Coutts Garden in Shimla

Alexander Coutts

How much do we know about Alexander Coutts, the tailor to the Viceroy – Lord Dufferin? Coutts, perhaps or perhaps not from the Coutts family in England who runs Coutts Bank but he left a mark of his presence in Shimla Hills by establishing a fruit orchard here. Alexander Coutts introduced the English variety of apples in Shimla hills. Although a tailor by profession and worked at Viceregal Lodge nature had gifted him with a unique hobby of gardening. Nine kilometres north of Shimla, in Mashobra, he acquired a large piece of land where he planned to establish his orchard. No one had any idea of apples in those days. Although he did not do it for commercial purposes but for his own hobby, his orchard was the first apple orchard in Shimla Hills. Photo Courtesy.

The oldest apple tree in India

Apart from his tailoring business, the rest of his time he spent at his orchard. Mostly people saw him riding down to Mashobra on the days when there was no work for him. He would spend his time with his spade and staff members, guiding them on what to do and where. He introduced nearly one hundred English varieties of apples there and some of them are Macintosh, Royal Delicious, Yellow Pippin, Granny Smith, Royal, Golden, Yellow Newton, and Winter Banana. One tree of Yellow Newton which he planted himself is still there in the orchard. That has become the oldest apple tree in India, still bearing fruits. His estate was commonly known as Hillock’s Head but as the orchards grew and became famous it attained the name as Coutts Garden.

Coutts and his house

Apart from the apple he also brought a few rare trees from China and planted them there. Many of them still can be seen in the courtyard of the orchard. The most attractive of them are China Fir or China Tosh, Japanese Tosh – also known as Japanese Cedar and English Oak. A huge tree of Weeping willow can also be seen standing alone, away from all others. His house is in ruins and stands in the orchard abundantly. If the authorities wish they may repair it. They have built a new building that, apart from the offices of the Fruit Research Centre, displays the varieties of apples in the apple museum. A new building has been built in the orchard that displays

The Grave of Alexander Coutts in Shimla

Coutts Demise

That was the month of September. Monsoon had just got over and winter was drawing near. As usual, most of the Europeans living in and around Shimla were preparing to move to the plains. But by then, at the age of 68 years, Alexander Coutts had already conquered the hearts of the locals from Shimla. No one wanted him to go away. That morning he came out of his lovely house that he had built in his orchard, with his garden tools. The time was to harvest the crop but on that unlucky day of the fifteenth of September, God had decided to call him. He breathed his last and then slept forever in the lap of these hills that he always loved. He remains buried in Sanjauli Cemetery in Shimla. There has been no trace of his descendants till now.

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