Our garden, their garden: a world of difference

If London has its Kew Gardens, Calcutta has its very own Indian Botanic Garden - both built by the British, on the banks of the Thames and the Hooghly respectively.

By Anasuya Basu
  • Published 6.07.17

July 5: If London has its Kew Gardens, Calcutta has its very own Indian Botanic Garden - both built by the British, on the banks of the Thames and the Hooghly respectively.

If the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, draws 1.56 million visitors annually, the Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden is not far behind with a daily footdall of 1,000 and over 50,000 visitors on national holidays.

But the similarities between the two gardens end there. If Kew has been able to renew and renovate itself to add more attractions and make it a place of modern scientific enquiry as well as a fun zone, the Shibpur garden, embroiled in controversies and scams, is sadly turning into a decrepit zone. Right from gaining entry to walking through the garden and enjoying its various attractions, a Calcuttan is left thinking if the Shibpur garden could take a few tips from the London one to make it more attractive.

The long queue of visitors at the Victoria Gate entrance of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew moved quickly on a sunny but windy May morning. One also has the option of booking tickets online, which is a tad cheaper. Once inside, armed with a detailed map of the garden (available free), one can explore the 326acre garden as one likes. Forget online tickets, the 273-acre Shibpur Botanic Garden is yet to have a website of its own.

The Botanic Garden authorities blame the hordes of morning walkers, who descend on the garden every morning, for spoiling the garden. At Kew Gardens, on the other hand, the gates open at 10am. The visitors at Kew are mostly tourists, schoolchildren, advanced students, artists and sketchers. A survey of the visitors at the Shibpur garden reveal that apart from local residents taking a walk, the garden has turned into a place for revelry with picnickers and couples making up the majority of the crowd.

A sprinkling of students and only a few tourists can be spotted at the garden that has little new to offer, unlike the Kew Gardens with its regular renovation.

The Great Broad Walk Borders opened at Kew in the spring of 2016 and has a thematic layout that is a riot of colours stretching for 320 metres. Another attraction - the famous Temperate House, a sprawling Victorian glasshouse with an exhaustive collection - is closed for renovation at present. The Hive is another marvel of architecture and a learning experience about the bees at Kew. The Treetop Walkway inspired by the Fibonacci sequence that appears in nature allows one to experience the ecosystem of the tree canopies. Display boards and signage line the Great Broad Walk Borders, and it's hard not to be enlightened by the nuggets of information about seed dispersal, pollination, different species of plants. It makes the garden that much more interesting and a learning place for schoolkids, the serious student and the layman.

Kew also offers a host of activities such as Foodie Fridays, where a series of activities and events are planned around the Kitchen Garden of Kew that involves growing, cooking and eating vegetables. July 20 will be celebrated as Pollinator's Day at the Kew with an interactive, playful and informative session about the role of pollinators. There are also insect camps and animation workshops, celebrating the life of botanist Joseph Hooker and a myriad such events, including music and film shows.