All is not rosy at Swiss-French planner Corbusier’s Rose Garden

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When Swiss-French urban planner Le Corbusier planned a 114-sq km landlocked Union Territory of Chandigarh as the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana, he promised the residents a rose garden, literally.

But a majority of the roses have wilted and so has a blooming aspect of his heritage.

Asia’s largest rose garden, the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden, which came into existence in 1967 and was named after the third President of India, Dr Zakir Hussain, a keen horticulturist, is lying in a state of neglect.

The maintenance of the garden, spread over 30 acres, seems not to be a bed of roses for the authorities.

Weeds in the flower beds and the fallen leaves all around narrate a tale of neglect and callousness, say daily visitors.

The authorities, however, insist this is the time when pruned plants rejuvenate. But nothing explains the feeling of utter disregard for the heritage site when one visits the garden included in the list of places of tourist interest.

The rose garden, inaugurated by the city’s first Chief Commissioner M.S. Randhawa, in the heart of the city in Sector 16, has over 50,000 roses of approximately 800 varieties, comprising exotic ones, in 1,400 flower beds.

Officials told IANS that the rose garden was set up with the aim to flourish the existing varieties and develop new ones. Most of the varieties have been named after major leaders, Indian and international, as a tribute to them like President Giri, Queen Elizabeth.

“This City Beautiful’s heritage is fast deteriorating. And if do not care properly, it will no longer be the city we anticipated,” remarked octogenarian Gurdev Bhullar, a retired government employee who has been visiting the garden almost daily for over four decades.

Pointing towards the wilting roses, he said, “You can see lack of proper care with the mushroom growth of weeds on the beds with many of the plants withered and dead.”

“Let’s keep its soul alive,” he added while pleading with the authorities.

Tourist Pallak Aggarwal, who visited the garden for the first time, said she was surprised by the callousness of the authorities towards Asia’s biggest Rose Garden.

“I was expecting to be greeted by blooming flowers. Most of the flowerbeds had no roses. Also, nothing has been done to treat mealybugs. The authorities need to get serious about how to keep the roses blooming throughout the season,” she added.

However, authorities blame lack of funds and regular employees for the maintenance of the garden that normally attracts hundreds of visitors for its bad condition.

“The withering of flowers is a seasonal phenomenon. Every year in November-December we replace the wilted and old plants with the new ones. On an average 10 per cent of the plants need replacement and we are currently planting 5,000 new ones,” a horticulture department official, requesting anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media, told IANS.

He said most of the gardeners hired for its maintenance were only for a limited duration owing to lack of funds.

“Earlier we used to have regular gardeners responsible for round-the-year care. Now we hire them on a daily basis and that too for a few months. Secondly, we used to prepare saplings in our nurseries. Now owing to shortage of regular gardeners and funds, the nurseries have shut. We are now depending on the private nurseries for the new and existing varieties,” he added.

The Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh has been holding a three-day Rose Festival in February — a popular calendar event of the City Beautiful that sees flower competitions, rose quiz, rose prince and princess, rose king and queen, kite flying and on-the-spot painting contest.

February 2022 will be the 50th festival with an outlay of approximately Rs 85 lakh. Of late, a helicopter joyride is one the most popular side events in the festival. The last festival was symbolic and largely muted owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anguished non-resident Indian Shveta Gujral, who is visiting her hometown after a decade and a half, added: “Once we felt like being lost in a mystical paradise in the Rose Garden developed in European style. It is sad to see plants withering and dying here and there. The branches need to be pruned and the soil changed.”

“The next time we will not stop here,” her husband Abhijit Gujral added.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

20211212-100523

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