The orchard has developed out of an interest to identify and cultivate a range of tree fruit that would adapt well to our rain-fed hill conditions. Very little work has been done hitherto to extend the range of hill fruit in South India resulting in a paucity of variety and a tendency towards mono-cropping, particularly in recent decades of Eucalyptus which has had a severe and deleterious impact on the soil and landscape integrity.
For sources of alternative hill fruits adapted to our highland tropical conditions the highlands of the Andes and Central America provide a rich resource of trees and shrubs with a long history of cultivation and improvement. We began by raising cherimoyas and have subsequently raised avocados and a number of sapotes; the White sapote, the Black sapote (Oriental persimmon), the Green sapote and the yellow sapote (lucuma). These trees are now growing in favored locations in the orchard and during the next few years should provide us with trees that merit further propagation.
At the same time, we wished to create a forest ambience particularly on the poorer soils of the more exposed area of the orchard and here we have planted green wattle which forms a woodland matrix within a few years. Within this matrix we are planting jamun trees which are endemic to these hills and grow particularly at the edges of the shola forest and in open areas between stretches of shola. There are some magnificent examples of ancient mature jamun trees throughout the orchard and the locality and they constitute an essential part of the local ecology worth cultivating for their beauty and all the benefits they engender. Their nutritious black skinned fruits are favorites of forest tree dwellers and birds.
In addition, there are several areas where native shola trees predominate, and in all areas where they are growing naturally they are treated as integral to the woodland development and are encouraged, thriving in the woodland conditions created by wattle. Shola trees are relatively slow in growth and rarely grow more than a foot per year, but in most cases they are extremely attractive with predominantly shiny dark green evergreen leaves and frequently reddish to bronze coloured new growth.
We also grow a number of ornamental trees and shrubs, particularly in the vicinity of the guest houses, which will add character and diversity to the garden over the years. In time we intend to gradually extend the range of flowering plants adapted to the hills, particularly climbing vines and flowering trees, which are so prevalent in the tropical and sub-tropical regions.
These elements of the orchard contribute to its character and diversity, enriching the experience of staying here and providing an environment that is both tranquil and vibrant. We see the orchard garden as a form of landscape restoration that is complementary to the native shola forest and promotes a habitat which is also most conducive to human happiness and well being.