Tag Archives: Botany

Botany and Scottish Gardens: Linnaeus was right?

Statue of Linnaeus in the Royal Academy of London

Statue of Linnaeus in the Royal Academy of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

John Lindley (1799-1865)

John Lindley (1799-1865) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whilst  away in Scotland earlier this year I had the opportunity to look at and to read a number of books I might otherwise not have read. One of these was

Gardening Women – their stories from 1600 to the Present by Catherine Horwood. A fascinating title I think you must agree.

Now I didn’t read this book in any great detail but did dip into it and found the chapter on the systems of plant classification in the early 19th century especially fascinating.

There was rivalry in the nineteenth century between the followers of Carl Linnaeus who came up with his ideas in the second half of the 18th century, and those who followed

A. P. de Candolle

A. P. de Candolle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


The Linnaean system set up an hierarchical scheme of genera and species with stamens and pistils – the male and female sexual parts of flowers.

In contrast de Candolle thought that flowers were non-sexual and thus those who were more prudish in Victorian society preferred this system. He set out a morphology of the plants as a whole with monocotyledons and dicotyledons which is still used.

John Lindley who was a Professor of Botany at London University favoured de Candolle and therefore wanted to separate what he considered to be ‘drawing room botany’ from botany as a natural science. He thought that Linnaeus’s system had resulted in botany becoming an ‘amusement for the ladies rather than an occupation for the serious thoughts of man

So when we visited Edinburgh Botanical gardens I wa well prepared for the Latin and the phrases describing the plants’ make-up and sexual proclivities!

Here we didn’t have time to visit all the garden so decided to see the glasshouses as they said they had a collection of rare plants.

Indeed there were some amazing rhododendrons in them that had been collected from all over the world and were some really tiny ones that came from remote mountains in places like Borneo, the Philippines and Malaysia in the  very high altitudes. I had recently discovered that rhododendrons came not only from China and Japan but also North America, and now was more than surprised to find out just how many places they grew. All very cool of course.

The Botanical Gardens had a World of Palms trail to follow but disappointingly they did not have a plant of the very tall Colombian type that we saw in the cloud forests there and when questioned no-one there seemed to know about it. clearly we hadn’t found the palm experts…PLants in glasshouses at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens P1000463 P1000441 P1000449 P1000452

Of course we did manage to find some other interesting plants whilst in the glasshouses and I thought you might like to see some of them. And the tea and cake there was fabulous and very reasonably priced.  And you could hire the very nice cafe area (waiter service) for your wedding at a very good price indeed with an all white event suggested. Much cheaper than London prices….. One thing  I got quite addicted to, having been introduced to it in Scotland, is the Afganato – a black espresso coffee over a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Yummy!

Bengalaru: the Forest Town no more

Portrait of Tipu Sultan once owned by Richard ...

Portrait of Tipu Sultan once owned by Richard Colley Wellsley, now in the care of the British Library. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bengalaru now Bangalore, growing like a weed and like weeds it can be ugly, growing in the wrong place – not planned but thriving.

It is many cities and all are not yet completed.

Or are completed but falling down due to poor work or shoddy materials.

The road from the airport is reminiscent of those in Colombia – excellent highway by the airport that gets more and more rough as you get to the city proper. When will it be completed as one road with no diversions nor under construction? Well maybe three years.. that’s if you believe it.. more like more as in india one hour is usually two and so on.

And then there is the metro construction to contend with to. That has also dug the roads up. (See Colombia again)

The pavements are as bad or non-existent and you walk in the road. Where they do occur they are mostly all over the place and up and down. Very high of course off the roads due to the monsoon, which has also I think undermined a lot of the pavements. And then there are the huge gutters for the rain…

There is lots of rubbish and mangy dogs. It seems that a rubbish dump was forgotten by the city planners and as the city grew rubbish has got dumped all over the place. And this feeds the dogs of course and the cows too of which there were a few especially down by the market.

Roaming in the City

Roaming in the City

There are clearly expensive flat complexes going up, with swimming pools, duplexes, shuttle-cock courts, landscaped gardens and gyms as well as child-care, and at the same time shanties and some (but few) people still sleeping on the streets. I saw Nandos, Baskin robbins and all many of other Western franchises to feed the urbane population.

This history of Bangalore is interesting because it is relatively recent. There was not a real town there before a sultan came across the site when wandering about in a forest, as they did, being as there is no natural water. The water was need to be supplied by a reservoir which is now a lake of course, in the botanical gardens. The park is an interesting version of a botanical garden with monkeys – the first I saw in Bangalore.

