A lovely February afternoon at Lal Bagh – III

I managed to get a week off in late January/early February and was jubilant. The idea was to travel to some place, explore it and click pictures. Sadly, the plan fell flat and I had to stay holed up in Bangalore leaving me shattered. I had a lot of backlog when it came to my blog but I was in no mood to stay indoors. So I planned a small outing every day of the week to console myself.

On the first day of the month of love, I decided to go to Lal Bagh. I was quite sure the serene surroundings of the botanical gardens would lift my mood.

I started off post-lunch and didn’t face any hassle commuting by bus and then auto. So I reached the gardens quicker than I expected.

I chose to take a different path this time away from the Peninsular Gneiss. Just a week back, I had visited Lal Bagh for the flower show and visuals of the show were still fresh in my mind.

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I headed for the bonsai garden and strolled around the place. The quiescence was intoxicating.  The dwarf version of the Araucaria cookie caught my eye. Just a month back I had gone gaga over the larger version of the tree at the Christmas Tree Walk. I noticed the bonsais were all re-arranged probably as a precautionary measure after the mishap that took place some months back resulting in a young boy losing his life. Aesthetically, it was a change for the worse.

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I next came across this tall palm. Lal Bagh is full of them.

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Unlike most of the colonial structures in Lal Bagh which are in a sad shape this beautiful bungalow seems to be in mint condition. It was a brainchild of Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel and served as his residence, the residence of his successor, then a museum till the 1960s. Later, it was converted into an office.

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Close by, there was another vintage beauty.

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As I walked, I disturbed this dog that was till then was fast asleep on a pile of dry leaves.

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I noticed a container secured to a branch of a mango tree. Wonder what it is for?

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Further on, I came across this beautiful tree and took a picture.

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And as I walked on, I discovered another beauty.

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I was puzzled on seeing the branches of this tree. Never before have I come across so many vertical branches.

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It was leaf-shedding season for many trees.

A group of monkeys were having a whale of a time near the lake.

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This youngster seemed to be counting his catch of fruits and relishing them. So engrossed was he that he hardly noticed me approaching him. He realised someone was watching him only after he finished his mini-lunch.

A similar looking fella was perched on the dustbin. In no time, he disappeared and appeared with a paper full of interesting grub. At least his expression tells that. And then minutes later he looked heavenwards as if to say, “Hey, this is surely manna from heaven!”

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A little distance away there was a fat chap comfortably ensconced on a bench. He seemed to be pondering over something. Monkeys are so much like us.

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Two siblings gave me an oh-so-cute pose.

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And why was this little one looking so sad?

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It was grooming time for this mother and son duo.

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The next one I saw seemed in all certainty to be the king of the gang. He seemed so wise and cool.

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As I walked on some fruits landed on my head. When I looked up see what I saw. A naughty munchkin with a guilty expression.

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Looks like looking heavenwards after getting food is a monkey’s way of saying grace. There were a few raw mango sellers along the way and this fellow seemed to have got hold of a discarded seed portion of a mango, something most humans feel lazy to eat.

He then had one good look at his food before landing his first bite, “Scruu..nch”.

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A few bites later he stopped as if to say, “Hey there, I am so sorry I’m eating without sharing with you”.

 

 

He then cast some curious glances before continuing to munch.

Inspired by him, I bought raw mango and sat down to relish it with salt and chilli powder. So lost was I that I forgot about sunset. After finishing the mango, I hurried up the Peninsular Gneiss to click pictures of the setting sun only to realise I was a wee bit late. The sun had gone down.

It was beginning to get dark. I went down the hillock and decided to end my day with a plate of ‘chaat’ which did not turn out be as tasty as the mango. I left Lal Bagh with memories of the monkeys and of course the raw mango with chilli and salt (yummmm!).

Lal Bagh Flower Show – January 2017

I seem to be running out of luck when it comes to taking leave in 2017. After having missed getting one for the Avarekai Mela, I thought I would definitely get an off for the flower show but that was not to be (sob sob!). Mercifully, I managed to get a half day leave on 24 January. That meant I had to be quick with the pictures in the short time I had because I had to be in office post lunch or before it.

I started my day pretty early and full of enthusiasm. Shooting flowers is one of favourite pastimes. The colours make me feel very happy and transport me to a fairy tale world. In the midst of flowers I am lost.

I took a rickshaw and reached the gardens in half an hour. Because it was a working day getting tickets wasn’t a hassle, moreover there was more than one counter.

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As I approached the Glass House, the central venue of the show, I noticed there weren’t many visitors. There were school children trooping around with their teachers.

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The prime attraction at this edition of the flower show, a floral replica of the Gol Gumbaz, looked stunning and stood out from afar.

