The rose garden in Rashtrapati Bhavan used to be called Mughal Gardens. The day before I booked a visit with The Family it was renamed the Amrit Udyan. Doesn’t a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Let me go with roses, not names.
I’m completely naive when it comes to gardens. All around me I notice people stopping at their favourites and reeling off the name of the cultivar, talking about the soil and the humidity needed to get the best blossoms. I listen, and the words drip past me. All you need, in order to grow the best roses, is to be the President of India, and have a huge garden and staff.
She does have the best roses I have seen in a while. I do like the spotty white one, although the rose-tending-to-purple is pretty eye-catching too. Interestingly, not one of these three had a sweet smell.
Don’t even think about it. Yes, we all know that there is a rose garden in Munnar. We have all read the great reviews. But don’t promise one. It has no roses. It is full of people bumbling about, looking cross, although there are absolutely spectacular flowers. All because someone promised them a rose garden, and they don’t think a garden without roses is what they were promised.
The one thing in Munnar which I had low expectations of, and which therefore stunned me totally was this garden off on the eastern part of town. The entrance to the garden is at a pretty narrow spot in the road, and the people entering and leaving cause a bit of a traffic jam. On the steep slope below the road is the garden. There is a little charge for entry, but it is well worth paying. The flowers here are unusual and you are unlikely to be able to find a better place to spend an hour in the town.
I’m not an expert gardener. I know my roses and lilies, marigolds, vinca and zinnia. I can tell an Iris from a Pansy, and I’ve learnt the difference between a peony and a petunia. Otherwise I talk of blue flowers and yellow flowers. Close to the entrance was a whole bunch of flowers which I think of as Anthurium. I’ve only seen a couple of varieties before: both with a yellow spadix, one had a red spathe, the other white. Here there was such a variety of colours of both that it was clear that some of them are hybrids. They must be breeding them here.
We walked past flowers which I cannot name (a couple of pictures above), and then reached a lower aisle where every flower was labelled. We stopped to admire the flower here (called "Lady’s slippers"), which is possibly an orchid. The plant is a creeper. There was a little walk where the plant had been allowed to form a roof over a lattice covering the walk, making a green tunnel. The flowers hung in bunches from the green walls, looking really pretty.
Further on we came to the cacti. We’d seen several before, but there were some spectacular Hawthoria among them. The specimen above was labelled Hawthoria fascita but could well be Hawthoria attenuata. The usual way to distinguish the two is that the attenuata has stripes on both sides of the leaf. The attenuata also develops this nice red colour if it is in the sun long enough.
The final section of the garden had orchids. We’ve seen a spectacular orchid garden in Gangtok. This selection was smaller, but there were some very nice ones here, including the Cattleya shown on the left. The walk through the garden took us about an hour.