The Garden Guide

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

Spanish botanic gardens

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514. Botanic gardens. These are numerous; but the principal ones are the gardens of Madrid, Cadiz, Valencia, and Barcelona. The botanic garden of Madrid, founded in 1755, and situated on the left bank of the river Manzanares, about a mile and a half from the city, was transferred, in 1788, to the place where it now is, within the walls of Madrid. The figure of the garden is an irregular polygon: it has two principal gates, of an excellent style of architecture, as entrances for the public, and four other gates for the private service of the garden. Its extent is about forty-two acres, and it is divided into two unequal parts. The largest of these is divided from east to west into two equal parts by a magnificent walk about sixty feet broad, beginning at the principal gate of the Prado, and terminating at a handsome portico that leads to the Practical School of Botany. Each of these plots is subdivided into four equal quarters, and these into as many other divisions, except the two upper ones, which have only three: in the centre of each there is a small fountain, whose waters are brought through subterraneous pipes from the two principal reservoirs intended for irrigation. Each division is subdivided, by walks a foot and a half broad, into 280 beds, two feet square, and half a foot deep, in each of which only one species of plant is cultivated. These divisions are enclosed by fences formed of French rose trees (Rosa gallica Lin.); and between these and the beds there is a broad walk, with a border about three feet wide, in which different ornamental plants, most of them liliaceous, are symmetrically arranged, at equal distances, in masses. There is externally, between the fences of rose trees and the walks of the garden, a border about four feet broad, bounded on the outside by an edging of myrtle or box, about ten inches high, where large umbrageous trees, generally exotics, are planted, about eighteen feet distant from each other, the shade of which preserves, in summer, the plants of the school from the excessive heat of the sun, and without which they would inevitably perish. The spaces left between tree and tree are occupied by shrubs or dwarf trees, which may be pruned; as the yew tree, Viburnum Tinus, Cerasus Laurocerasus, Rosmarinus officinalis, Ruscus aculeatus, &c.; or by those naturally of a fine shape, as the Robinia hispida and umbraculifera, Medicago arborea, Cytisus austriacus, and Laburnum, Spartium junceum, &c.; and by various herbaceous plants of ornament, such as iris, wallflowers, columbines, different kinds of candytuft or rock cress, dahlias, pï¾µonics, common day-lily and yellow day-lily, ranunculus, anemones, upright larkspurs, a great many varieties of common gillyflowers, speedwells, primroses, sun-flowers, starworts, wild marigolds, and various others. The trunks of some robust trees are clothed with creeping shrubs, as ivy, virgin's bower, Virginian silk tree, trumpet-flower, Coccoloba sagittifolia, which flowers and fruits there in the open air; two kinds of sarsaparilla, the Menispermum canadense, and some others. The divisions of the two plots appropriated to perennial and biennial plants of the practical school are divided into twelve parts, each containing twenty-four beds, disposed as already mentioned, and would hold 8000 species; a number which will not easily be collected there, considering the climate of Madrid, which is excessively cold in winter, and very hot in summer. The upper plot of the Madrid garden is appropriated principally to the cultivation of ornamental plants, and its walks to the reception, during summer, of those plants which, from the middle of October to the middle of April or beginning of May, require to be kept in the greenhouses. On each side there is a small wood planted irregularly, in the English fashion; and at the upper end are two greenhouses, 170 feet long by 30 wide, running from north to south, and presenting a handsome vista when seen from the promenade of the Prado. They are joined by the portico which terminates the principal walk, and by two small parterres, situated-between the extremities of each; and a vine-bower. Each parterre has a little fountain, which furnishes water for all the squares in its side. In each of the plots there are four stone seats, placed under the shade of the tufted trees which surround them, and which invite to repose those visiters who, in the morning and evening of spring and summer, are attracted thither through pleasure or curiosity. All round this part of the garden there is a walk twenty-five feet broad, most of which, in summer, is shaded by the trees planted along the borders; the whole of the upper plot is embowered by a beautiful