On Chennai’s new Horticulture Park

A garden isn’t always grass and shrubs. Take, for instance, the city’s newest green patch. The Horticulture Park Madhavaram (a signboard calls it the Ornamental and Demo Garden) has — in addition to a slew of trees, palms and bushes — a bog garden. It’s not a novel concept, just another natural space where a certain kind of flora and fauna thrives. Albeit one that no one pictures at the mention of the word ‘garden’.

Mohamed Nazeer, park in-charge, explains it simply, “A bog garden is an area where there is water stagnation. The plants that grow here are the ones which love water. All the excess water in the garden is collected at the bog area.” It’s a completion of the circle, since the entire park is fed by water taken from the same plot. “We have two borewells, and use only that water,” says Nazeer and it’s in those same waters that these bog plants are grown.

Think lotuses and lily pads, growing so densely together that they give the impression of a grassy patch of land from a distance. Only when you walk up close and peer at the water, do you see the gentle ripples and slight nudges of the tendrils floating into and away from each other. Dragonflies are aplenty here, as are little critters who plop noisily in and out of the water before you can catch sight of them.

But Nazeer states that no creatures have been introduced to the water yet. “We don’t have ducks or fish, but we plan to, in the future,” he says, “We also plan to have boating.”

The latter is not meant for the tendril-heavy bog garden, but for one of the other six water bodies being planned within the 28-acre expanse. If you take a walk around the park today, you will see three of them already: two natural ponds housing small islands of grass and palm trees, and another slightly larger one, covered inch for inch by water plants.

According to the official plan, there are 11 types of palms alone at the park — including a number of bonsai ones. There is also a formal and informal garden, the only difference between the two being their design. “In one of these gardens, we have planned the plants and flowers in patterns,” explains Nazeer, “In the other, they just grow as they will.” In addition, to one corner is an ‘indoor garden’, which for now is just a multi-hued patch of flowering indoor shrubs, planted in a strip of land under the shade of trees. The shaded canopies are in place, as are the bridges, the neem trees, and the bright hibiscus plants lining every strip of green.

The horticulture park has its basics in place, and is waiting for its greens to grow and the city to walk in for a stroll.

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