THE CITY OF TREES
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: email@example.com.)
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