11 MARCH 1922, Page 8


AHUT in Gulmarg is the next best thing to going home for the hot weather. The climate and. the scenery are like Switzerland. A strong sun and nights in which there is just enough chill to enjoy a log fire, the perfect antithesis in fact of the plains of India. The caravanserai, for it is nothing more than a collection of wooden huts and tents with one sprawling hotel, lies in a plateau of the Pir Pinjal, overlooking the golden valley of Kashmir. The marg of the Kashmiri is a mountain meadow, and Gulmarg is " the meadow of flowers." The marg is a feature peculiar to the Pir Pinjal, the one range in the Himalayas where the mountain slopes are not always on end, and one can gallop over downs of close bitten turf and through forest glades. Bernier, when he crossed the Pir Pinjal with Attrungzebe, was delighted to find the whole ground "enamelled with our European flowers." He only missed the hyssop, thyme, marjoram, and rosemary. The thyme and marjoram, -however, now cover the slopes of "this frightful moun- tain of the world," and make as fragrant a bed as on the Sussex Downs. Bernier discovered that "the side of the mountain facing south, that is, looking towards Hindustan, was full of Indian and European plants mingled together, but the side exposed to the north crowded exclus- ively with "the vegetable productions of Europe "—a somewhat fanciful and arbitrary division. Some of the most striking flowers. of the Gulmarg-forests are not indigen- ous in Europe, or- at any rate in England or France—the large orange inulas, for instance, Rowleana and Grandiflora, like miniature sunflowers, or the wild indigo which lends the hillsides the purple of heather, or Nepalensis, the loveliest and most original of potentillas which breaks out into rich capricious colour, that one finds nowhere else save in the garments of Saints in the stained glass of old church windows. The stately Eremurus and the Crown Imperial lilies, indigenous in these valleys, are distinctly exotic. Nor does one find in England the blue Jacob's Ladder, with its yellow stamens, Polemonium C .eruleum, which grows on the edge of the forest in June and July as thick as a sown crop, and gives an impression of the heavens upbreaking through the earth," only equalled by the carpet of wild hyacinths in the beech woods of Kent. Yet Bernier was not far from the mark. In our garden in Gulmarg we counted 115 different species of flowers in May, June and July, of which nearly 70 per cent. were English. Many of these we had collected in the neighbour- ing woods, margs and valleys, and planted ourselves. The range of elevation from 6,000 feet at the foot of the Pir Pinjal to 13,000 feet on the crest of the mountains above the marg includes the characteristic flora of most temperate climes. Most of the tall plants of luxuriant growth come from the valley—Dietamnus albiflora, Eremus, the lilies, and Lavaturo Kashmiriana, the branching pink mallow, a generous plant which spreads itself in autumn with the abandon of Cosmos in clumps at least seven feet high. The delphiniums, aconites, inulas, and borages belong to the marg level, and the tall, elegant Swertia, of the gentian tribe, that affects the moss-grown rocky islands in the streams, generally, in the company of the English willow- herb, geranium and golden rod. The daisy is uncommon.

In its place the marg is variegated with a patchwork of small anemones, white, mauve and saffron. One is gener- ally too late for the crocuses and tulips, though the irises are still flowering in June on the slopes a thousand feet above the marg. In May in the valley every village graveyard is flooded with them and they make a garden of the flat and sloping roofs of some of the picturesque chalet-like houses. The Alpine flora begins in the marg above the forest (9,000-10,000 feet) with primulas, trollius, adonis, codonopsis, creamy white saxifrages, the yellow pedicularis, and the lovely pink variety with the white eye, and the corydalis, whose splashes of intense gold pale the golden rod and ragwort on the slopes below ; it extends to the zone of the alpenrose and dwarf white rhododendron on the summit of the ridge (13,000 feet). Behind the ridge lie the bright tarns referred to in Gulmarg as "the frozen lakes "—lakes by courtesy like the pond in the profiteer's park. Here the treasure-trove of pioneers is the great blue poppy, Meconopsis aculeata, whose exquisite blue flowers branch from a prickly stalk. One can distinguish it half-a-mile away, standing out above the rocks like a calvaire. The yellow alpine poppy, Nudicaule, a still rarer plant, may be found under the snowline three marches to the east.

But it is the common and familiar flowers of the Pir Pinjal that are most satisfying. English flowers please best. A homely bank of self heal, wood sanicle and yellow agrimony is worth all the show poppies and the imperial lilies of the valley. I remember the first time we ascended to our hut when we arrived in Gulmarg, parboiled after a Punjab June. We halted under the garden by a small stony brook, which was choked with marsh-marigold, the dwarf white-flowering kind, and the Veronica Beccabtmga, which bungs up the beck at home. The Hun, after whom it is named, must have received his patronymic to perpetuate the atrocious pun. And there was a single plant of Alisma Plantago, the first I had seen in the East. The giant Echinops on the bank, the great white thistle that rears itself like a fortress from the boulders of Himalayan streams was an unconsidered alien. These three homely water plants which we had trodden down with bare feet, paddling in English streams, dismissed the commonplace exotic from our minds. Veronica Beccabunga in the brook implied arvensis in the cabbage patch and sylvatica on the lawn. We were not disappointed ; we found them there. We had our first glimpse of the garden as we mounted the knoll above the stream—tall yellow spires of mullein in an irregular row, overtopping the palings. We stopped. of course, and fingered their thick, downy, silken leaves. The border of rose-bay willowherb by the porch wa: dazzlingly familiar. The verandah was embowered in Kentish hops, which thrust their tendrils through the chinks of the wood to invade our rustic drawing-room. All that summer the bees invaded it, too, through the open window to sip our English flowers. English I say advisedly, for our exclusiveness in table decoration admitted no others ; the insect that was not content with them had to indulge his exotic taste outside. A homely room by day, and at night the crackle and sweet resinous smell of the pine-wood fire made it homelier still.