The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Havanna Botanic Garden Cuba

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930. At the Havanna, Mr. Edward Otto, who visited that city in 1839, found a botanic garden, of which he says,' if I had not been told it was a botanic garden, I should rather have taken it for a nursery of different kinds of trees, as it was divided by broad paths, many of which were so wet and marshy that I could scarcely find a firm place to set my foot on. From what the gardeners told me, the garden is at present on the decline, but they hope soon to bring it into a more creditable state. Its greatest ornament is one which is wanting in all European gardens, viz. a splendid avenue of oreodoxas, and of these there are about eighty in each row, 70 or 80 feet in height, and covered with blossoms and fruit; and not less beautiful are the rows of Casuarina equisetifolia vera, called there the cedar. There are also splendid specimens of the cocoa-nut and other palms; bamboos, forming extremely high hedges; splendid specimens of the bread-fruit, &c. All the trees are entwined with convolvuluses and ipom£as. The Poinsettia pulcherrima, with its innumerable blossoms and beautiful red bracteas, the Canna Indica, and several other species, are here seen growing in the deepest marshes; also the most formidable hedges of opuntias, yuccas, and agaves. Greenhouses and hotbeds are no where to be seen in the garden; and there are but a very few plants in pots, such as Orchideï¾µ and euphorbias, which did not look well; and, besides the opuntias, only the Cereus specio-sissimus and triangularis are in the garden.' (Otto, in Gard. Mag. for 1841, p. 650.) Mr. Otto found here the sepulchral monument of Columbus, his body having been brought here by sea. The monument is situated in a beautiful square, and is ornamented by a splendid specimen of Oreodoxa regia and Cocos nucifera. ' The square is regularly divided into compartments by broad paths laid with flat stones, and planted with Citrus and Nerium Oleander, some oreodoxas, cocos, Artocarpus incisa about 30 feet high with an immense head, and a species of Bombax from 60 to 70 feet high, and 6 feet in diameter at a foot from the ground, cassias and mimosas, and several other trees.' (Ibid.) Mr. Otto also describes the Pasco de Tacon. This is a public promenade, named after the late governor Tacon, who had it made at the public expense. It consists of a carriage-way 2560 feet long, 40 feet broad in the centre for carriages, and 26 feet broad at each side for foot passengers. There is a circular piece of ground at the entrance, in the centre of which stands a marble statue of Charles III. of Spain, and the entrance gate is guarded by two marble lions. From the circle extends a noble avenue; and at a distance of 600 feet there is a second circle surrounded by two rows of lofty and beautiful trees of Casuarina equisetifolia, and in the centre is a pillar 20 feet high, on a pedestal 10 feet high. After another space of 600 feet there is a third circle ornamented with a basin and fountain ; and farther on, at intervals, are two other circles ornamented with vases and pedestals and four marble figures. At the other extremity of the garden is a circle similar to the one at the entrance, with a pillar 40 feet high in the centre; and beyond is a gate with two urns, 24 feet in height, standing on pedestals. The trees in the avenue are Aleurites triloba, several species of Ficus, Phyllanthus, and Cedrela. There are stone seats, and others of turf, among the trees ; and a beautiful hedge of splendid monthly roses forms the limit of the promenade.