The Garden Guide

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

Swiss Botanic Gardens

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413. The first botanic garden which appeared in Switzerland was that of the celebrated Conrad Gesner, at Zurich, founded before the middle of the sixteenth century. He had not, Deleuze observes, sufficient fortune to obtain much ground, or to maintain many gardeners; but his activity supplied every thing, and he assembled in a small spot what he had been able to procure by his numerous travels and extensive correspondence. Public gardens were, in the end of this century, established at Geneva, Basle, and Berne, and, subsequently, in most of the cantons. The first of these gardens at present is that of Geneva, lately enlarged and newly arranged, under the direction of that active and highly valued botanist, De Candolle. The garden of Basle is rich in the plants of all the mountainous regions which lie around it, including the Tyrol and Piedmont. A taste for flowers is perhaps more popular in Switzerland than in Germany; for though frugality is not less an object in every branch of rural economy, yet real independence is more general: a poor man here has generally some little spot that he can call his own, and which he delights to cultivate and ornament. Speaking of Zurich, Simond observes (Tour, &c., 1819, p. 404.), 'Haerlem excepted, there is not a town where more attention is paid to fine flowers: many new plants, as the Hortensia (Hydrangea hortensis), Volkameria, &c., are here grown in perfection. The taste for flowers is particularly displayed on the occasion of the birth of a child. When the news is carried about to all the relations and friends of the family, the maid is dressed in her best attire, and carries a huge nosegay of the finest flowers the season affords.' The botanic garden at Basle was visited by Murray, author of a Glance at Switzerland, in 1827. He found it of limited dimensions, with a small pond for aquatics, which contained a jet-d'eau, and was surrounded by rockwork, covered with alpine plants. What he thought most worthy of remark were, the Arundo Donax, fifteen feet high, and two line specimens of Cereus heptagonus, one in flower, fourteen feet high. They stood as sentinels at the entrance, and had always been exposed. (Gard. Mag., vol. ii. p. 225.)