Indian Spice

Indian Spice

Indian Spice Garden

The Indian Spice Garden features trees, flowering shrubs and herbs and spices of India. Many of these plants are used in Ayurvedic medicine, the traditional medicine of India, which has been in use for more than 3,000 years.

This garden is a loose association of plants of the Indian subcontinent. It does not conform in design or content to any garden in Indian history, but rather features individual species that are important in Indian culture.

One example of a plant that did not evolve on the Indian subcontinent, but is very important in many parts of India is the chilli. The chilli is a member of the Solanaceae family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants as well as deadly nightshade and tobacco. It is a widespread plant family, but the chilli evolved in the Americas. It was shared with the rest of the world in the late 1400’s after Columbus ‘discovered’ the Americas. Today, India is the biggest exporter of chillies.

The garden supports many herb and spice plants, but also supports a number of pretty and fragrant flowering plants.

Crepe Myrtle, Largerstroemia indica, is a very popular tree in Australia, featuring colourful blooms of flowers usually in summer. A variety of cultivars have given rise to a range of flower colours from white through to various shades of pink and purple. The one in this garden features dark reddish-pink blooms. It is winter deciduous with leaves turning dark yellow to orange before falling.

Another flowering plant is the Luculia. The variety we have in the garden is ‘Pink Spice’. It is a winter flowering bush with fragrant pale pink flowers.

Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, an antiseptic and an anti-bacterial. It’s good for the liver, good for skin, and has been shown to be good at fighting some forms of cancer. Turmeric powder is bright yellow, and this bright colour, combined with the medicinal properties has made it popular in other aspects of Indian culture.

Tulsi, or Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) is a widespread herb of the tropics of Asia and the Middle East, and a very important part of Ayurvedic medicine. Wikipedia describes Ayurveda as a system of traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent. The Tulsi is the wonder herb of India. It is commonly grown in pots outside homes and temples.

Tea (Camellia sinensis) is another plant many of us could not live without. It is related to the flowering Camellias we are familiar with in our gardens, which is obvious from the form of the relatively small white flowers that appear in the right season. Tea is native to the area bordered by north-east India, Burma and western China. One subspecies is cultivated mostly in China, and another one mostly in India. In modern times the British were responsible for expanding the cultivation and production of black tea in India.

Henna (Lawsonia inermis) is in the same family as the Crepe Myrtle, but is more at home in the drier parts of the Indian subcontinent. It is the source of the dye used in henna tattooing, and is used to colour hair, skin and nails, and can also be used to colour silk, wool and leather. The longer the dye is left on, the stronger the colour and the longer it will last. The flowers are used for perfumes and for repelling some insects and preventing mildew.

Common NameScientific NameFamilyUsePhoto
Amla, Indian GooseberryPhyllanthus emblicaPhyllanthaceaeFruit, medicine 
Ashwaganda, Indian GinsengWithania somniferaSolanaceaeMedicine 
CardarmomElettaria cardamomumZingiberaceaeFood, medicine 
ChilliCapsicum annuumSolanaceaeFood, medicine 
Crepe MyrtleLargerstroemia indicaLythraceaeOrnamental 
Curry Leaf PlantMurraya koenegiiRutaceaeFood 
GalangalAlpinia galanga and A. officinarumZingiberaceaeFood, medicine 
GingerZingiber officinalisZingiberaceaeFood, medicine 
Gotu KolaCentella asiaticaApiaceaeMedicine 
Lemon GrassCymbopogon citratusPoaceaeFood, medicine 
LuculiaLuculia 'Pink Spice' and L. gratissimaRubiaceaeOrnamental 
ShatavariAsparagus racemosusAsparagaceaeMedicine 
TeaCamelia sinensisTheaceaeFood, medicine 
TulsiOcimum tenuiflorumLamiaceaeMedicine 
TurmericCurcuma longaZingiberaceaeFood, medicine
Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941) was born in Calcutta, in the Bengal region of India in the north east of the subcontinent. He was a polymath, excelling in multiple fields of art and science, and was best known for his contributions to literature and music, particularly poetry. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. Among his many achievements he was the founder of the Visva-Bharati University, which is located in West Bengal. It would be easy to spend an hour exploring his life and work.

Tagore's poetry is so widely appreciated they have inspired the national anthems of three nations. The anthems for India (Jana Gana Mana) and Bangladesh (Amar Sonar Bangla) are taken directly from Tagore's writings. A student of Tagore's, Ananda Samarakoon, wrote the lyrics for the Sri Lankan anthem, Sri Lanka Matha.

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