from his roommate Avo. Tired of visiting factories and working too closely with the fussy needs of  clients – both necessities in his past life avatars as a designer and an event guy – Karan found a new joy in plants and flowers, one that allowed him the golden attributes of flexibility, work-from-home possibilities, and the delightful ability to make mistakes. “Gardening has been good for my body and good for mind,” he says, flexing a muscle and flashing a smile.

Heavy Petal

He runs Twelve Tomatoes, a dual business specializing in floristry and terrace gardening. The first part, the flowers, is perhaps what he is better known for, thanks largely to his mouth-watering instagram posts. Firmly dedicated to sourcing local, in-season blooms, what Karan describes as “instinct” actually makes use of his years of training in design. With each arrangement, he is careful to build a colour base, adding strategic pops and never-ever overdoing the red (unless its Valentine’s day). The result, as we can see from his small but impressive photo archive, is rush inducing: his bouquets are little works of art that play unexpected colors and flowers off of each other, and bring out lushness without ever being over the top. 

"The more open ended the brief from the client, the better,” Karan adds, when we delve in to the how of beauty-making. His floral subscription service allows clients to order arrangements weekly, or even monthly, so that you could gift a friend flowers for a year (and they’d receive a bunch every week). He is happy to work around a range of budgets, “but of course the bigger, the better,” he says, with a cheeky smile. As a rule, flowers will always be delivered on a Thursday, adding to the beauty of the weekend, unless they are ordered for a special event or party.

The second vertical of the business, terrace-scaping and gardening, is a quieter but fast-blossoming service. “Whether people have tiny balconies or large gardens, I want them to know how easy it is to grow their own plants and flowers, and how it can change their lives,” Karan says, pointing to an abundant row of lettuce which has fed him and his roommates for over a year. "I haven't had a reason to buy leaves," he says, emphasizing the reward. Broccoli, tomatoes, poppy, celery, mint, basil, cherry tomatoes, nimbu and mirchi are amongst the other plants in his robust sabzi mandi, an entirely organic oasis that he walks about with school-master ease. 

When working with a client who is interested in cultivating his or her terrace, Karan begins by trying to figure out what kinds of rewards they would like from their garden – ornamental or nutritional, for example – and draws up a plan with them to achieve this. He then pours his energy in to planning, sourcing, and training his mali – who becomes a regular visitor to the site of the client. Karan also makes personal visits weekly, to ensure that the place benefits from the expertise of the mali, but is not over-run by it. “ I don’t want to see plants and flowers in a line, and maalis sometimes don’t see the beauty in over-growing things,” he explains.

Twelve Tomatoes - which combines instinct with freedom, and training with natural flair – is predicated upon giving back, whether you choose to beautify your life (or someone else’s) with regular flowers, or put in a little work to create a terrace that will provide endless satisfaction. We recommend signing up for both, and wish upon you champagne and natural muscles on the side. 

Getting there: Write to Karan at karansinghparmar@gmail.com or my12tomatoes@gmail.com. Follow the Twelve Tomatoes Instagram page here. A monthly flower subscription costs approximately Rs 9000; terrace garden maintenance for Rs 10,000, may vary by requirements.

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