The National Botanic Gardens of Burma

Sounds a bit obscure doesn’t it?  But the story of the foundation and then the slow decline of the botanic gardens at PyinOoLwin in the hills above Mandalay is both fascinating, and a moving commentary on Burma’s isolation in the world.

They were established by a small group of  colonial plant lovers almost as a private initiative and flourished despite all the odds. Constructed by convicts, soldiers  and an army of Burmese labourers the gardens were planned & laid out under the supervision by Charlotte, Lady Cuffe, an Irish botanist of great distinction, helped by an eccentric solicitor &  a Scots forester who were  backed by the wonderfully named governor of Burma, Sir Spencer Harcourt Butler.

The gardens fell into decline in the 1930s and suffered badly during the war and then Burma’s increasing isolation under military regimes. Nowadays they have been “privatized” and being revitalized, although very much as a commercial proposition rather than a true botanic garden.

The talk features many original photographs from family collections and even a short video interview with the daughter of one of the founders, as well as  lots of  stories about British eccentrics and their love of gardens.