The charming flower power of Kashmir
— By ANAND and MADHURA KATTI |
May 27, 2018
ANAND and MADHURA KATTI are charmed with the floral blooms in the vivacious valley
Visiting Kashmir during spring-summer is like a beautiful dream come true. This is the time when all the flowers are in full bloom, making the valley look like a paradise. Tulip plants rule the roster while cherry, peach and pear trees brim with flowers, after shedding all leaves. Flowers of wild perennial trees colour the gardens with their beautiful booms. We are fortunate (after braving those wide eyed exclamations coming from some well wishers) to descend in the picturesque valley during this year’s bloom time.
Tulip Garden, Srinagar
The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.
As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.
Tulips originated in Central Asia.
Don’t we all identify tulips with Netherlands? But surprisingly, tulips are originally wildflowers growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated by Turks as early as 1000 AD. Tulips were imported into Holland in the 16th century. Holland sure dominates in the production of tulips with 86% share of the world market. Rich and bright coloured, tulips represent largest ornamental perennial crop of the world. Conducive climates were utilised to start the Tulip Garden in Kashmir a decade ago and it was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination of the world in 2015. \
Tulips obviously dominate the 18 hectare or 360 kanals garden dedicated to floriculture with 1.25 million blooms aesthetically spread on seven hectares. These are complemented with Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, Muscara and Iris. Fruit trees like Himalayan cherry, peach and plum trees in the garden also bloom during the same time to add beauty. Alternate green patches next to long rows of tulip beds were good for us to pause, click and be mesmerised with the sights.
Tending to tulips involves meticulous planning
The gardens maintained by Department of Floriculture, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, are tended by 100 gardeners through the year for that one month to 40 days of fascinating bloom. It involves hard work and meticulous planning to cultivate these bulbous plants. Once the blooms whither by end of the May, bulbs are carefully dug, packed, marked and stored in green houses at 15 degree temperature till November.
Bulbs are replanted again in winter, aesthetically with rows of contrasting colours, which bloom again by March end or early April. Tulip Garden is opened for visitors when there are at least 25% blooms.
More flower varieties
A gardener informed us that they keep adding aesthetic themes every season. Hyacinth theme garden is a new attraction here this year, along with a water channel with jet fountains that adds to beauty and cool. 20 more staff maintains fountains, water bodies and public utilities in the garden. Plans are on to create an ornamental cherry blossoms patch along tulips for future seasons.
It’s not just flowers of tulip garden that make Srinagar a paradise, but there are other beautiful springtime blooms across the valley.
The city close to Himalayan Mountains has abundance of gardens, lakes and bridges. Shalimar, Nishat, Mughal and Ceshmashahi are some of the royal gardens developed during the raj era and are beautifully maintained. A tree bearing big pink and white flowers in Shalimar garden had created a carpet of petals underneath. Countless chinar or maple trees, pines, deodars and Kashmiri willows, some of which are hundreds of years old, add green beauty to the city all along.
Hyacinths at the tulip garden
Flowers of fruits
On return to our houseboat on the quiet Nigeen Lake, it was a treat to sip hot kahwa (Kashmiri green tea) in the fruit orchard next to it. Houseboats are decoratively built with traditional intricacies and provide stationary accommodations on the lake. Beautiful pink peach blooms on trees lined the path leading to the garden. Thick white blooms in the corner were those of pears. Some of those will wither out and the strong ones would grow on to be juicy fruits.
A few pink, red and white tulips were in the centre of the garden, under the intriguing umbrella tree. The yellow flower lined stems of a wild plant looked very attractive against the green background. We saw them at many other places, some beautifully lining the fences and the roads leading up the hills of the valley.
Floating flower markets
A flower boat sailed towards us while we stood in the houseboat verandah, watching sunrise at the peaks beyond the other banks of the lake. The flower vendor docked his boat next to ours and asked if we would like to buy some flowers, seeds or bulbs. We later saw many such floating flower markets at the dal lake during a shikara ride.
We drove along the tulip garden for a lunch organised by the event organisers in the botanical garden next to it. The sights of the flower beds from afar showed more blooms than the day before.
We were tempted to go back to the garden again the next day to see enhanced blooms. The tulip festival was organised for 15 days during the peak bloom season, offers fun and frolic activities alongside food carts.
Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions.
Tulip garden is situated within the city of Srinagar, close to Dal Lake and remains open from 9 am to 7 pm during bloom time.
Srinagar airport is connected to many cities in India through direct and indirect flights.