The Garden Guide

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

Botanic gardens in Portugal

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525. Botanic gardens. The royal botanic garden at Lisbon is situated on the side of a hill (fig. 168.), sloping with a considerable declivity to the Tagus, a little below the palace of Ajuda, and enjoys a full exposure to the south. It covers a space of about two acres, surrounded by a high wall, round which, on the inside, and up the centre, is a shady walk of Laurus nobilis, Cercis Siliquastrum, Ceratonia Siliqua, and Juglans regia. The south wall has in front a wide terrace, on which the hothouses and greenhouses are built; a flight of steps leads from these to the pleasure-garden, as it is termed; which, together with the terrace, occupies about one half the space enclosed: the remainder is devoted to walks, and orange, lemon, and citron quarters. Art being the endeavoured object in Portuguese gardening, the eye is offended by the mechanical rigidity of the parterres, the clipped, rectangular, box alleys, and the grotesque embellishments, characteristic of the gardening of the south of Europe, which disfigure the pleasure-garden; but the number of acclimated exotics to be seen there, vigorous and unsheltered, makes it an object of the greatest interest. The plants are grown without reference to their natural orders, or to any system; and have either been casually planted from superfluities that have arisen among those classed, or from their having become too unwieldy for culture in pots or boxes. Of the genera thus cultivated in the open air but few are named, and still fewer have any specific epithet attached. The inscriptions, when they occur, are rarely intelligible, being most frequently in the Portuguese language, and extremely vague and unsatisfactory. For example, in 1829, Amaryllis reginᄉ was marked Amaryllis vermelha com duas flores do Brasil (a red two-flowered Amaryllis from Brazil). Many genera also were named in honour of their donors, or had had their names changed to commemorate the saint's day on which they had first chanced to flower. It may be necessary here to mention, that the thermometer at Lisbon frequently falls as low as 29ᆭ and 27ᆭ of Fahr., and the fountains in the royal garden are often covered with a thin coat of ice in the morning, even when the year is as far advanced as April, without the plants appearing to suffer injury; with exception of Carica Papaya, killed, in the winter of 1825, by frost supervening on rain. Growing in an arenaceous soil, the plants, indeed, seemed to be more retarded in their growth by the heat and want of moisture in summer, than by the humidity and cold of winter. Coffea arabica fruits freely; the plants flower in October, and the berries ripen in May and June following. There is also a botanic garden at Coimbra, which was founded in 1773.