Tamil Nadu’s second largest garden has been renovated, at the age of 113. Now, a walk through the refreshed botanical garden of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University is a riot of colours, scents and lessons in flora
A canopy of towering gulmohar trees streak the air with yellow as I begin my walk at the Tamil Nadu Agriculture University’s (TNAU) renovated botanical garden in Coimbatore. Adding pleasure to the view is a cool breeze. A few steps away from the profuse yellow, a riot of orange blooms dot the ground. Next to this bay of flowering shrubs of rose, yellow, and orange tecoma flowers are vast stretches of green lawns.
The renovated front of the 113-year-old garden, second largest in the State after the Government Botanical Garden in Udhagamandalam (Ooty), has re-laid lawn grass on both sides, central fountains, and gazebos. A pond will be added with water lillies and lotuses.
The pavement on the main drive is flanked by rows of false Ashoka trees, foliage trees that branch out in tiers, and cordia trees that bear saffron-coloured flowers all through the year. Flowering climbers and clerodendrom shrubs with white and red blossoms form the hedges around arches at the lawns. A QR code displayed next to the trees and plants displays both scientific and common names.
Spread across 47 acres, the garden has over 800 species of flora, both exotic and native, and serves as an education hub for botanists and the general public. “It brings together education, aesthetics, and recreation,” says N Kumar, Vice-Chancellor of TNAU. “The garden is a zero-plastics zone and we ensure that the public strictly adhere to it,” he adds.
The front entrance leads to a renovated play area for children — a cheerful space with multiple swings and colourful slides. An artificial cascade waterfall is being readied. A garden maze with railings is accompanied by rows of clerodendron plants, with tiny white flowers. “These are evergreen plants and can grow up to two metres and in perfect shape. Children can run and hide themselves among the greenery,” says M Ganga, Associate Professor from the Department of Floriculture.
A scented trail
- I pluck a few leaves from a stevia plant and chew them. They give me an instant sugar rush. “It’s a bio-sweetener, 100 times sweeter than sugar,” says L Nalina, Associate Professor at Department of Floriculture, who specialises in medicinal plants.
- She adds, as we walk through the herbal and aroma garden that has a valuable collection of over 100 species, “We educate on identification, conservation, and uses of herbal and aromatic plants to the students. The public can also gain knowledge.”
- Along with plants like nilavembu, brahmi and different varieties of basil, there are species like Thai long pepper ( yaanai thippili), Coleus, aaatukaal kilangu (a tuber shaped like goat’s legs), Malabar spinach and sweet flag (vasambu).
- The aroma garden has some of the amazing-smelling plants, from the fragrant chamomile and cape jasmine to lavender, thyme, oregano, peppermint, rosemary and cloves.
A little distance away is a five-tiered sunken garden. It has a central pond laid below the ground level, and terraces around it. It also features steps embellished with flowering shrubs like pink euphorbias, and ruellias with pink, white and purple flowers.
“The Department of Floriculture maintains the garden. It’s a tropical botanical garden and serves as an eduction centre for floriculture students to learn about landscaping and concepts of floriculture as it is a part of the syllabus,” explains Kumar.
Along with the existing plants and trees, a number of new species have been added, like the branched palm sourced from the Royal Botanical Garden of Kolkata. A cluster of male and female branched palm trees stands still and picturesque overlooking the four-lawn green turf, developed with Mexican grass.
Beyond flowers and petals
Other attractions include a bambusetum with 15 species of bamboo, a rock garden with cacti species, and a palmatum with diverse palm species.
We stop by and glance at a beautiful pink flower, ( It’s the desert rose, a hardy plant, says Ganga) before moving on take a look at the trellis decked up with purple wreath, a lovely small climber with drooping violet-purple star-like flowers, yellow tabebuias and wild alamandas. A mound lawn with undulating elevations comes into the view, a place to sit and watch beautiful views of the garden. We walk past sivakundalam (sausage tree) and 100-year-old gulmohar trees with buttressed roots, to reach the plant conservatory, where plants are nurtured and protected in a green house with shade net.
A sprinkler water system creates a misty environment for the plants. There are anthuriums, birds of paradise, heliconias, rose grape cluster plants, peace lily, and more.
“These species require high humidity. Most of these plant species are rare, endangered or threatened. These species cannot withstand direct sunlight, so we nurture them under diffused light,” explains Ganga.
These efforts are taken for a solid reason, explains Kumar, “Our objective is to reach out to the public. A love for flora should eventually lead to conservation.”