THE CITY OF TREES

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Holidays Afloat -

THE hand of Bali’s Made Wi­jaya can also be seen in the gar­dens at the Taj West End in Ban­ga­lore, where he has had a say in re­cent land­scap­ing. In­deed two In­done­sian gar­den­ers have joined a 25-strong team re­spon­si­ble for main­tain­ing the im­pec­ca­ble lawns and many sig­nif­i­cant trees that dot the 8ha grounds of this his­toric prop­erty in the south­ern In­dian state of Kar­nataka.

Opened as a 10-bed lodge in 1887 by an English­woman, Mrs Bron­son, and man­aged by Taj Ho­tels, Re­sorts & Palaces since the 1980s, the ho­tel en­cap­su­lates the colo­nial grandeur that was once the hall­mark of this Bri­tish gar­ri­son town, still known as the city of trees. Un­for­tu­nately Ban­ga­lore’s phe­nom­e­nal growth has led to the sac­ri­fice of many of th­ese trees to make way for roads and in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy parks.

But not at the Taj, where Vi­jay Thiru­vady, founder and trustee of the Ban­ga­lore En­vi­ron­ment Trust, is mak­ing a record of the prop­erty’s older and rarer spec­i­mens while con­tin­u­ing to fight for the preser­va­tion of the city’s road­side trees.

Ban­ga­lore was not al­ways a leafy en­clave; in the early 18th cen­tury it was bet­ter de­scribed as the naked coun­try. This changed with the ar­rival of Haider Ali, who laid out the sprawl­ing Lal­bagh Botan­i­cal Gar­dens in 1760. His son Tipu Sul­tan im­ported ex­otic species from Per­sia, France, Mau­ri­tius and Kabul, help­ing to shore up the green­ing of this rocky plateau. (If you are in town on a Sun­day, join Thiru­vady for a morn­ing ram­ble through Lal­bagh: vrt@bgl.vsnl.net.in.)

With the Brits came tree-lined av­enues, de­mure rose gar­dens and com­mer­cial veg­etable plots. There’s lit­tle ev­i­dence at the Taj, how­ever, of the English ma­nia for busy borders and blowsy blooms. Here the grounds re­main pleas­antly un­clut­tered. Great swaths of green are stud­ded with im­pres­sive trees: soar­ing man­goes and tamarinds, gor­geous flam­boy­ants with their fil­i­greed canopies and an im­mense Fi­cuse­las­tica (In­dian rub­ber plant), its roots en­twined around a jum­ble of rocks.

Mas­sive rain trees, a stand of large cy­cads, rose­wood, ja­man and pi­pal (or sa­cred fig) trees are vis­ited by pariah kites whose plain­tiff cries seem more redo­lent of a wilder­ness than a gar­den in the heart of a bur­geon­ing me­trop­o­lis.

Oc­cu­py­ing a se­ries of two-storey build­ings, 117 rooms and suites are scat­tered through­out the gar­dens, with private ter­races or bal­conies jut­ting into the green­ery. All mod cons are com­ple­mented by masses of cut flow­ers in ev­ery room.

Ban­ga­lore lies at the heart of In­dia’s cut-flower trade and keen gar­den­ers shouldn’t miss the road­side stalls at Malleswaram mar­kets on Sampige Road, where stalls are mounded with pale pink roses, bas­kets of lo­tus, buck­ets of orange marigolds and long gar­lands of honey-sweet jas­mine en­twined with blood-red roses. www.tajho­tels.com. Chris­tine McCabe

Green peace: Taj West End in Ban­ga­lore

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