An International Flower Show was held at Saramsa Garden at Ranipool, near Gangtok, Sikkim, last weekend. We drove up on the inaugural day.
When we crossed the border from West Bengal into Sikkim at Rangpo, we saw that the check post and entry gate were decorated with large numbers of potted petunias.
Musician Welcomes Guests at Rangpo
We were surprised to see a little squad of men with masks and chemical sprayers. They sprayed the wheels of our car, and then asked us to get down and cross the border on foot -- walking over disinfectant-soaked sheets of sacking -- and I was reminded of those movie scenes of prisoners entering concentration camps. Meanwhile they gave the insides of our car a good blast with their sprayers. Why, we wondered. 'Bird-flu! Bird flu!' was the answer.
Our cars were stopped again, just after Ranipool, and we were told we'd have to walk the rest of the way to Saramsa (almost 3kms). The prisoner motif popped up again when a policeman at the parking lot allowed us to use the toilets in what turned out to be the local station's lock-up! There were large crowds walking down to the flower show.
Saramsa Garden, viewed from the highway
'Only VIP cars allowed.' The 'VIP!' word filled the air. This seemed to be a rather ambiguous and inclusive term. It covered people like tourists (especially overseas visitors), government officials and participants! We were welcomed at the entry gate after our long trek as some variety of 'VIP' on the strength of our touristy hats.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that the show did not have much 'international' participation. What it did have was participation by a small number of Indian states, horticultural departments, nurseries and professional horticulturists of the region.
They displayed some wonderful orchids, roses, liliums and anthuriums. There were beautiful exhibits of exotic flowers imported by private businesses in Delhi and other places among the stalls, but that wasn’t quite what we had expected.
The real marvels were the plants growing in the Saramsa Garden itself - Primulas; Sikkim's special flowers, pansies, petunias, cinerarias, and klanchoes, in beds after beds, in borders and niches.
The local paper explained that the farmers of the region had been handed out seeds some months before the show. They brought back thousands of flowering plants, which were bought off them and then placed all over the garden. Really ingenious as a cooperative effort - and the farmers benefited from the show thanks to this bright idea!
With some of the Beauties of Nagaland!
My planter husband inspects the exhibits!!