trellis, supported with iron arches, and formed by about twenty different varieties of vines. At the western extremity of this plot there is a greenhouse, facing the south, which contains about 4500 flower-pots. A sloping bank, planted with resinous trees, among which there is the cedar of Lebanon, separates it, to the south, from the other part of the garden; and between the trellis work and the wall which separates it from the Buen Retiro to the east, rises in the centre a building, in which there is a hall for delivering lectures, a seed-room, and another apartment similar to the latter, which was formerly used as a library. On the left there is a very handsome basin, constructed in 1802; and two others, much older, and half ruined; and, on the right, a plot of ground in which are prepared the different soils. Near the principal gate is a house which was formerly inhabited by the chief gardener, and which now contains all the implements belonging to the botanical expedition of Santa Fe de Bogota. The second and smaller division of the garden is situated to the south-east. Two-thirds of it form a single division, which is irregularly divided into smaller ones by means of winding walks in the style of those in the English gardens. It is used also for rearing fruit trees, and as a depot for the residence of plants which serve for the demonstrations, and for the medicinal herbs, which are given to the public. The remaining third part, on which formerly stood the lecturing hall, is used now as a kitchen-garden, in which are cultivated, in small portions, various kinds of vegetables, such as lettuces, cauliflowers, French beans, potatoes, onions, love apples, egg plants, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, asparagus, &c., and some fruit trees. This department is terminated by a yard, in which manure is collected, and where there is a house inhabited by the contractor, who furnishes the manure required for the garden, and who draws the water from the draw-wells. The upper part, which is bounded by the Buen Retiro, and with which it communicates by a gate, forms a small acclivity, from which a great part of the city and its environs are seen. In this garden the Chamï¾µ rops humilis bears the open air; and the Ceratonia siliqua lives when it is sheltered from the north by a wall: it blooms, but it never bears fruit. The whole garden, except a hillock planted with vines, is watered at the roots; but previous to the year 1802, the beds of the divisions, which were differently laid out, were watered with a garden engine, with the water of the fountain. Water is very scarce in the hot months, and even the draw-wells are frequently dried up, which occasions many plants to perish in the months of July and August; while in winter there are many that die for want of stoves, and on account of the bad condition of the greenhouses. Notwithstanding these serious inconveniences, La Gasca succeeded, in 1822, in keeping in this garden about 6000 plants, a much greater number than had been kept there before. In that collection, the Gramineï¾µ, of which there were 600 species, excelled the other families, with the exception of the magnificent collection of cerealia, the families of compound flowers, Umbelliferï¾µ, Cruciferï¾µ, Cistineï¾µ, Malvaceï¾µ, Leguminosï¾µ, and the genus Silene. There was also a good collection of succulent plants, particularly of the genus Cactus and A'loe. This garden has a considerable library, in which very few books published before the year 1804 are wanting, and a copious herbarium containing upwards of 30,000 species. The herbarium is moreover increased yearly, with the new or rare plants reared in the garden itself, and with those sent by the various correspondents of the establishment; The garden of Madrid also possesses the magnificent collection of drawings from the botanical expedition of Santa Fe de Bogota, which during the period of forty years was under the care of Don Jose Celestino Mutis, which consists of 6969 drawings, half of which are in black, and the other half coloured, but all executed in the most superior style: there are also several manuscripts by Mutis, and a few by the unfortunate Don Jose de Caldas; a great number of specimens of the woods which are found in the kingdom of new Granada, now Columbia; and some boxes of fruits, seeds, barks, resins, and other vegetable productions. Lastly, there are 100 drawings of the first volume of the Hortus Madritensis of Cavanilles, the plates of which were begun in the year 1804, and the incomplete manuscript which he left of that work. (La Gasca in Gard. Mag., vol. i. p. 243.) The Madrid garden, at present, though not positively neglected, is not in such perfect order, or under such excellent management, as it was when under the direction of Senor La Gasca. There is a curious regulation connected with the