It’s not everyday that you get to visit a magical Global garden like the Eden Project in Cornwall, England (UK). So when I found myself finally standing on ‘Eden soil’ under one of the massive biomes that house the world’s largest rain-forest in captivity, along with other plant species from the Mediterranean,South Africa and California, I was nothing short of mesmerized. Never before had I witnessed a man made marvel nestled in a huge crater also with an outdoor garden spread over 30 acres. Recipient of the Best UK Leisure Attraction award continuously for 4 years (2014, 2013, 2012 and 2011) and the Silver Award for Best Leisure Attraction in 2016, the Eden Project is a must visit destination. What makes the place even more interesting is the beautiful amalgamation of art, architecture, nature and science in one destination.
The mere mention of the Rose Garden fills the air with romance!.Undoubtedly its like paradise for a leisurely walk as a tourist or a brisk walk or jog in order to keep fit.
As one enters the garden, walking through the canopy of orange showers, along with the tall and stately silver oak trees lining the path, you are greeted with thousands of roses of different hues bobbing their pretty heads in the breeze. You breathe deeply – mesmerized by their sheer beauty. The Dr. Zakir Hussain Rose Garden in Sector 16 of Chandigarh was established in 1967 under (late) Dr. M.S. Randhawa, Chandigarh’s first Chief Commissioner. It is the largest Rose Garden in Asia spread over an area of about 4000 acres and has around 825 varieties of roses and more than 32,500 plants.
Continuing with our walk along the periphery of the garden, we cross several bottle brush trees and walk along side the majestic eucalyptus trees. Walk further and you come across a cluster of Bael trees laden with fruit around the time of ‘Shivratri’. Walk a few steps more and you can see trees like Fiddle wood (a tree with fragrant flowers and useful for making sound boards of musical instruments) and Kachnar (ever tried making ‘raita’ from Kachnar buds ?) Several other trees like Amaltas, Gulmohar, Burr, simbal, Devil’s trees, Koelreuteria (golden rain tree) and Pride of India dot the garden either individually or in small clusters. As you complete your round, you meander through rows of neatly planted roses with fancy names such as President Giri, Queen Elizabeth, Iceberg, Pink Perfect etc. Kiss of Fire is a vibrant yellow rose with a fusion of blushing pink and Arabian Nights; a red rose that makes me sing from John Boyle O’Reilly’s poem, ‘A white Rose’,
“The red rose whispers of passion,
And the white rose breathes of love;
O, the red rose is a falcon
And the white rose is a dove”
The Rose Garden is home for several birds too like parrots and Great Indian Hornbill. It is fun to chase a little squirrel nibbling away at a seed and watch it vanish into its abode in the great Jamun tree. The coloured water fountains add to the joyous mood of the place. The garden is very well maintained, thanks to the annual feature of the Rose Festival in February. The lawns are perfectly manicured and there is sufficient lighting for walkers to feel safe during their evening walk. There are three solar arrays to meet some of the electricity requirements. There is also an open air stage to host quizzes during the festival. The garden also boasts of well–maintained toilets and a play area for children.
One word of advice, dress properly as it’s a busy place and you may meet many acquaintances (sometimes four times in two rounds, if walking in opposite directions) along with the usual tourists!
Chandigarh is home to some beautiful gardens and by far one of the greenest Indian cities. No wonder it is called ‘City Beautiful.’ I love going for my morning walk, and one of my most favourite places is Leisure Valley. Let me take you on a virtual tour through this garden from the perspective of a walking enthusiast!
The moment one steps into the garden, a palpable difference in temperature can be felt, being a few notches below the outside temperature. A whiff of air from the scented trees fills the nostrils and the lilting song of the Koel (Cuckoo bird) welcomes you; immediately lifting the mood and making one feel light and happy.
The leisure valley, sector 10, is a part of an 8 km long stretch around the eroded valley left by a seasonal rivulet (choe) which was retained by the great French architect, Le–Corbusier.The jogging track is flanked by temple plant trees, the ornamental Yellow Oleander trees (peeli kaner) and some young silver oaks. As we walk along we come across an assortment of trees like Amaltas, Bottle brush, Dhak flower trees and Peepal. During April–May, when these trees are flowering, one can see a myriad of colours which is a sight to behold. The Devil’s trees are planted in large numbers.
Walking through the canopy of these trees, a grey hornbill swishes past overhead and settles on a branch above. Several other birds like hoopoe, woodpecker and parrots are often seen. The babbler can be seen hopping on the grasses in small groups creating quite a cacophony.
The topography of the Leisure valley is uneven and that perhaps
adds to the beauty of the place.One can see vast stretches of green from a distance, having a balming effect on the eyes. In the interior of the garden more varieties of trees such as Golden trumpet and Jarul can be spotted. At times I have bumped into a sahtoot tree (mulberry) and got rewarded by its succulent fruit or picked some mogra from the gardenia shrubs for the morning puja! Neatly planted rows of seasonal flowers too dot the garden. My favourite spot in the garden is the Bamboo grove . According to Feng Shui, a wish made under a bamboo shrub is fulfilled. Needless to say, I have my daily quota of wishes to be granted! The picturesque bamboo grove is inspiration for many renowned painters and photographers!
After walking around the garden it is worth while to sit for a few minutes on a favourite bench, breathe deeply and focus on “Pranayam” or sit back and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the place. To quote William Henry Davies from the poem, ‘Leisure’.
“What is this life, if full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass?’
The Leisure valley is a laid back place, quite suitable for people who do not wish to wake up too early in the morning for their walk. It is also not very crowded, so its almost like your own personal farmhouse! I, for one could happily spend the whole day here walking, meditating or simply sitting in a corner reading my favourite book.
It is heartening to note that of late the Chandigarh Municipal corporation is taking pains towards further improvement of the garden. New jogging tracks have been laid and care is being taken to maintain the garden.
All the pictures used in this article are original clicks by Ritu and Anil Nanda