H is for Hirwai

One of the high points of my New York trip was the visit to The High Line which is a unique public space. While I was thoroughly impressed I did not come away with the feeling of ‘why not in my country’.. That’s because I can quite proudly state that my city too has a similar public space created by motivated residents who wanted to beautify their locale. The left bank of the Mutha River runs through Pune and it lay abandoned for many years. As normally happens, the area mostly became a space to throw garbage. Whatever road remained in this part was not suitable for vehicles. A part of this canal area was remade into a regular road for vehicles. Residents of this area formed an organisation called Hirwaee and proposed a plan to turn it into a space for walking, jogging, cycling. They would retain the old trees and plant new ones. Several years and some legal issues later, the rest of the canal area is now a flourishing green oasis right in the middle of the city. The PMC is now looking after this garden.

There are a few covered gazebos, an interesting ‘chess board’ table and plenty of benches which makes it ideal for senior citizens. Mornings and evenings find the place buzzing with health enthusiasts who jog or walk the length of the track. Extensive tree plantation has made this a wonderful place for students of field botany! 

Let these pictures do the rest of the talking… 

udyan, pune
Chess anyone??

A quiet nook to meditate, or introspect perhaps..

Muchkunda (Pterospermum acerifolium)

These yellow balls are flowers! Kadamb (Neolamarckia cadamba)
Seating space

Walking track

Cycling track

Timing: 6AM to 11AM and 4PM to 8PM
Entry: Free
Rest Rooms: Available (quality and hygiene not checked)
Parking: Some parking slots available 
Location Map here

This post is part of my April 2015
AtoZ blogging challenge and I am writing about parks in Pune. You can
read other posts on this theme here.

G is for Gool Poonawala Garden

G was one alphabet where the garden recall was almost instantaneous. Not because I visit it often but have seen it often! Yet another site on my frequently used roads, only to be admired from the car but never visited. This blogging challenge got me to make a dedicated trip to the Gool Poonawala Garden located in Salisbury Park, Pune. 

This is basically set up as a jogging track. The oval track is surrounded by a wall of Silver Oak and Acacia trees. I spotted a colony of bats living in the Acacias. The centre of the park predictably has pretty lawns and some seating. I did not see anyone jogging but there were several walkers mostly senior citizens and ladies from nearby residential buildings. Possibly the demographic may be different at another time of the day.

Jogging track, Pune
Jogging Track
Plenty of seating
Jogging track, Pune
Look carefully and you will see the bats hanging on these trees

A couple of imposing Ficus benjamina’s loom over the entrance and one is immediately on the track. Turn left or right to jog/walk around the entire site. The park is flanked by the road on one side, homes on two others, but the fourth side seems to be merging into a jungle of sorts that often crops up in land that is not ‘developed’. There is a gazebo that would be ideal for folks to exercise when its raining. Its not very rich in terms of diversity or age of trees but then this garden is more about exercising/jogging rather than botany. Come here to work out, or Yoga or for Pranayama. 

Trees, Udyan, Jogging
A jungle of sorts is seen at one edge of the garden

An great initiative by the PMC for local residents. The Sachin  Tendulkar Jogging Track in Rajendra Nagar area is a similar but smaller garden that people of the area would surely be enjoying daily. 

Entry Ticket: Nil
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: Available and Free
Drinking Water: Available (hygiene and quality not checked)
Restrooms: Available (hygiene and quality not checked)
Location Map here

F is for Forest Research Garden

F is an alphabet that had me stumped. I could not find anything among the Pune gardens whose official name or local name began with F. That’s when I realised that my theme was also meant to document trees in the city. Bingo! That gave me my post. Forest Research Garden!

Its not technically a garden. Its more of a forest really. This is a government-run tree nursery located on Sopan Baug Road. It is also home to some really old and one-off trees in the city. It is a must on the places-to-visit list for tree lovers or botany students. I had visited the Forest Garden Nursery a couple of years ago on a field botany trip and even now, the place has retained its ‘Forest’ like atmosphere. The trees are really tall with not much sunshine reaching the floor. This means there are a lot of small herbs, shrubs growing there which gives you more study material. The property has some green houses where I think they conduct their research or try to germinate seeds or house the young still delicate saplings.

Soaring stately Ceiba pentandra trees are important residents at the Forest Garden. Experts tell us that these can be called ‘Heritage’ trees as they seem to be over 100 years old. In fact, author Shrikant Ingalhalikar has included a photograph of these trees in the Preface of his book ‘Trees of Pune‘ (page 12). The Page 232, lists some of the unique trees in this garden. 

