Chandigarh: Ever wanted to caress `Lady Di`, have a close look at `John F. Kennedy` or gift `Queen Elizabeth` to your sweetheart? You can do all this and more at the city`s Rose Festival, where over 800 species of beautiful roses, including those named after famous personalities, will be on display.
This union territory, famous throughout the world for its greenery and gardens, is now all geared up to host the 39th edition of the annual Rose Festival from Feb 25 to 27 at the 46-acre Rose Garden in Sector 16.
For the `celebrity-minded`, there are sections of roses named after personalities like Queen Elizabeth, John F. Kennedy, Lady Di and Lal Bahadur. There are also sections with delightful names like Only You, Dulhan, King`s Ransom, Hippie Girl, Love Me Tender and Careless Love.
One will also find roses named after countries, states and fruits, including Delhi Prince, Oklahoma, American Heritage, Louisiana, Canadian Centenary, City of Belfast, Fragrant Plum, Wild Plum and Dorothy Peach.
The Rose Festival will see added attractions like concerts, musical nights, comedy shows, `antakshri`, food streets and various competitions. There would be live performances by singers Hans Raj Hans, Priyani Vani and Mohit Chauhan and comedian Uday Dahiya.
"The union ministry of tourism has sanctioned a Rs.269 lakh (Rs. 26.9 million) grant for the upgradation and all-round development of the Rose Garden. Preparations are on in full swing. We are expecting tens of thousands of tourists during the festival," Ram Niwas, home-cum-tourism secretary of Chandigarh, told reporters.
"We have collected various varieties of roses from different parts of the world. At present there are around 32,500 plants of 850 rose varieties here. Two musical fountains have been added to enhance the beauty of this garden," stated Niwas.
Also known as Zakir Hussain Rose Garden - named after India`s former president - the 46-acre garden was set up in 1967.
Officials here claim it is Asia`s largest rose garden. An important tourist destination, it is thronged by hundreds of visitors from India and abroad every day.
Around 40 gardeners are employed to take care of the beautiful garden.
"These rose plants are just like our own children. We take care of them all through the year and eagerly wait for the Rose Festival. Though this garden is jam-packed every day, the three days of the festival are always very special. These are just like a fat Punjabi wedding," said Shekhar, a native of Chennai who has worked as a gardener at the Rose Garden for the last 16 years.
"We prune the plants in September and October and then the flowers bloom in the next two months. This year, we have added hundreds of new rose plants of different varieties," he added.
Jaipal Singh, one of the supervisors of the garden, told reporters: "This garden has been divided into 10 different sections. Besides roses, there are fountains and a children`s corner, equipped with modern child-friendly swings. The planning has been done keeping in view the requirements of both domestic and foreign visitors.
"We also have various kinds of ornamental and medicinal trees, shrubs and climbers to keep the garden in colour during the off season," he added.
The Rose Garden will soon have an exclusive section named `Pride of India`, where varieties developed by Indian scientists will be planted.
Chandigarh was designed by Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier in the 1950s. Its green cover is 38.8 percent of its geographical area - maximum in the country.