The Garden Guide

Book: C.M Villiers Stuart Gardens of the Great Mughals
Chapter: Chapter 2 Gardens of the Plains - Agra

Raised walks in Villiers Stuart garden

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The first time I saw this simple and oldest of all garden-plans, I was vividly reminded of our own early struggles to lay out a garden in the Central Province station whither my husband's military work had temporarily transplanted us. New to India, I had only seen the English villa gardens of Bombay, green certainly, but feature-less, uninteresting, and quite unlike the Indian gardens of my dreams. With us, fortunately, water was plentiful, so our first idea was to build as large a fountain as might be, and a central tank from which to irrigate the garden. The space was small, but gradually the natural plan unfolded itself, the long flower-bordered walks leading from the central tank; though I remember how I argued at great length against the mali's (gardener) insistance that the walks should be raised above the garden level, unconsciously clinging, in my own mind, to the opposite English plan of the flat paths with their raised herbaceous borders. The mali won the day, though I was slow, I confess, to see the obvious fact that the walks, in an irrigated garden, must be necessarily raised for the water to pass under them. It was astonishing how quickly and willingly the work was done; quite large cypress trees were planted, and the whole garden, previously a burnt-up field, soon took shape. When it was planted I was quite unaware of its propitious symbolism, how even the 'good' snake was not wanting, a cobra which lived curled up in the roots of the old mango tree at the end of one of the four walks. How horrified I should have been had I known that at the time. But a year later when I discovered the fact, it seemed only fitting; and Naga, the friendly deity, was left undisturbed in the enjoyment of his daily offering of milk, wherefore our garden prospered, and, in evil times, our compound proved free from plague!