A few of the trees to be studied here are Ficus mollis, Alangium salvifolium, Sandbox tree (Hura crepitans), Buddha’s coconut (Pterygota alata), Rudraksha. The list is not complete as I would like to leave something for you to explore and enjoy.

Sand box tree

Its not a place if you are looking to picnic or for kids to play or or for exercise or for general recreation. 
A unique ‘garden’ indeed!  

Parking: On the road and some available in the premises
Entry: Free
Timing: 10AM to 5PM Closed on Sundays and government holidays. 
Location Map here

E is for Empress Garden

The Empress Garden is an iconic site in Pune, a landmark, a place for recreation, exercise and study to name just a few. Spread over 39 acres and in existence since 1880 the park obviously has some really old and unique trees. It is privately managed by the Agri-Horticultural Society of Western India  Initially it was a ‘Soldiers Garden’. Its land was the property of Sardar Vitthalrao Purandare and General Finjier looked over the maintenance jobs. The then-government took over ownership of the garden in 1838 and in 1845, its ownership changed to Sir Charles Napier. In the period that he owned the garden, it was called ‘Garden of Dr. Don’. Thereafter the garden was named Empress Garden in honour of Queen Victoria when she was bestowed the title ‘Empress of India’. (This info from the garden website)

Heritage, Pune, trees

For a tree lover, the joy begins almost as soon as you reach because the imposing Kinhai and a Moha in the parking area will delay your entry. Feast your eyes and proceed for more tree wonders – made somewhat easier by the helpful labelling on the trunks. A stream of sort runs through the foliage creating a micro habitat for some water birds and flora. Empress does not have the typical manicured lawns that one expects in a garden. To be fair, its a botanical garden so don’t look for ‘accepted’ or ‘traditional’ aesthetic elements. Rather revel in the thought of sharing space with living beings that may be over 100  years old.  What secrets would they be holding? If only trees could tell us…

Trees, pune, gardens
Gnarled trunk of Entada rheedei (Garambi) – a giant liana

Pune, garden, bauhinia vahlii
The mesmerising creeper Bauhinia vahlii which loops over the tall trees and forms a floral canopy in April
Trees, Pune, garden
The trunk of the Kinhai

Dont miss the giant creepers that grow here – living up to their ‘giant’ status. An interesting fact about Bauhinia (shown above). The genus Bauhinia is in honour of 16th century botanists Caspar and Johann Bauhin who were twin brothers. Species in this plant group also have two lobed leaves that are identical when folded.  

Twin lobed leaf of Bauhinia
Folded leaf of Bauhinia

The garden has the usual play area for kids which seems highly popular. There is a small cottage that serves as their office and is used for small events – I have attended a book launch there. This garden is a popular site
for school picnics, family outings and of course health enthusiasts.
They have a ‘Nana Nani Park’ which is a section for grand parents (Nana
Nani mean grandfather and grandmother respectively). 

The high point of this garden is its annual Buds n Bloom show held sometime in January each year. Besides the usual stalls selling gardening stuff; the gardeners at Empress create stunning displays using seasonal flowers. In addition, there is a wonderful display of Ikebana arrangements. Yet another unusual exhibit is an collage created using grains, pulses, fresh fruits and veggies. There is no limit to creativity! Local Bonsai enthusiasts display select trees during the annual Empress Buds n Bloom fest.

A heritage garden that should be on your list when visiting Pune. 

Info you can use:
Entry: INR 10 for 3 years and over
Timing: 930AM to 630PM All days of the week
Parking: Available and Chargeable
Drinking water: Available (quality and hygiene not checked)
USP: Unique trees and creepers; Plant nursery; Palm garden; Sale of organic veggies and fruits; Annual Buds n Bloom show; Birding; Tree spotting
Location Map here

This post is part of the April AtoZ Blogging challenge and I am writing about gardens in Pune.

D is for Dr Shama Prasad Mukherjee Udyan

Its the fourth day of the AtoZ challenge and I am writing about gardens in Pune. You can catch up with my previous posts here.. 

Getting down to ‘D’ , the Dr Shama Prasad Mukherjee Udyan is a fairly small and new garden again in the heart of a residential area. Whatever its previous avatar, this is now a lovely recreational cum exercise area for the local residents. It holds great promise of becoming a beautiful green spot.

PMC garden, pune, udyan, park

Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee was an academician, barrister and politician and was a member of the cabinet of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The park is a quiet oasis. It has a walking track along the perimeter and large landscaped lawns. Though still at the fourth alphabet (hence garden), I have realised that such lawns are a common feature in most PMC gardens. The trees along the fence create a leafy barrier of sorts. The walking track has archways over which grow vines of fragrant flowers like Jasmine. This would surely be an excellent spot when the flowers are blooming. 

