Visiting other countries can often be a whirlwind of activities and sites to see. Take time out to walk through a park or garden. It is relaxing and gives people a different view of the culture and landscape.
Formal parks are often a visual feast of colors and shapes. Botanical Gardens can be visually appealing but more often they feed the mind. The majority of plants will be labeled in Latin listing the Family, Genus and Species. This is usually enough information to connect the type of plant to one that is more familiar. It also helps to identify plants that are growing through out the region that is being visited.
The Botanical Gardens in Montpellier, France are the oldest in Europe. Funding for the initial garden was provided by Henri IV in 1593. It then became an important part of the medical department of the University of Montpellier.
The original gardens were divided into three different areas; The King’s Gardens, The Queen’s Garden and The King’s Square.
The King’s Garden was filled with plants that were considered to have medical properties. It contained and still contains plants that are beneficial to ones health and or poisonous.
The Queen’s Garden contained plants from the Pyrénées Mountains that are in very close proximity but a different climate from the costal area.
Lastly the King’s Square contained plants that were of Botanical interest which includes all plants that didn’t fit into the other categories.
As one could expect, changes have taken place in the garden in its 419 years of existence but some have also remained the same. The original well, one of the two in the region, is still in place.
The garden still belongs to the Medical Department of the University and is considered a working garden. Expect to find plants that are medically relevant. Know what you are touching as some of the plants are very poisonous.
Trees that were planted centuries ago blend into today’s landscape. They provide shade enabling shade loving plants to thrive in an area that is quite arid.
The Botanical gardens are funded by the University’s Medical Department. As with all educational institutions finances are tight and excess money is not available to insure that all weeds are removed or extra decorative enhancements added.
That being said; it is free to visit the garden and is a great place to take a break.
One has to pay an entrance fee to enter the Botanical garden in Madrid that as it is part of their park system.
The garden was established in 1794 by Fernando VI who pursued botany as a hobby. He supported botanists that went through out the world collecting plants. There were 10,000 plants in the first shipment.
The garden’s original symmetrical design is still intact consisting of small square or rectangle gardens surrounded by short hedges which are connected by walkways and fountains. Individual gardens are planted with plants or the same genus. Not all beds are planted but everything is neat and tidy.
One area contained a vegetable garden. October is late in the season for Spain gardens but this one still contained viable tomato and gourds.
Glass houses are a relatively new addition to the gardens. They contain plants that thrive in a more humid climate and or need warmer night temperatures. Madrid has an arid climate and temperatures can plummet when the sun disappears.
Botanic Gardens are considered scientific or learning gardens. They exist in urban centers through out the world. A few hours in one of these gardens can be very relaxing and informative.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or email@example.com