Many of the trees were planted in the time of Tipu Sultan – who was famous for having defeated the British twice before being finally defeated himself. Tipu was so proud of having defeated the British that he had a mechanical tiger made – eating a red coated soldier – the British! This artifact is in the British Museum I believe and still works…

There was a lot of topiary in the botanical gardens and roses but the flower greenhouse was not a greenhouse as we know it. Rather it was an open, glass roofed area where flower shows could be held. One interesting item in the park was a clay sculpture celebrating peace and mankind etc. Unfortunately the clay had started to crumble and we were not sure if this was deliberate or not. There was a severe lack of flowers overall – unlike the university grounds that we visited.

20130626_112404 20130626_110251 20130626_110226 20130626_115020 20130626_114715 20130626_112546 20130626_112434

old reservoir now lake

The hotel clerk assures me that Bangalore is the safest city in India and that was certainly my first impression as I wandered out into a clearly middle-class area with two small parks, swings and flowers and a coffee shop. Luckily I am happily ensconced in this shop when the heavens opened – I had taken an umbrella with me but… so another cup (of good) coffee it was. Coffee is quite a favourite here especially as the young office workers in the IT sites not only drink it as a sign of sophistication, but also as many are UK and US educated with degrees and thus have become quite addicted. Luckily for me, as I am also addicted.

The soil in Bangalore is red and sandy and so doesn’t hold the water – luckily considering the amount of rain that falls – and there is a very fine type of grass that grows in the parks but not under the trees. There are some weeds in it including one that looks like black medic. The park paths are edged with what looks like a yellow privet. The only flowers are on shrubs and small trees.

Park flower

There is evidence of large ant colonies and we saw a termite (?) mound that was taller than me in the university grounds.

Such is the building frenzy around the town that all the empty spaces have the owners’ names and telephone numbers on them. high rents and prices are indicated as new blocks offer many facilities such as children play areas and nurseries, swimming pools, gyms, landscaped gardens, shuttle cock courts (clearly still played) and yet more for the duplexes that they offer.

The university grounds are wonderfully kept and are the true botanical gardens of Bangalore.

One is built in an old forest with protected trees and the other is a flower fest. With many butterflies.

20130628_125855 20130628_124917 20130628_125532 20130627_163724 20130627_163214 20130627_162716 20130628_131738 20130628_130806

And yet there is little history left. There was never much of historical building as the area, as I mentioned it was settled late, but Tipu Sultan did build a fort and palace but they are largely demolished. The gates to the fort still remain and are massive as my photo shows (see the man for scale). Great heavy wooden doors. the palace was built of wood – timber that has largely remained intact through 3 centuries, but all that remains is the outside court where the Sultan would hold court and the womens’ gallery. Much of the building was made of mud bricks it seems, which is clearly not suitable in an area of massive rainfall. Especially as the local soil is very unsuitable for making mud! – although I did see a couple of men attempting to make a plaster for a wall out of soil and water – only – not good building!


What remains of the Old Architecture

What remains of the Old Architecture

So, if you need to visit for work, then fine, but if you are looking for a holiday destination – then don’t bother. There is nothing there for the tourist apart from a craft shop!

Xiamen Botanical Garden: cloud pruned bougainvilleas

This was a relatively newly created botanical garden just outside the city itself and thus interesting that money had spent on such a vast undertaking.

Again, it had mountains, a forest and a large lake in the centre with some very interesting water flowers on it.

Lotus Lake and flower paviliion

Lotus Lake and flower paviliion

It had a main road running through it with buses that you could take from one end to the other – could be useful if you intended to spend the day there.. and as was common – the official tea houses were largely closed on a Sunday. So although weekends are a popular time to visit, due to the 5 day week that is usual in China, most businesses are closed on Sundays, just leaving the field open to small entrepreneurs to take up the slack…

One very interesting thing we spotted in this garden was up in the gardeners’ rooms – there were some wonderful wooden carvings underway, but none were out on display. We suspect they were for sale in one of the expensive tourist shops…

Wonderful wooden sculptures

Wonderful wooden sculptures

Overall it was still a garden being developed but a lot of interesting trees and shrubs had been planted.

One thing we found extremely interesting was the bougainvilleas. They had them in all shades and had, effectively, ‘bonsaied’ them, by growing them in small pots and then shaping them into cloud formations. I had never even imagined you would do this to a plant which is essentially a creeper but they did and it was very effective!

Bourgies, scupltures, lakes, forests and mountains

Bourgies, scupltures, lakes, forests and mountains

20121125_030410 20121125_030445 20121125_033601 20121125_043038 20121125_043947 20121125_045926