When the tabebuira blossom in bright yellow and pink bursts, who can help but smile? Bengaluru’s jacaranda tree, gulmohars, and cassias have enchanted visitors from all over the world. The renowned horticultural Gustav Hermann Krumbiegel, whose abilities so pleased Krishnaraja Wadiyar IV that he appointed him as curator of Lalbagh Botanical Gardens, is responsible for much of our environmental inheritance. Arriving at the age of 26, Krumbiegel made this country his home while enduring the World War, during which his German ancestry led to his being labelled an enemy of the state.

Krumbiegel was born in Lohmen, close to Dresden, and completed his undergraduate studies at Dresden and Wilsdruff before receiving his horticulture training in Pillnitz. He worked in Schwerin in 1884 and in Hamburg from 1885 to 1887 as a landscape gardener. He relocated to England in 1888, when he created flower beds in Hyde Park and joined the staff of the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. After J.M. Henry retired in 1893, he then accepted a position with the princely state of Baroda as Curator of the botanical gardens (1841-1937). He oversaw redesigning the architecture at the Government Botanical Gardens at Ootacamund. He turned down a greater offer from Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the ruler of Mysore, in 1907 to work for him. He succeeded John Cameron as an economic botanist and supervisor of the Lal Bagh Gardens.

Krumbiegel contributed to the creation of the Brindavan Gardens, which brought back the Mughal style of gardening, and also introduced a number of new plants. He was also active in the 1912-founded Mysore Horticultural Society. Even though it wasn’t his primary line of employment, he frequently worked on architectural design. He was hired as an architectural consultant by the Dewan of Mysore over opposition from the British Resident in Mysore.

Krumbiegel and other Germans were interned at a camp near Bangalore during the Second World War because Germans in India had been designated as the enemy. In his capacity as a consulting architect, he established rules for the preservation of historic sites and reviewed plans for brand-new structures, such as the guesthouse for the Maharaja of Mysore, a pavilion in Kolar’s municipal park, and the British Residency in Quetta. Additionally, he taught architecture and civic design as a visiting professor at the College of Engineering in Mysore.

In addition to his efforts in horticulture and economic botany, he introduced numerous ornamental plants and flowering trees and participated in Bangalore’s avenue tree selection. Krumbiegel Road, which runs alongside the Lal Bagh botanical garden, bears his name.

Much of our natural heritage has been destroyed as a result of urban development projects, the construction of new highways and the enlargement of existing ones, as well as the variety of public demands that emerged with the city’s exponential rise. The once-glorious avenues and highways flanked with trees and parks in Bengaluru are now little more than a faint memory. It is high time we turn the tide and restore Bengaluru to a state worthy of the title, ‘The Garden City.’ 

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