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When I entered the Glass House, to my disappointment, the flowers were arranged far away from the barricades making it difficult to take pictures. My first reaction on seeing this significant change in the arrangement was “What!”

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Pictures of the floral beds were all I could take. The bed of cymbidium orchids from Sikkim was my first capture followed by the dahlias and asters.

An attractive hut covered in greenery served as a showcase for vertical gardening, the new talk of the town.

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Like always, there were selfie enthusiasts galore and like always they had a tough time getting that one perfect shot.

Unlike in the previous editions of the flower show, when I would spend hours inside the Glass House clicking pictures, I finished quickly this time, because as I mentioned earlier the flowers were way too far away to take good pictures.

Outside the Glass House, there were quite a few exhibits too. Among them was a model tribal village. There was a barricade around it which again made taking pictures difficult. I asked one of the security guards if I could go in and take pictures and to my surprise he readily agreed. I walked in even as the growls of big cats and hoots of owls were playing from a speaker somewhere in the midst of the village. The tribal folks inside were unmoved as I took pictures.

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There were many floral waterfalls too and an attractive bird among the floral exhibits around the central venue.

 

The many makeshift stalls and nurseries selling seeds and plants as part of the show offered me some photo opportunities which I didn’t get inside the Glass House. In a way these photo-ops were a consolation.

I left Lal Bagh after a round of quick shopping at the stalls. Among my picks was a large watering can. Thankfully, there was enough time to drop it at home before proceeding to office because I didn’t want to walk in to work with a watering can in hand.

And on that note, I ended a very different kind of sojourn at a Lal Bagh Flower show. Hopefully, the flowers are not kept so far away at the next edition.

Christmas Tree Walk

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A tree walk organised by EcoEdu on Christmas Eve offered fresh insights into the world of trees. The facilitators for the walk Ulhas Anand and Srinivas took the motley crowd that had gathered on a lovely Saturday morning to every nook and corner of Lal Bagh Botanical Gardens explaining the significance of some of the trees that dotted the green expanses.

The focus this time was the Christmas trees of Lal Bagh.

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The tree party started at the famous Lal Bagh Peninsular Gneiss a little past dawn and to start with there were a round of introductions. What followed was a stream of trivia about one of the city’s greenest spaces. During Tipu Sultan’s time, when the gardens were private and only 25 acres in area, the lake fell outside the boundary. It was only in 1819, when the British took over the gardens that Lal Bagh was open to the public and gradually grew in area. In keeping with Tipu’s legacy, plants from various parts of the world were continuously introduced into the gardens. The foreign species must have numbered around 300 or more. It was in the 1900s that the legendary botanist and superintendent of the gardens Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel brought in remarkable transformation not only to Lal Bagh but also to the umpteen roads and streets of Bangalore. He is largely credited with the initial road planning and landscaping of Lal Bagh and also planting flowering trees all over the city. Roads in Lal Bagh and also outside it were adorned with trees and shrubs of the same species. A fantastic idea considering that when it was blooming time entire roads had beds of yellow, pink, purple, white and so on depending on the species of trees that thrived there. Exotic vegetables were also introduced during this period. Apple trees were also nurtured in the city but the plan was not a success. Bangalore would not have been the Garden City it was if not for the yeoman efforts of the German gardener extraordinaire. Krumbiegal is also the brain behind the landscaping of Mysore’s Brindavan Gardens.

A pair of sapota (or chikoo) trees planted 170 years back still stand today and what is more they still bear fruit. The Christmas trees that we see today in Lal Bagh and other parts of Bangalore are not the real Christmas trees, they are from the Southern Hemisphere.  The ones that are found in the United States are the real ones. The Christmas trees of the US which are also called Douglas Fir are from the Northern Hemisphere. There are four kinds of Christmas trees (or pines as they are referred to in botanical parlance) in Lal Bagh.

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The walk began after the very enriching half an hour of arboreal info. The first stop was at a Woman’s Tongues Tree (also called Shirisha in Sanskrit). If you are wondering why that name Woman’s Tongues it is because when shaken during a breeze, the constant rattling sound made by the seeds inside the pod sound like women chit-chatting. Well, I doubt all ladies would agree.  The wood of this tree is very hard.

The focus again shifted back to trivia:

– Bangalore was once grassland. And like any grassland it was very transitory in nature.  During the rains, grasslands change to shrub forest in no time.

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– Gneiss rocks are very easy to mine. They come off as sheets. Gneiss rocks like the one in Lal Bagh are found only in the Deccan Plateau. They are also found in Greenland. In a gneiss rock, the white part is mica and the black part is iron.

