Tamil Nadu University of Agriculture’s Renovated Botanical Garden opens with new attractions
The second largest garden in Tamil Nadu was renovated at the age of 113. Now a stroll through the refreshed botanical garden of Tamil Nadu University of Agriculture is a riot of colors, scents and flora lessons
A canopy of towering gulmohar trees streaks the air of yellow as I begin my walk through the renovated botanical garden of the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU) in Coimbatore. A cool breeze adds pleasure to the view. A few steps from the abundant yellow, a riot of orange flowers strews the ground. Next to this bay of flowering shrubs of pink, yellow and orange tecoma flowers are vast expanses of green lawns.
The renovated facade of the 113-year-old garden, the second largest in the state after the government botanical garden in Udhagamandalam (Ooty), has re-sodded on both sides, central fountains and gazebos. A pond will be added with water lilies and lotuses.
The main alley sidewalk is flanked by rows of fake Ashoka trees, foliage trees that branch out in tiers, and cordia trees that bear saffron-colored flowers throughout the year. Blooming climbing plants and clerodendrom shrubs with white and red flowers form the hedges around the arches of the lawns. A QR code displayed next to trees and plants displays both scientific and common names.
Spread over 47 acres, the garden boasts over 800 species of flora, both exotic and native, and serves as an education center for botanists and the general public. âIt brings together education, aesthetics and recreation,â said N Kumar, vice-chancellor of TNAU. âThe garden is a zero plastic zone and we make sure that the public strictly adheres to it,â he adds.
The main entrance leads to a renovated children’s play area – a cheerful space with several colorful swings and slides. A cascading artificial waterfall is being prepared. A garden maze with balustrades is accompanied by rows of clerodendron plants, with tiny white flowers. âThey are evergreen plants and can grow up to two meters and in perfect condition. Children can run and hide in the greenery, âexplains M Ganga, associate professor in 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 is a bio-sweetener, 100 times sweeter than sugar,” explains L Nalina, associate professor in the floriculture department, specializing in medicinal plants.
- She adds, as we walk through the herb and aroma garden which houses a valuable collection of over 100 species, âWe educate students on the identification, conservation and uses of herbal plants. and aromatics. The public can also acquire knowledge.
- 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 aromatic garden is home to some of the amazing smelling plants, from fragrant chamomile and Cape jasmine to lavender, thyme, oregano, peppermint, rosemary and cloves.
A little further on is a five-level sunken garden. It has a central pond laid below ground level and terraces around it. It also features steps adorned with flowering shrubs like pink euphorbias and ruellias with pink, white and purple flowers.
âThe Ministry of Floriculture maintains the garden. It is a tropical botanical garden and serves as an education center for floriculture students to learn about landscaping and floriculture concepts as this is part of the curriculum, âsays Kumar.
In addition to existing plants and trees, a number of new species have been added, such as the branch palm from the Royal Botanic Garden in Kolkata. A group of palm trees with male and female branches stand motionless and picturesque above the four-lawned green turf, grown with Mexican grass.
Beyond flowers and petals
Other attractions include a bambusetum with 15 species of bamboo, a rock garden with cactus species, and a palmatum with various species of palm trees.
We stop and take a look at a beautiful pink flower (that’s the desert rose, a hardy plant, says Ganga) before continuing, take a look at the latticework adorned with a purple wreath, a pretty little climbing plant with drooping purple-violet star-shaped flowers, yellow tabebuias and wild alamandas. A mounded lawn with wavy elevations enters the view, a place to sit and gaze at lovely views of the garden. We pass the sivakundalam (sausage tree) and century-old gulmohars with reinforced roots, to reach the plant conservatory, where the plants are nurtured and protected in a greenhouse with shade net.
An automatic watering system creates a misty environment for the plants. There are anthuriums, birds of paradise, heliconias, pink grape plants, peace lilies, and more.
âThese species require high humidity. Most of these plant species are rare, endangered or threatened. These species cannot withstand direct sunlight, so we breed them in diffused light, âGanga explains.
These efforts are being made for a solid reason, explains Kumar, âOur goal is to reach the public. A love for flora should ultimately lead to conservation.