Blooming dogwood

True friends

True friends

If you go to Thimphu’s Clock Tower Square these days, you’ll find the dogwood (phetse shing in Dzongkha) there in full bloom. In the midst of what is fast becoming a concrete jungle, the dogwood trees, though there are only three left, provide refreshing refuge.

The Clock Tower Square, before it was extensively renovated in 2004, used to have many more trees. Maple and dogwood were some of the trees that Friends of the Square, a group of volunteers, planted along with bamboo, azalea and marigold to convert an unkempt, dirty square to a well organized garden with proper footpaths and benches that we could actually sit on.

Friends of the Square consisted of Karma Wangdi (Asha Karma from VAST), Dorji Yangki (architect), Karma Wangchuk (landscape architect) and Art Martin (a Dutch expatriate). These four volunteers, all of them concerned residents who decided to do something about a public problem, mobilized labour, money and their own resources to, as one of them puts it, “reorganize the square”. And the friends did a pretty good job.

In 2004 the government decided to renovate the square. So Asha Karma went to the city planners and requested them to incorporate the existing trees in their new designs. And to make use of the trees – to save them – which by then, with constant care over more than four years, had begun to add real beauty to the square. The planners agreed.

But when the construction started, Asha Karma was horrified to see the builders indiscriminately tearing down everything. So he stood in the square, everyday, to make sure that the builders would not destroy any more of his trees. Damage, however, had already been done: the square lost most of the dogwood and all the maple trees.

So if you go to the Clock Tower Square one of these days, take the time to enjoy the dogwood, a very Bhutanese tree. There are in full bloom. Thanks to their friends.


Facebook Comments:


  1. “Dogwood in bloom amidst the stray Dogs” Both are indeed blooming but not because of the efforts of the municipality/city corporation. The Dogwood is blooming because of the efforts of the volunteers – thanks to them as mentioned by OL and the Dogs are also blooming because of the lack of efforts of the municipality. One might argue that we keep on harping on the city corporation but if we don’t harp at them then who should we harp at. I guess, we should harp at the concerned ministry of the government too. I have brought out an issue of an uncovered drain right next to the lower police gate that is very risky for pedestrains and vehicle drivers during the day as well as night. It is quite evident from teh ignorance that we are waiting for a disaster and then the relevant authorities will come to the sight and try to take some irresponsible to task when all is too late. Isn’t prevention better than cure.

    On another note about going green in teh capital city. A decade ago the city of Delhi campaigned about going green and they planted thousands of trees everywhere when the smog/smoke pollution was at its highest. The then government was determined to make a change and they did succeed. If you go to Delhi today, you will find many green areas be it reserved green areas or be it by the road side – its mostly looking green and their efforts are rewarded. I am not saying they have done wonders but the effort has certainly been rewarded despite the population pressure there. We are different here with small population but we are certainly lacking initiatives. Where will the initiatives come from – I dont know but it is high time that someone influential need to be concerned and make the initiative. I don’t think we have to wait for our KING to initiate that. We have more than a dozen ministers that can initiate this project – Going Green.

    We have had enough of the half hearted eye wash activities be it from the government, NGO’s or private sector….THERE NEEDS TO BE GENUINE CONCERN AND EFFORTS. I wish I was an influential person in the capital…but alas …I am not.

  2. Well, talking about “greenery”; immediately below the Luntenzampa bridge, along the “express way” , there were cypress trees planted at a planting distance of less than a feet! That was about 18 months back- I have been away from home for a while, and do not know if they are still there. Apart from the issue of the distance separating the trees, I have never seen any cities elsewhere having “tress” separating their motorways – not at least even in case of the huge four-lane kind!

    Why is it so that people in Bhutan do not discuss, talk and share ideas before undertaking such activities? Planting trees, and particularly the likes of cypress or thuja is’t apparently anything like putting in veggie seeds to be harvested and be done with tomorrow!

    And while we are at it, there was a huge activity of pulling down and setting up roundabouts and dividers in certain areas in Motithang a year and a half ago (not sure if such things are still rampant today). We would see a new divider coming up, only to be pulled down the next week and people working on another one. Before long, the concerned authorities realized, it did not work – mostly because they have not worked out if a bus or a truck could make a turn comfortably and safely!

    Why is it so, that responsible people, if bereft of ideas, do not take the trouble to discuss, research or simply ask!

  3. Government’s idea of going green = paint your roof Green!
    Most of Thimphu roofs are green now. Mission accomplished!

  4. My heartiest congratulations to the volunteer friends of the Clock Tower Square and also to VAST for their continued volunteer works since 1998. Such living examples remind us of our potential for Bodhichita.

  5. Lampenda Chuup says

    I don’t know what our city and road planners do on study tours. There are many places where we could learn from. It is a mere technology and idea transfer, not starting something anew altogether.

    But of course, they are busy shopping for their wives or husbands I guess.

  6. Well, you must have watched the sizzling “The American President” starring Michael Douglas and Annette Bening. It’s one of my favourite and there I learnt that the “Dogwood” is the state flower of Virginia. And that Dogwood is both a flower and a tree (I thought there were two different plants, a tree and a flower with the same name…but now I know its a tree that gives flowers by the same name). Since then I had always wondered how a Dogwood looked like. And now chancing upon this site I realise it’s been just under my nose for the last plenty-of-years.I went to the clock tower yesterday and sat there for a good half an hour or more, by the blooming tree (I spotted three). It felt nice to be connected…like being involved in the very movie.

    Thank you. I have not just got to see a tree for myself, now I also know it’s called ‘Phetse shing’ in Bhutanese.

    • Dear Tongyal: Thanks for visiting the blooming trees. I’m glad you enjoyed the trees. Here’s a suggestion: look out for the fruit. They have a lot of character, and somehow look very traditionally Bhutanese.


  1. […] my last entry, Blooming dogwood, Romeo, a regular commentator, pointed out an “…uncovered drain right next to the lower […]

  2. […] Blooming dogwood prompted Tongyal to visit the Clock Tower Square and spend a good half an hour among the dogwood trees. Since Tongyal enjoyed the experience so much, I’m posting another picture – this one shows a blooming dogwood at the Motithang Hotel. […]

Leave a Reply