Hortus Botanicus Leiden

Botanic Garden of Leiden

Founded in 1587 and now neatly set out in historical urban surroundings, Botanic Garden of Leiden University, the Hortus Botanicus Leiden was amongst the earliest botanical gardens in Europe. From the outset it was planted with ornamental as well as useful plants. Carolus Clusius (1525-1609), the Flemish doctor and botanist, and perhaps the most influential of all 16th century scientific horticulturists, was appointed professor at the university in 1594. In Dutch gardening history he will be remembered not only for his scholarship but also for his observations on tulips ‘breaking’: a phenomenon later discovered to be due to a virus, causing the many different varieties which led to the speculative tulipomania of the 1630s. Clusius laid the foundations of Dutch tulip breeding and the bulb industry today.

Detailed lists of plants and planting information from Clusius’s time have made it possible to reconstruct his garden, which is sited near where it originally lay. A laburnum planted by Clusius survives and there are many good specimen trees, including a copper beech, a fern-leaved beech and a Caucasian wingnut that were planted in the early 19th century.

In the systematic garden, plants arranged in families surround a bust of the Swedish botanist Linnaeus, who lived and wrote in Leiden in the 1730s.

The Von Siebold Memorial Japanese Garden of raked gravel, rocks and bamboo, commemorates the Bavarian doctor who went to Japan in 1823 and sent back most of his plant collection to Leiden. Siebold is a name familiar from plants such as clematis and Hosta sieboldii. The greenhouses have some wonderful collections of plants including Aristolochia and Cycads.

The collection of semi-tender trees in tubs, such as olives and pittosporum, dating from the 17th century, are moved outside in summer from the orangery designed by Daniel Marot. He was a French designer who fled to the Netherlands subsequent to the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 and is also associated with the magnificent Het Loo baroque garden at Apeldoorn and with the Great Parterre at Hampton Court near London, laid out for Prince William of Orange (1650-1702) and Princess Mary II (1662-1695).

Hortus Botanicus Leiden

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