Gardenia – an Eden in Tbilisi
10 May, 2012
Gardenia – an Eden in Tbilisi

 

‘I  am  not  thinking  about  making  it  profitable.  I  have  not  conceived  it  as  a  typical  business.  I  am  glad  I  am  breaking  even,  and  this is  just  about  enough  for me’  – says biologist and botanist Zurab Shevardnadze – founder and owner of the Gardenia Nursery in the vicinity of Tbilisi along the way, leading to Tbilisi Sea. 

This is a 0, 5 hectare nursery-garden, packed full with myriad sorts and species of plants, ready to go to flora lovers.

Incidentally, all his plants are of local origin, not imported, and Zurab is very proud of the fact. He is commenting that the indigenous flora in Georgia is so rich that import makes no sense – 4200 various species of plants. Just imagine! Out of this number, 20 % of plants are endemic, grown only locally. As a matter of fact, the Caucasus has always been known as the globally-renowned supplier of plants to the rest of the world. The story has it that in the 18th and 19th centuries, the so called Plant Hunters would travel to this part of the world to massively purchase the plant seeds for selling it back in Europe, the result being that today 70% of decoratively usable plants in Europe are of the Caucasus origin. Hence, I am not surprised that this outstanding young Georgian specialist has managed to create the local Eden on once a barren chunk of land without much assistance from the outside.

Shevardnadze received special education at the Bonn University in Germany, having spent there ten years of his young life. His doctoral thesis was prepared and defended right at the junction of two related sciences of botany and biology, and the outcome of his education could not have been used more rationally than this – professionally serving people with theoretical wisdom, practical know-how and his unheard of generosity. He likes to receive and treat them with his own Gardenia-grown tomatoes and cucumbers, Georgian cheese and bread and of course his famous icy-cold Feijoa (pineapple guava) Juice.

Zurab’s parents are living in West Georgia. Dad is often complaining that his son is relentlessly squandering his time and energy on keeping the nursery alive, not even making enough money to call it an enterprise. Zurab himself is not yet married, complaining that getting married for a man of his vocational obsession and this much predilection for Mother Nature is not so easy. Funny, but true, very true! Where can you get a female partner in this overwhelmingly urbanized milieu who would love to faithfully stand by forever with this bearded man in a farmer’s hat, nursing his beloved plants 24/7 with a huge sense of contentment and responsibility to let the nursery-garden stay up and running? Who knows! There is still plenty of time – he is only 32. The whole place is presented to the viewer like a chef-d'oeuvre, within which the entire composition looks subtle and impeccable: the inviting plants, carefully potted and nursed by the overly busy staff; miniature greenhouses and conservatories with a familiar ooze of vapor and enticing smell; tiny premises for living and running the farm; cutely constructed and decorated narrow paths all over the place between the array of plants of so many shades of green; neat birdhouses perched on thin poles; the antique-decorated tiny bedroom with two single separated metal-work beds; old-style hand-made sheets, pillows and quilts with old buttons, reminding me of my grandmother’s lovely handicraft; ancient bedside table and wardrobe, and the antique night-pots brought all the way from Germany with faithful deliberation to add the funny detail to the abode in Eden. As soon as you open the gates here, you find yourself in the three-dimensional harmony of color, form and aroma, assembled into one wholesome piece by a masterful artist, placing the magic design on the level of the famous Japanese gardens in kind.

In Gardenia – that’s the name of the place – a visitor (Zura hates the word ‘client’) is usually at home. All of them are his guests and spiritual brothers and sisters. Anybody who loves to do with flora in general is his undoubted kin. Answering the question about his preferences, Zurab told me without any hesitation that the satisfying person-to-person relationship is all that seriously matters to him. When I asked him what he was short of in Georgia mostly, he answered that he lacked socializing with the people of his own stance and philosophy of life. Maybe, this is one of the reasons of his overwhelming infatuation with this naturally beautiful world of flowers and trees – not just the priced components of trivial decoration, but the vibrant organisms, so closely known to him.

Zurab has never driven a car. He abhors driving and is not even trying to learn it and acquire a driver’s license. He manages with the help of his staff quite well. As busy as he is, he definitely needs all the assistance he can get. And the friendly and motivated co-workers are happy to be around all the time with all their skills and wills.

Against all odds, Zurab Shevardnadze is an extremely cheerful and an extraordinary man. He is doing exactly what he has always wanted to do since he was a little boy of ten. No way for him to give up on what he thinks is the work of his lifetime – both in the past and in the future.

‘I hate debts, I hate banks, I hate loans, I hate dependence on others, and I hate wasting my time. I will continue doing my Gardenia as long as I can. And this place will never look like a regular store. Never!  That will be too boring and depressing for me’– Zurab told me resolutely before I had left the Eden with a decisive intention to be back. There was something excessively powerful in this man of nature and will – `I always know what I am doing` –added he in a quiet voice, as if not to be overheard.

 

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