Parks, gardens, pune

The garden has a pretty Kadamb (Neolamarcia cadamba), Kailaspati (Couroupita guianensis) and Kigelia that were all flowering when I visited. I saw Hollyhocks after a really long time, the last that I saw them was probably in my garden in Chabua over a decade ago. 

For those living in the Patwardhan Baug area, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Udyan is an ideal spot for some quality relaxation. 

Entry Ticket: Nil (during my visit)  
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: Available
Drinking water: Available (quality not checked)
Rest rooms: Available (quality not checked)
Location Map here

C is for Chittaranjan Vatika

Chittaranjan. A name with a wonderful ring to it. I remember it from my school days from the Chittaranjan Locomotive Works which is an electric locomotive factory. So i looked forward to visiting a park by that name that was almost in my neighbourhood. Often, this park hosts music and literary programs and that must surely be a divine experience. The combination of soul stirring notes (or words) under dense shadows of towering trees and bird songs would surely raise goose bumps.

Trees were the lasting impression at the Chittaranjan Park. It is located next to a ‘nullah’ (canal or small urban stream) and obviously is an old garden. It has a tiled pathway along the perimeter that serves as a walking track. Obviously I got into the way of the regulars, with my frequent halts for photographs or tree identification! I suggest walking in the same direction as the majority and a similar pace to avoid exasperated looks from regulars (many of whom were wearing masks for some reason). Want to pause? Then just step into the adjacent lawns. This track is thoughtfully marked for distance covered and there is a ‘fitness chart’ of sorts at one end.

 The Chittaranjan Vatika also has a mock traffic training area. I am not sure whom it is meant for really, but it has signals, road signs, intersections and so on. From what I saw, it was reduced to a spot for a photo-op or play or resting/walking zone. I do wish more would take advantage of what it’s meant for…

 The park is home to the a library called ‘Vasundhara Vachanalaya’ which seemed a really cool idea. Borrow books and read them in this garden. Perfect! The kids play area was buzzing with activity. 

Many trees in the park are labelled which should help newbie tree lovers. Here are few trees that I identified: Saraca asoca, Khaya, Parkia biglandulosa, Sanmea sanamea, Spathodea campanulata, Kigelia africana, Alstonia species, Peltaforum species, Ficus species and Casuarinas. There are many more, which I leave you to spot and ID.

PMC, Udyan, Pune, trees
Seeta ashok, Kigelia, Rohitak

Do sit a while and enjoy the sound of gushing water in the adjacent nullah. The occasional breeze sets the wind-chimes tinkling in a nearby home. All in all, a wonderful garden in Model Colony, Pune.

Entry Ticket: Nil. 
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: Available
Drinking water: Available (quality not checked)
Rest rooms: Available (quality not checked)
USP: Library, Traffic training signs
Location Map here

B is for Bonsai

In general, there are a lot of misconceptions about. So the idea of a bonsai garden would be equally new. I have not visited any of the famous collections – YET – a situation that I hope to rectify in the future….  A ‘B’ post seemed to be an ideal platform to write about the ones that I have seen.  

This garden would obviously be made so that to focus a visitors attention on the bonsai trees and if possible add to its beauty. Here is an excellent in depth article from Bonsai Empire that talks about displaying bonsai trees. 

Here are some images:

Trees at Ssrup Bonsai and Garden

An interesting use of a broken pot at Ssrup Bonsai and Garden

My friends have set up their bonsai ‘gardens’ in building terraces or even in balconies. My own collection resides in my balconies and their places keep changing as the sun moves southwards (in winter) or northwards (in summer). With these constraints, the display is not as I would want it to be but then in a space challenged city, I am not complaining!

My Jade that is still has some way to go…

B is also for Botanical Gardens. Pune has its share of those but sadly despite so many botany stalwarts and botany enthusiasts (not students!), these gardens could have be in better shape. Almost every Science college has one and I have visited many of those.  The one that stays with me for sheer diversity is the Fergusson College Botanical Garden. My ‘Here Maps’ shows me a botanical garden at Spicer College but no one seems to know much about it. I shall have to find out soon…

Have you visited a bonsai garden or a botanical garden? Do share a link in the comments below.

A is for Aba Bagul Udyan

So it begins! One month of frenzied blogging and commenting. In the process we do read some very interesting blogs, unique ideas and wonderful people.

I had two choices for A both really interesting ones and it was a difficult one. So I wrote about the Alice garden and here we are, at the Aba Bagul Udyan. This is the park’s  common name but technically, it is the Late Vasantrao Eknath Bagul Udyan. Udyan/Vatika are the Marathi words for park/garden. I have used them interchangeably in my posts.

