Presidential gardens: A tale of roses and climate change


New Delhi : Spring has tiptoed into the capital with its riot of blossoms despite the shadow of changing climate. The gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan – Mughal Garden, Spiritual Garden, Herbal Garden and Bio-Diversity Park – have opened their green doors to visitors.

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The parks of the presidential palace, which opened Saturday, will flaunt their colourful treasures till March 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., barring Monday.

The theme this year at the Mughal Garden – the star of the green lungs surrounding the imposing Rashtrapati Bhavan and its adjacent government power hubs – is roses.

Three new varieties, the Frantasia or the blue rose, Oaklahoma or the black rose and the red rose variety of Amalia are being billed as the jewels of the garden.

“Apart from the blue and the black roses, two other varieties, Pasadena (orange) and Queen Elizabeth (yellow and white), are also in full bloom,” Christy Fernandes, secretary to President Pratibha Patil, told the media at an special preview of the garden Friday evening.

But behind the brilliance of flowers and the flood of green, lurks an apprehension. The keepers of the immaculately landscaped gardens are finding it difficult to beat the fluctuating winter temperatures – which may have been brought about global warming.

The fickle mercury has taken a toll on some of the blooms – especially the tulips and some seasonal flowers, whose growth have been stunted. Officials fear that may not be able to nurture the flowers for a long period of time because of premature withering.

“The weather has taken its toll on the tulips, they are less intense. In fact, we have just managed to grow one bed of tulips and they are smaller,” Fernandes said.

According to Nigam Prakash Semwal, officer on special duty (OSD) for horticulture at the president’s estate, the flowers bloom in phases when winter sets in gradually.

“The buds open up slowly and blossom over a longer period of time. But the intense and shorter spell of winter this year caused all the flowers to bloom in one go. This might lead them to wither before schedule,” said Semwal.

The gardens showcase 125 varieties of roses and 50 seasonal blooms. Spread across 15 acres, the Mughal Garden was designed by Sir Edward Lutyens in the 1940s – who was inspired by the beautiful gardens of Jammu and Kashmir, the landscaped acres around the Taj Mahal and the Persian miniature paintings. The Rashtrapati Bhavan used to be the British viceroy’s residence during the days of the Raj.

The garden is laid out three tiers. The large rectangular garden adjacent to the main Rashtrapati Bhavan building with its terraced flanks makes for the Long Garden at the centre.

The Long Garden is a landscaped length of rose beds with an arched passageway that opens out a multi-level circular garden or the butterfly garden with a fountain. The Long Garden or the Purdah Garden is the official rose archive while the circular garden is dedicated to the seasonal blooms.

The roses – mostly in combinations of white, red, sunset, yellow, orange and pink – boast of exotic Christian names. Consequently, Adora and Christian Dior vie with Mrinalini, Amalia and Nargis for the attention of John F. Kennedy, Mr Lincoln, Virgo and The Chinaman even as Folklore, Modern Art and the Taj Mahal give them company.

Each variety is different from the other. While Pusa Pitambar perks up as a petite yellow rose, rimmed with a delicate shade of pink, the vibrant Landora Rose is canary yellow with big petals. The Dori’s Tysterman is a blend of orange, yellow and dusty vermillion.

The blue rose or Frantasia is an eclectic shade of purple and blue while the black rose or Oaklahoma is inky red shaded in swathes of black.

“Roses require more attention than the seasonal flowers – almost round-the-clock tending. The seasonal flowers are,” Semwal said.

The officials are expecting more footfalls this year.

“Last year, we recorded 537,000 visitors. The highest was 78,000 on a particular day. This year, we expect more people has we have added new varieties of flowers and have introduced new utility services, including a nature trail every Saturday,” the president’s secretary said.

Several new features are on the cards. “We are exploring the contours of the rock formations to find out what kind of a garden will be the most suitable,” Fernandes said.

The garden and its adjoining green acres are a self-contained green township. Last year, the garden management built launched the Roshni (eco-friendly power) programme and an income-generating waste management scheme managed by the self-help groups of local women.

“We are also introducing a solar lighting scheme estimated Rs.30 million under which all the lamps operated by electricity will be replaced by solar lamps. The ministry of energy has approved the project,” added Fernandes.