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The next stop was at a blue agave plant which is a native of Mexico. Often seen along railway tracks, the agaves have the ability to hold soil. When they flower they have the tallest inflorescence which can grow up to 18 feet high. New plants grow from the seeds that fall from the inflorescence. The Incas and Mayans used the fibres of the plants to make ropes. In Mexico, the agaves are used to make tequila.

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The facilitators then took us to a Red Silk Cotton tree (Bombax ceiba). A native of India, the wood of this tree is soft and used in the match stick industry. The pods contain cotton-like matter which has the feel of silk. The cottony stuff is used to stuff mattresses and pillows. The tree is a favourite with mynas. They love feeding on the petals.

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A North Indian Rosewood tree (Latin: Dalbergia sissoo; Sanskrit: Sheesham) was our next stop. The tree is very popular in Indian mythology for its association with the Vikram-Betal stories. It was on this tree that the Betal (corpse) would be found hanging.  The wood of this tree is used to make furniture.

Attention then shifted to a tamarind tree in the vicinity. The name tamarind is derived from the Arabic word Tamar-i-hind. The tree is not a native of India. It probably originated from Africa. Once upon a time when the land masses of Asia and Africa were together, the trees probably sprouted from dispersal and then on became an integral species of the Indian subcontinent. The wood of the tree is very strong. The tamarind tree is a favourite with gamblers and is believed to be frequented by spirits. So watch out!

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We next trooped to a majestic rain tree close by. The canopies of a fully grown rain tree are a delight to photograph. The rain trees occupy a lot of space. Although the rain trees are a very hardy variety their branches are prone to fall during heavy rains and winds. The fruits are a favourite with children. They are crushed with stones and the resulting resin is shaped into a ball and used as a substitute for cricket balls.

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Just a stone’s throw away stands a White Silk Cotton tree which was our next stop. The spectacular tree is a native of North America and its flowers are white and reddish. Like the Red Silk Cotton tree, the fruits of the White Silk cotton tree too have cottony matter inside which is used to stuff mattresses and pillows. The trees have buttressed roots which is why they tend to fall off easily.

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We then moved to one of the most beautiful flowering trees found in Bangalore – the Cassia Javanica. There are six varieties of this tree each of which has flowers of a different shade of pink. When the flowers grow old they turn white. The fruits of the tree are long and they have a stink. The seeds are coin like. Talking of blooms, out came a couple of trivia from one of the walk leads, “Flowers that bloom at night are usually white as they do not need pollinating agents”.  “Jasmine flowers bloom at night and they have to be plucked before 9pm else the flowers will not have any fragrance.”

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After a very brief stop at an Indian Mast tree (mistakenly called the Ashoka tree by many) we shifted to a Fig tree (Ficus mysorensis).

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A discussion on the pollination of fig trees followed. The process is quite interesting and also very sad. The fig wasps are the pollinating agents of the fig trees. A female wasp enters a fruit through a hole and lays eggs inside. When she enters the fruit she loses her wings and after laying the eggs she dies. The larval stage takes place inside the fruit. Once the young ones hatch, the males make a hole in the fruit. They are blind and without wings. They mate with the female and die. The females leave the fruit through the hole and the cycle continues. So when you eat a fig, you will also end up eating dead male fig wasps! However, there are some fig trees which do not bear fruit.

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The next tree to visit was a Christmas tree, a Hoop Pine (Araucaria cunninghamii). Ulhas and Srinivas threw a lot of light on Christmas trees. They evolved during the time of dinosaurs and were endemic to some islands in the Southern Hemisphere. Most of the trees have lost their seed-dispersal agent and the seeds have to be dispersed by man.  Certain birds like cockatoos also disperse seeds. Deforestation has also led to diminishing numbers of trees. Fortunately, some forests of pines have been protected.

The Hoop Pine is so called because the bark of the tree peels into hoops.  Its girth is very broad. It was discovered by British botanist Allan Cunningham. Fruits of the tree are very big and very rare.

In between the talk on hoop pines, the walk leads tell us that all the Christmas trees found all over Bangalore are the progeny of the Christmas trees of Lal Bagh.

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The next stop was a very brief one at a Juniper tree, the berries of which are used as an ingredient of gin. The juniper trees have a very distinctive bark with vertical fissures.

From there the group moved to another pine, the Araucaria excels Hort, whose resin is extremely sticky.

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Many in the group were familiar with the popular Amla tree, a native of India, which was next on the list of tree stops. The Amla or gooseberry is rich in vitamin C and one fruit has the nutrient value of seven lemons. It is mostly used in jams and pickles. Sadly, the gene pool of the tree is fast diminishing because of unrestrained plucking of fruits. The tree is considered holy by Hindus and believed to represent Lord Vishnu. Many people worship the tree like this man in the pictures above.

