Monday Morning Blooms

Karan Singh wakes up at the crack of dawn every other day and heads to New Delhi’s only flower bazaar to get the freshest buds and blooms. These then make their way into wild and beautiful bouquets, ready to ship to whichever corner of the city they’re going to brighten. He then walks up to the terrace garden above his apartment, which in reality is more rooftop forest than anything else, pokes around in the mud and heads on out to tend to all the other terrace gardens he’s helped his clients create. It’s really a beautiful kind of meditative life, rooted in making things grow, watching wild things take shape, and making nothing spaces evergreen wonderlands. And it’s what Singh’s life looks like as a florist and gardener for his two business ventures—Twelvekisses (floral bouquets) and Twelvetomatoes (terrace gardens).

Singh started only eight months ago. In this time he’s already garnered a bit of a following and started work on four terrace gardens which he’s helped his clients set up. It all began for him with his own garden which took almost two and a half years to take shape. “I started with just a few pods. I had this sofa that I recycled into two flower two beds and I planted twelve tomatoes in one which is where the name for my terrace garden business came from. The garden turned out pretty alright. It’s wild and unkempt, which is what I love. I don’t like it when things are manicured. After my garden took shape, people started to ask me about their own, and how to grow this and that and I realised how much I enjoyed helping them and that’s really when the idea for my business solidified. So now I’m a happy gardener and florist”.
No stranger to plants and flowers, Singh’s childhood was spent in a small town in Punjab, around beautiful gardens and an agriculturist father. Sundays were days out in the fields, where he would carefully observe his father’s handiwork and help out with chores. But things didn’t progress quite as naturally for him as one would suppose. His has been a bit of a roundabout journey. He left home after school to pursue a Bachelor’s in computer application, hoping to one day become a software engineer. He was in the midst of a vigorous MBA preparation when he decided to veer off course and applied to The National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) to study fashion design instead. He worked in the industry, switching between various roles, for more years than he can care to count but it was his work as a designer with an events company that brought him back to his love for flowers. “When I was doing event design, I always worked with flowers or somehow naturally gravitated towards that work. Shortly after my stint, I was taking some time off between jobs and I had a few enquiries to design weddings and a friend of mine asked me to help him with the flowers for his sister’s wedding. I quite enjoyed that. I enjoy working with flowers. So it kind of just fell into place on its own”.Singh’s floral arrangements are much like his garden—wild and unkempt. There’s a certain spirit and energy in his work that seems to come from a place of love and thoughtfulness, rather than simply doing things for beauty’s sake. If you were to follow him on Instagram, you’ll see all manner of foliage making its way into his work. From wild daisies to dried lotus pods, mossy greens, and ferns, he works with myriad textures, colours, and materials, sometimes sticking his bouquets into milk bottles, clay pots and even shoe boxes. It’s a little bit French, a little bit shabby chic— a quality that makes his work as untamed and beautiful as the materials he works with. “I love experimenting with flowers. I like working with different textures and just putting things together instinctively. I mean what’s the worst that could happen right? You can just dismantle and do it all over again”. A bit of a plant nerd now, he keeps a journal for his work and when he’s not out laboring in gardens or flower markets, he’s usually doing studying flora and doing research. “I really think that this is my thing. I never thought I was going to be a florist or gardener but it's been a kind of natural evolution and I love it”.

Conversations in Gardens

What’s it like to make a garden?
It’s beautiful and it’s very time consuming. You need to set your clock to nature’s rhythm and you can’t rush into things. Sometimes people don’t understand that things take shape slowly and take their own time to grow. I can always give someone a ready made garden but even that will take grow slowly. So there’s a lot of waiting and patience involved.

Given you’re self taught, what challenges does work bring?
Well for one there are times I forget names of plants and flowers… (laughs).. I have a directory of things on my computer but sometimes I just forget. Also there’s that whole process of growing something and it not being in your own hands entirely. So I always experiment on my own terrace first. Training gardeners is hard too. And the job does involve a fair amount of laboring in the sun. But maybe that’s a good thing. It keeps me fit.
What’s the best time of year to start planning a garden?
After the monsoon I’d say. The rains are gone and it starts getting a bit cooler, and then you can start with your winter flowers and in the winter you can start planting for spring.

What’s the most Delhi-weather friendly plants and flowers?
You know the best way to know this is to see what is around you. That’s how I learnt also—just by observing what grows when and in which season. So for example bougainvillea thrives here. Champa trees, zinnia’s in the summer, areca palms, although they are a bit tricky to take care of. Also a lot of the sturdier plants like ficus, dracaenas, and the like.
What do you grow on your own terrace garden?
Oh! so much. Let’s start with the veggies—there’s tomatoes, rocket leaves, lettuce, cucumber, water gourd, brinjal, basil, rosemary, all herbs mostly, mint, figs, guavas, lemon, lime, and so much more than I can’t list right now. Then there’s also poppies, zinnias, chrysanthemums, tube rose, roses, daisies, larkspur and a whole lot more.

With your bouquets, do you work mostly with local foliage?
I work with whatever is available in the nurseries. I work with plants from across India. Except the North East and I would absolutely love to get plants from the North East here. They have the most exotic looking plants in that part of the country but I haven't been able to find someone who will bring them to me. Also in Delhi I don't know if they'll be able to thrive given the climates of the two regions are so different. But I have not seen the kind of flowers I have seen there anywhere else in India. It’s so diverse. Absolutely incredible. What are your personal favorites?
Poppies. I want to use them everywhere. Wild daisies. I would have never imagined using sunflowers earlier but I do now. And last winter I fell in love with dahlia again. We had so many of them in our garden when we were growing up, I just got tired of them. But now I love working with them. I also love using lotus pods. Tube roses are great too. I’m not a fan of gladioli. It’s going to be my challenge to make them work. That’s what I’m working on next.

How can one order your bouquets?
You can send an order request on Instagram @twelvekisses or Facebook-Twelvekisses. I also do monthly subscriptions so every week you’ll get a new bouquet at your doorstep.

What’s next for you?
Oh I just want to be the next Martha Stewart.