British Museum and Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, combine to give London a tropical Indian summer landscape

Sponsored by HSBC

2 May – 28 September 2009
British Museum Forecourt
Admission free

In a unique collaboration, the British Museum and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), will create an Indian-themed landscape on the Museum’s west lawn. It will mark the first of a series of specially commissioned projects in the forthcoming Indian Summer season, sponsored by HSBC. India Landscape will celebrate the two institutions’ shared vision to strengthen cultural understanding through a range of creative outlets, and support biodiversity conservation across the world. It follows on from the successful China Landscape created in 2008, and is the second of five planned partnerships. The Landscape also coincides with the 250th anniversary of the foundation of RBG Kew and the 250th anniversary of the British Museum opening to the public.

The wide diversity of plants from India gave RBG Kew’s designers of the India Landscape, Steve Ruddy and Richard Wilford, a challenge to emulate in a space of just a few hundred square metres.

This has been achieved by presenting a cross-section of the immensely diverse habitats of India. The Landscape will take visitors on a journey spanning the mountainous environment of the Himalayas, represented by a dramatic rock garden; through temperate woodland and ending with a sub-tropical zone centred on a pool filled with lotus flowers (Nelumbo). The Landscape will highlight the significance of plants use in Indian culture – as food, medicine and in trade – and the way plants such as chilli (native to South America) have travelled and become completely indigenised.

Plants featured in the India Landscape include:

Sarcococca hookeriana, a small evergreen shrub named for Kew’s second director, Joseph Hooker, who visited the Sikkim Himalaya in the late 1840s, introducing many new species of Rhododendron to Kew Gardens and other British gardens

  • The banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), planted in Indian villages as a traditional shade tree
  • The peepul tree (Ficus religiosa), sacred to both Buddhists and Hindus and planted widely in Asian gardens, around shrines and at places of pilgrimage
  • Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) and marigolds (Tagetes patula), two plants widely cultivated in India and strongly associated with its religious culture and celebrations
  • The coconut palm (Cocos nucifera), mango (Mangifera indica) and the walnut tree (Juglans regia)
  • The scholar tree (Alstonia scholaris), so named because its wood was used to make the ‘slates’ or writing boards for school pupils

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Notes to Editors

Save the date

Press launch/photocall - 28 April, time and location confirmed on request.

Indian Summer

May to October 2009 - The British Museum and HSBC present Indian Summer, a season dedicated to Indian culture featuring a unique programme of exhibitions, installations, performances, lectures and film screenings.  HSBC is the sponsor of the season that includes: Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, an exhibition which provides a rare opportunity to view paintings of outstanding interest and variety that have never previously been seen in Europe; India Landscape, a specially commissioned space presenting Indian biodiversity in the Museum’s forecourt, in collaboration with Kew Gardens; and a rich and varied public programme.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is a major international visitor attraction with 132 hectares of landscaped gardens attracting over one million visitors per year. Kew is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2009. The site houses over 40 listed buildings and other structures including the Palm House, Temperate House, Orangery and Pagoda as well as two ancient monuments, Queen Charlotte's Cottage and Kew Palace. RBG Kew is a world famous scientific organisation, internationally respected for its outstanding living collection of plants and world-class herbarium as well as its scientific expertise in plant diversity, conservation and sustainable development in the UK and around the world.

HSBC Cultural Exchange

As the world’s local bank, HSBC aims to encourage and promote the understanding of different cultures across the world through its Cultural Exchange programme. As an international financial services provider, HSBC has to operate across different cultures and knows first hand how important it is to appreciate and understand the different points of views and values of both its employees and clients, in order to build successful working relationships. HSBC therefore believes that Cultural Exchange can generate important business benefits. HSBC embraces Cultural Exchange in its widest sense; from fine art to cuisine, from language and literature to dance, street arts and all forms of music.

HSBC Holdings plc

HSBC Holdings plc, the parent company of the HSBC Group, is headquartered in London. The Group serves customers worldwide from around 9,500 offices in 86 countries and territories in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the Americas, the Middle East and Africa. With assets of US$2,527 billion at 31 December 2008, HSBC is one of the world’s largest banking and financial services organisations. HSBC is marketed worldwide as ‘the world’s local bank’.