The Alstonia macrophylla tree close-by is part of the family Apolynaceae and host tree to the Commander butterfly.

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The celebrated Palash (also called The Flame of the Forest) was our next stop. Also referred to as the Navagraha tree, it is revered by Hindus and is useful to have around. When the flowers bloom they resemble fire that is why the name The Flame of the Forest. The town of Plassey as in Battle of Plassey derived its name from the flower.

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The group next stopped at another avenue tree, the Camel Foot tree. The tree is so named because the leaves resemble the foot of a camel. The tree is very short-lived and prone to diseases. Like the Camel Foot tree, the Pride of India another avenue tree is short-lived as it is prone to diseases.

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Our next tree destination was the Fish Tail Palm, the bark of which is used to tap jaggery and the fibres of which are used to make ropes. The nuts of the palm look like arecanuts.

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Lal Bagh is dotted by many jackfruit trees. Now, this is one tree which everyone knows about. The fruits are a favourite with most of us. Next on the tree walk was this much liked tree. The jackfruit tree has multiple pollinating agents – monkeys, bats, and bees to name a few. The orange pigment on the bark is used to colour saffron robes. There are many varieties of jackfruits.  So the next time you visit a jackfruit tree, remember you are seeing one of many varieties.

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A series of trees later we reached another Christmas tree, the Araucaria cookie named after Captain Cook. The Araucaria cookie tree that we were at that moment looking at is the tallest tree standing in Bangalore.

The last tree in the tree walk, yet another Christmas tree, was the Araucaria bidwillii or the Bunia pine popularly referred to as the false monkey puzzle tree. The fruits of this tree which is a native of Australia, have a fleshy covering which are a favourite with aborigines. The aborigines hold a conference called the Bunia conference to feast on the fruits. After fiddling around with the leaves  of the Araucaria bidwillii, it was time to say goodbye yet again to my favourite place in the city. It is a lovely feeling to be with trees, the more time you spend the better.

Photo Challenge: Local

via Photo Challenge: Local

In response to this week’s photo challenge, I am posting pictures of Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park, two popular green spaces in Bangalore, the city I live in.

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The Glass House at Lal Bagh

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On top of Lal Bagh rock with Kempegowda Tower in the background.

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Walkway beside Lal Bagh lake.

 

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Sunset at Lal Bagh as seen from behind Kempegowda Tower.

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The bandstand at Cubbon Park with the Tree of Gold in full bloom in the foreground.

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The Cubbon Park entrance of the High Court of Karnataka.

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The library at Cubbon Park.

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Dusk at Cubbon Park.

Lal Bagh Flower Show – August 2016

 

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This year’s Independence Day edition of the internationally famous Lal Bagh Flower Show surprisingly started sans the usual fanfare. There was no pre-event information on the newspapers either. Probably, it was because of the bereavement in the Chief Minister’s family.

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Like always, I chose to attend the show on a week day to avoid the crowds during the weekend.  When I went to the show on Wednesday, the place was unusually crowded for a weekday. I can well imagine how the weekend would turn out to be.

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On the way to the Glass House, the main venue of the show, I noticed this large replica of a peacock decorated with capsicums. The paths around the lawns were dotted with myriad stalls selling all sorts of gardening equipment, seeds, saplings, knick-knacks and varieties of handicrafts.

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As I entered the Glass House, my eyes caught sight of a large floral replica of the Parliament House.  A few men were still giving finishing touches to the creation.  In all probability, the organisers took way too long to decide on the special attraction. A whopping 4 lakh roses are believed to have gone into the creation of the 27-feet-high floral splendour.

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Floral models of a wind-mill and a solar-energy powered unit symbolising this year’s theme ‘Green Energy’ not only added to the attraction but also drove home a message very pertinent to the times.

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The year also happens to be the birth centenary of the Dr M. H. Marigowda, a former Director of Horticulture of the garden.  While outside the Glass House there was a sand-sculpture of Dr Marigowda’s face, the interiors of it had words of wisdom from him pinned up here and there. Plaques with the illustrious horticulturist’s photo were planted in the lawns.

At this edition of the Flower Show, it was the smaller varieties of flowers which hogged the limelight. There were so many varieties and so many colours.

 

Sadly, the roses and dahlias which are the most photographed flowers were kept far beyond the rope barricades making it virtually impossible to photograph with my wide-angle lens. I must say I felt sad because I couldn’t imagine leaving a flower show without pictures of roses.  Thankfully, the adjoining nurseries had a couple of them. I took pictures of those.

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The show is on till 18 August 2016.

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