The Garden Guide

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

Leiden Botanic Garden Design

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175.The botanic garden of Leyden was begun in 1577. It was confided to Outger Cluyt, or Augerius Clasius, who was succeeded by Petrus Paaw in 1589. Paaw published Hortus Publicus Academi� Lugduno-Batav�, 8vo, 1601: it has a plan of the garden. In 1599 a greenhouse was constructed, and in 1633 the catalogue of the garden contained 1104 plants. At this time, the magistrates, the learned men, the wealthy citizens, were occupied in facilitating the progress of botany and the introduction of new plants. A ship never left the ports of Holland, Deleuze observes, the captain of which was not desired to procure, wherever he put into harbour, seeds and plants. The most distinguished citizens, Beverning, Favel, Simon de Beaumont, and Rheede, filled their gardens with foreign plants, at great expense, and had a pleasure in communicating those plants to the garden of Leyden. This garden, in Boerhaave's time, who, when professor of botany there, neglected nothing to augment its riches and reputation, contained (Index alter Plant., 1720) upwards of 6000 plants, species and varieties. Boerhaave here exemplified a principle, which he laid down (Elementa Chami�) for adjusting the slope of the glass of hothouses, so as to admit the greatest number of the sun's rays, according to the latitude of the place, &c. These principles were afterwards adopted by Linn�us at Upsal, and by most of the directors of botanic gardens in Europe. It was in this garden, about the beginning of the eighteenth century, that the Geraniace� and Ficoide�, and other ornamental exotics, were first introduced from the Cape. The garden of Leyden was visited by Sir J. E. Smith in 1786 (Tour, &c., vol. i. p. 11.), who observes, that it had been much enlarged within the last forty years, and was then about as large as the Chelsea garden. In 1814 it appeared rather neglected; many blanks existed in the general collection of hardy plants, and the hothouses were much out of repair. It contained, however, some curious old specimens of exotics, as Clusius's palm (Cham�'rops humilis), twenty feet high, and upwards of 225 years old; and a curious ash, and various other trees and shrubs, planted by the same botanist. A new garden, in addition to the old one, and a menagerie were in progress. In this new garden, the walks are laid with a mixture of peat-moss and tanners' bark reduced to powder. A tourist, speaking of this garden as he found it in 1830, says, �it does credit to all who belong to it, being kept in the highest possible order. The walks are beautiful, and without a pebble; they are covered with a mixture of peat earth and the spent dust of tanners' oak bark. The garden is tastefully laid out in clumps of shrubbery in various forms, round which, on borders, are the various plants, named and numbered according to the system of Jussieu. The whole extent is seven acres; four of which have been added only a few years ago, and laid out in good taste by the late Professor Brugmans, as a garden for the reception of medicinal plants, and for the use of the medical students. Among the hothouse plants we saw a date palm with fruit upon it, which tree the gardener said had been there 200 years. It may be questioned whether the botanical garden of Leyden and its museum are not superior to the Jardin des Plantes and its museum in Paris. Taken altogether, we were of opinion that they had a decided preference, though they wanted the attraction of living animals.� (Tour through South Holland, &c., p. 75.) Strangers are shown two palm trees said to be planted by Boerhaave's own hands. Leyden, Deleuze informs us, was, for more than fifty years, the only city in Holland where there was a botanic garden; but before the middle of the seventeenth century, they were established in all the provinces. In 1836 some very old trees were still standing in this garden; and among them was a flowering ash (O'rnus europ�'a), called the tree of Boerhaave, because it was grafted by that professor or by his orders on the common ash (Fraxinus excelsior). A specimen of A'cer monspessulanum and one of Lonicera alpigena were also standing in the spot where they were planted in the presence of Linn�us, when the garden was arranged according to his sexual system by him and Professor A. Van Royen. The A'cer is in a good state of preservation, but the Lonicera is very much decayed, and its branches are kept together by iron hoops. (Gard. Mag., vol. xii. p. 693.)