entree of this garden. Every lady, on entering, must throw aside her mantilla, and walk with her head uncovered. She is not even allowed to let it drop on her neck: it must be carried on the arm. This regulation is almost an order of exclusion to the Spanish women, who consider the proper arrangement of the mantilla no trifling or easy matter; and rarely choose to expose themselves to the risk of appearing afterwards on the Prado with the mantilla awry. (Inglis's Spain, vol. i. p. 102.) Botanic gardens of Cadiz. The special school of surgery and medicine at Cadiz has supported, from its first establishment, a botanical garden, almost as large as that which the Apothecaries' Company of London have at Chelsea. Contiguous to it there is another smaller garden, belonging to the Cadiz Economical Society, intended for the naturalisation of American plants of known utility, and for the propagation of the valuable insect of the cochineal, brought over from Oaxaca. The breed and propagation of this insect is chiefly entrusted to the care or Don Antonio Cabrera, who has also made improvements in this branch. In this garden is cultivated, in the open air, a plant of Ipom£'a Jalapa, brought over alive from the country of its birth; and a species of downy Opuntia, of the Tuna kind, which was brought over, with others, from Oaxaca, with the cochineal. The first of these two gardens was intended for the instruction of the physicians of the royal marine; but in proportion as the marine disappeared, the garden likewise declined, for want of funds; so that at present (1827) it possesses but few plants. However, there are in the open air some species of aloes and agaves, the Dracï¾µna Draco, the Pomaria glauca of Cavanilles, Parkinsonia aculeata, some species of shrubby Capsicum, the Cestrum nocturnum, diurnum, and laurifolium, which can hardly be kept alive in the greenhouses of Madrid. In various private gardens, one of the varieties of the plantain tree, the Musa sapientum of Linnï¾µus, is cultivated, and produces well-matured and exquisite fruit. The celebrated Mutis, who, as well as the patriarch of Roman agriculture, Columella, was a native of Cadiz, received the first notions of botany in this school, under Dr. Castillejos, to whom he afterwards repaid the taste and inclination he inspired him with, by dedicating to him the genus Castilleja, which the son of Linnï¾µus published. The library of this establishment possesses a valuable collection of books on natural history, among which are some that are not found in that of the botanical garden of Madrid. Botanic garden of Lucar de Barrameda. The garden of botany and naturalisation established in San Lucar de Barrameda, in the year 1805, may be said to have been in an expiring state ever since March, 1808; at which period the stupid populace, led by some fanatical and clerical demagogues, destroyed in an instant all that had been collected there at an immense expense and toil; making the sacrifice in honour of Ferdinand, and in hatred of the favourite Godoy, who had been its principal founder, and had declared himself its strenuous supporter and patron. Many of the exotic trees, which grew up again after the above catastrophe, are still preserved; but such is the neglected state into which this garden has fallen, that it has only one gardener, who is poorly paid and but moderately well informed. Botanic garden of Alicante. The board of commerce of Alicante, established in 1815, with the permission of government, a botanico-agricultural garden, the direction and professorship of which was given to Don Claudio Boutelou, who filled them till 1819, when he removed to Seville, to direct the cultivation of the Guadalquivir islands, granted to the company of this name. Since that period the garden of Alicante has been neglected, but in the town of Muchamiel, at two short leagues from Alicante, Prince Pio founded, at the beginning of the present century, a superb botanical garden; which was laid out according to the system of Linnï¾µus. La Gasca found in it, in 1810, upwards of 2000 American, African, and Asiatic plants, cultivated in unsheltered ground, and in the open air, as if they were in their native regions, It was then tended with sufficient rare, a botanical gardener having arrived from Valencia for the purpose, and it possessed a tolerably extensive library. This, and the other botanical and pleasure gardens which are found in the south of Spain, are strong testimonies of the numerous and important acquisitions which might have been made by the agriculturists of Spain, if the political institutions had not uniformly endeavoured to impede the progress of the efforts of private individuals desirous of benefiting by them. After the decease of its founder, the garden of Prince Pio began to decline. Botanic garden of Valencia. The botanic garden of Valencia