The Ooty flower show is the grand annual event held at the iconic Botanical Garden that attracts millions of tourists and travel afficionados every year. Often touted as the ‘showstopper of the South’, more than thirty varieties of flowers and breath-taking flower sculptures that show excellent craftmanship have been arranged at the venue to excite the visitors. Interestingly, the botanical garden is located in the beautiful valley at the Nilgiri district that was home to the indigenous Thodar tribal community.
The first edition of the flower show was inaugurated, 1896, by the then chairman of the Agricultural Society, Mr. JH Tremenhere. The botanical garden that was built for the leisure of the colonial officers was used for minimal farming too. Gradually, the garden became one of the iconic spots of the Nilgiris. The flower show is held every year, during May, to ring in the vibrant colours of summers.
It was in 1896 that the inaugural edition of the flower show was held. In 1980, the government of Tamil Nadu took over the annual event and has since been jointly organised by the departments of tourism and horticulture and plantation. The one – month long festival is kicked - off with the vegetable exhibition at Kotagiri.
Photo exhibition, spices show, rose show, boating and fruit show too are organised as part of the extensive festival. The exhibition of the traditional outfits and the cultural programs of the indigenous tribes like irular, kadar and thodar are unique attractions. The flower show was cancelled only once, years ago, when Tamil Nadu came to a stand still due to labour strikes.
Feast for the eyes
Around 150 workers were employed this year, at the botanical garden, for the preparations of the flower show. The saplings that were planted in November last year bloomed in April and May this year. More than one hundred workers have been tending to the plants and the flowers for almost five months. Groups of workers are assigned jobs like nurturing the soil, removing the weeds and watering the plants. This year, the visitors can see beautiful flowers like the dahlia, millennium, salsa flowers, geraniums, spathiphyllum plants and petunias. Around 35,000 flower pots have been artistically arranged in the garden as part of the flower show.
More than five and half lakh plants, in 217 varieties, paint the botanical garden in myriad hues. Tamil Nadu Agriculture University’s building sculpture designed using more than one thousand rose flowers is the highlight of this year’s festival. The workers, meanwhile, are busy arranging the flowers and tending to them. The flowers for decorating the designer sculptures were brought from Bengaluru. It is a thirty-member professional group, based in Bengaluru, that builds the flower sculptures that are the most attractive features of the flower show.
Ooty @ 200
As Ooty turns 200, a floral sculpture that reads ‘Ooty 200’ too has been arranged at the flower show venue to honour the grand legacy of the grand old town. John Sullivan, who was the collector of Coimbatore district, is the founder of modern Ooty. In the ancient times, Nilgiris that was originally under the rule of the Ganga dynasty, was later conquered by the Hoysala and the Vishnuvardhana kings.
This hilly area was the home of indigenous tribal communities like Thoda, Irular, Kotha, Kurumba and Badagas. For some time, Ooty was under the control of the legendary Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan. This quaint town still continues to excite the travellers with its amazing traditional and cultural heritage. The temperature in Ooty has dropped to 11 degree Celsius with rain showers being reported at many places. Meanwhile, the organisers of the flower show are worried whether the plunging temperatures and the rains would dampen the spirit of the mega event. However, more than twenty thousand visitors had been to the botanical garden, last Saturday and Sunday, to enjoy the flower show.
Visitors from Kerala
The preparations for the flower show usually begins in the months of November – December. The seeds and the saplings in the botanical garden are transferred into new pots. More than 150 workers have been employed to tend to these plants until they grow and bloom flowers. Interestingly, a majority of the work force here is women. The begin their work in the morning and continues until 5 pm. CA Mary Vineetha, a native of Kochi is the supervisor at the glass house which is one of the most amazing attractions in the botanical garden.
Vineetha has been working in the botanical garden in Ooty for more than 25 years. Besides her, there is another woman who hails from Kollam. Vineetha says that lots of Keralites work in various sections in the garden. The pots are filled with a blend of elamannu soil, clay and cow powder before planting the saplings. These soils are mostly collected from the forest regions. The plants are watered at least once in a day. However, the plants require watering only on alternate days if it rains. They are nourished with organic manure in the right proportion. Vineetha says that the workers tend to the plants just like taking care of their children. Even after the flower show closes, these flowers and plants would be exhibited in the botanical garden for almost a month. The best quality seeds from them would be planted in the garden and the rest would be kept for sale at the horticulture society’s stall.