This park is located right on a main road, a very busy road at that, yet
remains quite inconspicuous. I had several visiting opportunities with a botany group but alas, I could not join. Housed in an area that I
frequent, it was quite a shame that I stayed away for so many years.
This blogathon seemed a good way to make good many such pending visits. 

remember the area from early 1980s when it was a rocky bare space through
which flowed a ‘nullah’ (a storm water drain that flows into the river). Over last
3 decades the city has grown tremendously and ‘developed’ and like many other parts, this area is unrecognisable now. I cant say who is to be credited
for the change but the garden I am about to describe is presently under
the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). 

On entering the Udyan, the Star Apple tree (Chrysophyllum cainito) is the first thing that gets attention. Its canopy of green and golden brown leaves casts a cool shadow in which rests a lion! A statue of course! 

Star apple, Chrysophyllum cainito
Star Apple

Parks, gardens, Star apple
Distinctive leaves of Star Apple

leaves, pune, identification
Chrysophyllum cainito

The park has a tiled walkway that goes around the perimeter and also meanders through the well manicured lawns. Aerial roots of a banyan tree have created a ‘wall’ of sorts. Walk deeper into the park to see the ‘nullah’. Obviously designed by professional landscapers, the Aba Bagul Udyan also has a large play area for kids, one that is quite popular with locals. The park also has the Bhimsen Joshi Kaladalan (an art gallery) and a musical fountain cum laser show. This 20-minute is on from Mon to Fri at 745pm and on Saturdays at 730pm. I have heard excellent reviews of the musical fountain and its the only one of its kind in Pune that I have heard of.

The musical fountain and its seating area

Art gallery

I spotted the Madhavi lata (Hiptage benghalensis) – a liana with fluffy toothed flowers. It was in full bloom and its flowering heralds the spring season. The genus Hiptage is derived from ‘Hiptamai’ – a Greek word that means to fly. The Madhavi lata has a three winged fruit that can ‘fly’ – is propogated by wind. 

Other significant trees that I spotted include the Triangular leaf fig (Ficus natalensis ), a really tall Rubber plant, a well grown Raktarohida (Aphanamixis polystachia), Satween (Alstonia scholaris) and Seeta ashok (Saraca asoca).

Ficus elastica

 Due to the water body, I am sure, this must be a good site to see birds. 

What do you see? The Heron? The Anaphamyxis polystachia? The bridge?

Here is a short video of the musical fountain at this park:

All in all, a great place in Sahakar Nagar to exercise or relax or introspect or dream! 

Before I end, A is also for Alice Garden which is an urban jungle of sorts. You may like to visit that too.

Entry Ticket: Yes INR 20 for adults. 
Timing: 6AM to 10AM and 4PM to 8PM
Parking: Available
Drinking water: Available (quality not checked)
Rest rooms: Available (quality not checked)
USP: Trees, Musical Fountain
Location Map here

April AtoZ Theme Reveal

This is my third attempt at the April AtoZ blogging challenge and the second attempt based on a theme. To be truthful, I had thought of not participating this year. Why? I was defeated by conjuring post titles and was about to give up. That’s when inspiration struck! I remembered a blog from one of the earlier April AtoZ’s (sorry but cannot remember which one) which described gardens and was motivated by the idea of local tourism. I also love trees. So I thought why not combine the three ideas??

Theme Reveal Blogfest

Will my posts be about trees? Yes but not only about trees…
Will they be about gardening? Well, gardens yes but not gardening…
Will it be about local tourism? Yes local places will be the main focus…

So WHAT is the theme?

I plan to write about gardens in my city Pune, the trees therein and special features if any. I made it a point to visit all gardens before writing about them which took up most of my time over the last few weeks.

I realised that except for two, I had not visited any gardens in Pune. Sad because, I now see that the parks are really beautiful and clean and each has something different to offer. This makes me proud of the efforts of the authorities. I am quite a vocal critic of the garden department but credit must be given where due…

I had a stroke of luck as I found a map by the Pune Municipal Corporation that detailed locations of their gardens. But this did not necessarily make my task easy  as most parks were named after Kings or Queens or some prominent person who is no more. Hence I had a plethora of gardens for alphabets like ‘C’ or ‘L’ and almost nothing for the others… I am bound by the A to Z theme so decided to take some leeway and have used popular names of parks or their ‘official’ names. 

Irrespective of whatever part of the world you visit from, dear readers, you are bound to find something interesting here in this month. Maybe its an echo of a garden in your city or one that you have seen or one that you would like to see created! I would love to hear from you. 

Good luck  with your posts!