Eugenia Herbert

Flora's Garden

British Garden's in India

University of Pennsylvania Press 2011

New Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in South Asian StudiesNew Books Network December 16, 2011 Dhara Anjaria

Horticulture is not an activity normally associated with Empire building. But Eugenia Herbert‘s book Flora’s Empire: British Gardens in India (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania...

Horticulture is not an activity normally associated with Empire building. But Eugenia Herbert‘s book Flora’s Empire: British Gardens in India (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011). But ‘garden imperialism’ was all too common in the Indian subcontinent, as its many conquerors attempted to tame and order a land that seemed simultaneously alien and unwelcoming. The last of these conquerors were the British, and the passion for laying out gardens and otherwise landscaping their surrounds was a trait they shared with those from whom they took over the governance of India, the Great Mughals.

Most of the time gardens and landscapes were built to remind the British of home, and many an Anglo-Indian tried to re-create England by planting English flowers- in pots which could be taken along when the civilian was invariably transferred to a new station. But there were times when the British tried to re-create India’s past by -recreating Indian gardens. So it was that George Curzon when restoring the Taj added what now seems to be the classic Mughal garden around it; but as Herbert shows, the Taj gardens were not always these austere geometric rows and squares of controlled growth; rather they were overrun with luxuriant tropical verdure that partly threw a veil over the lovely facadeof the Taj itself. Gardens built to evoke memories thus did not always offer an accurate re-construction of the past, or indeed of places far away.

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