The Garden Landscape Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Padua Botanic Garden

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123.The botanic garden at Padua was established in 1545, as appears by a decree of the senate of the republic of Venice, bearing date the 30th of June in that year, in which it is stated that the garden was founded in compliance with the request of the professors and students of medicine in the college, and more particularly at the entreaty of Francis Bonafede, at that period lecturer on simples, which is equivalent to what is now called professor of materia medica. The garden was formed and planted by Daniel Barbero, a native of Aquileja, and as soon as it was founded the direction of it was intrusted to Louis Anguillara, a Roman, with the title of herbalist and master. In 1563, what may be called a chair of botany was instituted, under the name of a demonstration of herbs, to distinguish it from the materia medica, which was called lectures on herbs. The study of botany being highly esteemed by the republic of Venice, it was every year at considerable expense in sending intelligent persons to its islands in the Levant, and also to Egypt, and even to India, to collect plants to enrich this garden. Under the Austrian government some fine hothouses were erected, together with three moveable conservatories, that is, glass structures which are removed in spring. The garden is surrounded on the north and west by a branch of the river Brenta. The central part is enclosed and surrounded by a wall surmounted by a cornice, on which there is an elegant stone balustrade. This part is divided into many regular compartments edged with stone, and protected by iron rails. The area of these compartments is also subdivided into beds, divided from each other by means of borders of violets. Each bed contains only one species of plants, which by this means are more easily taken care of and cultivated. One of the four large compartments is allotted to the growth of medicinal plants which can grow in the open air, and which serve for the instruction of the pupils in medicine. Four large walks intersect the part just described, in the form of a cross; at the end of each there is an entrance gate, furnished with colossal pilasters, ornamented at top by an Etruscan vase of stone, containing the figure of a plant (generally an agave) of iron painted green, enclosed by massive and elegant iron rails with bronze ornaments. Twelve fountains play in this enclosure; besides these, there are also two large reservoirs for aquatic plants. Southward lies the grove, or arboretum, of the garden, which, although almost destroyed by the memorable hail in 1834, has still some trees remaining, which, by their girt and height, attest the antiquity of this establishment. To the north of the central part, already described, are situated the ample magazines, sheds, reserve-ground, &c., of the garden, the conservatories, and the hothouses. The latter buildings are scientifically constructed, and command a fine view. The range is 18 feet long, and is divided into seven houses, the largest of which is in the centre, and serves as a stove: at the right and left of this are two houses, which are not heated; that on the right contains a stage for plants; the other, on the left, is beautifully arranged for the reception of seeds and fruit. Beyond the one containing the plants is a dry stove, to which succeeds a warm greenhouse of equal size. Next to the seed-room is a hothouse, in which the plants are not kept in pots, but planted in the borders, the heat circulating under them. This hothouse contains beautiful specimens of the banana (Musa paradisiaca), some of which flower and ripen their fruit almost every year, and a Ficus stipulata, the numerous branches of which entirely cover the walls. Beyond this is another greenhouse for New Holland plants. All these houses are heated by flues. The garden is celebrated for a rich collection of succulent plants. It contains two houses, one occupied by the two principal gardeners of the establishment, and the other, which is much larger, is the dwelling of the director and professor of botany, in which the herbarium of the garden is kept. This herbarium in 1839 contained more than six thousand species, and collections in wax of exotic fruits and fungi. There is also a library, consisting of more than five thousand volumes, chiefly botanical works, which was left for the use of his successors by Professor Bonato. (Gard. Mag. vol. xv. p. 319.) The botanic garden at Venice, formerly the garden of the monastery of San Giobbe, possesses no great collection of plants. There is another small botanic garden near Venice, belonging to a gentle-man who cultivates botanical science. (Cadell's Carniola, p. 69.) The very neat little botanic garden Della Sapienza is near the Aqua Paolo, one of the finest fountains in Rome. In this garden Galiffe saw many flowers in bloom in the month of January; and the gardener gave him very large, and what would have been in London very costly, nosegays for a few bacciochi. (Galiffe's Italy, p. 403.) At Palermo there is a good botanic garden, in which the sugar-cane, the Papyrus, the banana, and the date palm will be found growing in the open air. (Wood's Letters of an Architect, vol. i. p. 341.) In Lombardy, when the park at Monza was laid out, in 1808, the governor at that time, seeing that there was a great want of ligneous plants in the country, formed a kind of institution for diffusing the best varieties of fruits and of foreign and indigenous trees useful in the arts. To this establishment was afterwards added a school for the instruction of twelve young gardeners in the elements of physic, botany, meteorology, horticulture, horticultural chemistry, geometry, drawing, and arithmetic. This school was placed under the direction of Signor Giuseppe Manetti. In 1814 an establishment was formed at Milan for procuring foreign plants. Some private botanic gardens of the sixteenth century deserve to be mentioned. Those of Jo. Vincent Pinelli, at Naples, were celebrated by Maranto; that of Cï¾µsar Niclesda, near Verona, has been described by Pena; and those of Julius Moderatus at Arimeni, and Scipio at Rome, are both mentioned by Conrad Genser. Belon likewise mentions a rich garden of Vincent de Monte Catino, near Lucca, celebrated for exotic trees; and also that of Nicholas Geddi at Florence, under the care of Benincasa.