On National Highway 47 near Koratty, on the way to Thrissur, in Kerala, is an enchanting garden of yellow flowers. It goes on for a kilometre along the median of the NH 47. This garden of yellow golden trumpets, planted in two rows, is unlikely to be missed by any passerby. Golden Trumpet (Allamanda cathartica) is known as manja
kolambi in Kerala—literally translated it would mean Yellow Spitoon. Plump, dark-haired, middle-aged Mercy Philip is the angel of this garden.
“It is not easy to make such a garden in the middle of one of the busiest highways in the state. I have been working on it for the past three years. I had planned it even before the highway was made into the present Angamaly-Mannuthy four-lane road. As it is a public place, I had to get the permission of the National Highway Authority of India,” says Mercy. She says that she has planted more than 5,000 Golden Trumpets.
To water the garden daily, Mary uses the drip irrigation method, which is used in Israel on a large scale. (In Kerala it is being tested in many places.) “Perforated pipes are laid along the stretch, and a service pipe drawn under the highway hauls the water when pumped with the help of a motor,” says Mercy. “I have also placed bougainvilleas intermittently in the centre of the Golden Trumpets. This will look admirable when they are in full growth.”
To make travellers happy, Mercy had to invest quite a lot of money in the golden garden. “Initially, to set it up, I had to spend `3.5 lakh,” says Mercy. “Then there are the daily expenses of pruning, and providing manure and water.” Besides engaging a couple of workers on the median each week, she oversees the work every two days to see how her beloved Trumpets are doing.
Nevertheless, Mercy feels unhappy at the sorry state of the roads in the state. She says, “Wherever I have gone abroad, the roads have been kept clean. Dubai and Malaysia have been quite inspiring for me, with their beautiful plants grown on the sides and on the median.” Mercy also went to China recently. “All the roads are decorated with flowers,” says Mercy. “Even the lamp posts have flowering plants on them. Compared with China, we are two decades behind in beautifying our roads.”
Nice lady, nice garden, and many travellers may be silently thanking her for creating this oasis of gold and green on the banks of the highway. —Joseph Mampilli