At this time of the year, those who can afford it choose to flee their torrid zones to cooler climes and what better location than the queen among hill stations, Ooty in the Nilgiris. The city is now a riot of colour with its wide spectrum of seasonal bloom, salubrious climate and a medley of avifauna, full-throatedly celebrating the advent of Spring. April and May, the time of year when the earth laughs in flowers and paints a grim world gay!With the annual garden competitions round the corner, and trophies to be won, home gardens are a beehive of activity, lawns lush and manicured, roses at their blooming best, many with exotic names like Maria Callas, Elizabeth of Glamis, Moulin Rouge, Elysium and Etoille de Holland, amidst others with equally evocative names like Titian, Anvil Sparks, Lamplighter, Kiss of Fire, Masquerade and the serenely charming Peace.
Among hothouse prettifiers are Cineraria, Primula, Gloxinia, Cyclamen, Calceolaria, and the Tuberous Begonia to name just a few. Gardens are also ablaze with spikes of Crimson Salvia and Anthuriums in arresting hues, winning pride of place in every home garden. The Bird of Paradise well deserves the celestial name for it is captivating indeed. There is royal history attached to its name. Its botanical name, Strelitzia reginae, is dedicated to Queen Charlotte Sophia of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz line, wife of King George III of England. She was a keen amateur botanist and helped develop the gardens at Kew.
The colourful mosaic of cultural diversity is conspicuous in the motley throng which converges to Ooty to witness the Flower Show, and all roads lead to the Botanical Gardens, a veritable treasure trove of foliage and flower, with venerable trees one looks up to. And if you are to wonder how the famed Gardens came to be … in 1845, the European residents of the Nilgiris felt that a public garden that also catered to the needs of the kitchen would not be a bad idea. The Marquis of Tweedale set about the task of setting up a horticultural society, by collecting subscriptions for a garden.
A certain Mr McIvor of the Kew Garden fame was appointed the first curator of the public garden. His meticulous planning and aesthetic landscaping, transformed what was once wilderness and swamp, into a vast stretch of undulating gardens. The lawns were initially laid out with kikuyu grass, brought from South Africa. Today the Glass House displays exotica from the floral world and a wide variety of ferns as well, indeed worth seeing and learning about.