Chennai's Semmozhi Poonga with its green canopy and lush environs is scheduled to open soon. Anusha Parthasarathy takes a walk through the garden

Splashes of rich colour, pruned grass, a snaking rock waterfall that ends in a lily pond and artistically-bound bonsai are only a part of the six-and-a-half acres of land that have been converted into a botanical garden, the Semmozhi Poonga, on the fringes of Cathedral Road, at a location once better known as the Woodlands Drive-in.

At the entrance of the garden is a welcome mount, with Korean grass giving it a fresh green tinge, while the inside houses a vertical garden of over 200 plants of 35 varieties. The wall of shaded green is an interesting concept, and took about two weeks to set up. Walk a little ahead through the Palm Court and the first creeper-covered pergola (there are three in total) and you enter the garden, divided into 10 sections with different kinds of gardening concepts.

Concept gardens

“The idea was to maximise utilisation of space and so, the themes are all based on gardening concepts. They can be huge gardens on their own but we've fitted various garden themes into this area,” says B. Chandra Mohan, Director, Horticulture and Plantation Crops.

The 7.96-crore project has up to 300 different varieties of plants, a cascade waterfall, an amphitheatre and a sequence fountain. “The plants have been sourced from all over the country, and even from China. They were handpicked based on how they adapt to Chennai's climate,” he points out.

The golden garden is a short canopy of yellow flower and leaf plants after which comes the children's play area. There is a readymade gazebo put up at the corner and another one being constructed at the other end of the park.

As you pass the calming yellow shade, the perfume from the flowers in the aroma garden wafts through. Lavender, rose, gardenia and plumeria are a few of the scented plant varieties, including the night queen and day queen, in this space. The shade garden is home to varieties of indoor plants. “This is the first time such indoor potted plants will be showcased in open shade,” says Vijay Ram, the horticulture officer in-charge. The butterfly garden is a haven of netted plants with a small bunch of symbolic Oxalis triangularis , a plant that looks like a spread-winged butterfly from the top.

Walk further down the cobblestone pathway and you'll find the falls that opens into a big pond spread across the park. Hardy plants come up next to the falls. Cactii and pachipodium are varieties that don't need much water. The fern garden which houses non-flowering plants and an exotic garden with rare Indian plant species is up next. The herbal garden holds 25 varieties of herbal plants such as lemongrass, philanthus, gooseberries, vasambu and thulsi among others.

There is a theme garden that has about 14 varieties of bamboo. This leads straight to the pond garden, a melange of water plants and palms.

On the other side of the pond is a mural walk, a coarse pebble bed that branches out in the shape of a large tree. Then comes a spiral pathway with plants on either side. “This is a maze garden. These plants will grow and cover the entire space and people will be allowed in and asked to find their way out,” Vijay says.

The moss-covered swamp and the bonsai garden come next.

“The entire garden concept took about three months to decide upon. A garden is not like a building, which is complete when it has been inaugurated. Over time, the garden will grow to its glory and the ecosystem will flourish,” explains Chandra Mohan.

(The Semmozhi Poonga will open to the public from November 24).

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