was formed in the latter end of the last century, by the rector of the university in that city, the canon Don Vicente Blasco. It is situated to the north-west of the city, at a short half mile from its walls, and on the banks of the river Turia. It comprises about eighteen fanegadas (twenty-seven acres) of land of excellent quality, and has a great abundance of water for irrigation. Its walks are planted with different varieties of orange, citron, lemon, and bergamot trees, the proceeds of which contribute to its support. Many specimens of plants which were cultivated in the archiepiscopal garden of Puzol, presented by several individuals of that city and its environs, were transplanted thither; it was considerably augmented by the collections of seeds which were transmitted yearly from the botanical garden of Madrid. When we take the fine climate of Valencia into consideration, as well as its fertile soil, and the abundance of water it enjoys for irrigation, this garden ought to be one of the richest in Europe, especially in plants peculiar to warm climates; but, far from improving, it has been decaying from its commencement; and this, simply because its professor of botany, who was the only scientific man in it, was under the immediate control of the general assembly of the university, composed for the greater part of theologians and barristers, who, in Spain, generally speaking, entertain a contempt for the natural sciences, and of a rector, invariably a theologian and a clergyman. The splendid library of this university, the gift of Don Francisco Bayer, which abounded in books of natural history, became a prey to the flames during the siege of Valencia, in the latter part of 1811, as did also the archiepiscopal library, which was, perhaps, the second in Spain. Botanic gardens of Barcelona. Lastly, there is in Barcelona, besides the garden belonging to the college of pharmacy, another, supported at the expense of the illustrious Board of Commerce of that city, the direction and professorship of which are entrusted to the doctor of medicine, Don Francisco Bahi, known by his translation of the Elements of Botany by Plenck, and by different valuable memoirs, which he published in the Journal of Agriculture and Arts, of which he was the editor, and which commenced in September, 1815, and ended towards the latter part of 1821. This garden, founded in the last century, at the suggestion of the Marquis of Mina, was the property of the Marquis of Sentmanat, who ceded it to the college of surgery of that city, for the erection of a botanical garden, causing an apartment for delivering lectures to be built at his own expense. But the professorship of botany in the school of surgery having been suppressed in 1801, the garden was ceded to the Assembly of the Consulate, under whose auspices it continues till the present time (1827), though the university of Barcelona, erected by virtue of the regulations of public instruction decreed by the cortes, has now ceased to exist. The garden is situated within the city walls, and occupies an extent of about twenty fanegadas (thirty acres) of ground: it is fenced by a handsome iron railing on the eastern side, which borders beautiful garden grounds, and by a high balustrade on the western side, which faces the land wall. The plants chiefly cultivated there are those of known utility in agriculture and the arts, for the promotion of which the instructions given to the pupils are particularly directed. This garden was in correspondence with some of the principal ones of France and Italy, and received every year from that of Madrid whatever seeds it requested to have sent. The practical school, that is, the arrangement of the plants, is laid out according to the sexual system of Linnï¾µus. The botanical gardens of the four special schools of pharmacy, founded in the present century at Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and Santiago in Galicia, are chiefly intended to rear those plants used by the apo-th caries, and in the demonstrations of the schools of botany and materia medica. All those who wish to obtain the degree of professors of pharmacy must attend the instructions given in these schools during four years. There are always in these establishments some collections of dried plants, a small cabinet of mineralogy and zoology, and libraries sufficiently well stocked with modern books of all the branches of science that throw any light on pharmacy. The funds for supporting them arise from the degrees and title: conferred in the schools; from the exclusive privilege of selling the Pharmacop£ia Hispana. and some other books, which every apothecary in Spain must possess; and from the produce which is collected from the biennial visits made to the apothecaries' shops, each of the apothecaries being, on those occasions, obliged to pay 2l. sterling.