|Evening food and drink in Tartu University Botanical Garden, SotM Baltics 2013|
In recent years I have started visiting botanical gardens, not just because they are attractive places, but to look at particular groups of plants in detail. Often they have collections of local native plants which might be hard to see or find in the wild, and they may have other collections which reflect local environmental conditions or academic interests. These places also often have a great deal of historical interest, and often reflect aspects of a country's culture which aren't otherwise apparent to the casual visitor. (François Mitterrand is alleged to have changed his less-than-high opinion of the British after visiting Kew Gardens, but then he was also fascinated by Margaret Thatcher's ankles).
Jagiellonian University Botanic Garden, Krakow.
|Formal part of Krakow Botanical Garden, with Order beds in foreground.|
|Main pond with specimen trees (Dawn Redwood in centre; ancient Oak to Left)|
I actually probably spent quite a bit of time taking photos of insects rather than plants, as their were quite a few unfamiliar beetles about, and a very elusive sawfly which I failed to capture.
|Interpretation panel explaining the different types of Beech Forest in Poland|
The area of the garden which made the biggest impression was an area of quasi-natural Beech woodland. Not only was this extensive enough to give a reasonable feel for the habitat it was accompanied by a very useful interpretation board. What I learnt in here informed how I looked at woodland elsewhere in Poland, particularly when I visited the National Parks in the Tatra and Podlaskie.
|An alpine Primula sp.|
|Phlox subulata Gypsy's Blood|
Tallinn Botanical Garden
|Looking towards the Palm House, showing the park-like character of Tallinn Botanical Garden|
Unlike the other gardens which are located within the built-up area of their respective cities, the Tallinn Botanical Garden is larger, and in aspect is much more park like, even containing substantial areas close in appearance to natural flora. At the NW edge of the Garden are areas of pine woodland, and the southern boundary has a fairly typical river gallery woodland with willows, Aspen and other water tolerant shrubs and trees.
|Wood or Blue Cow-wheat Melampyrum nemorosum |
© the author
Right at the entrance is a patch of meadowland, which had some lovely flowers growing. The night before I'd noticed flowers of Wood Cow-wheat Melampyrym nemorosum growing along the roadside in the Tallinn suburb of Haabersti. Although this plant was obviously a Cow-wheat I didn't know which one, so I was delighted to find it in this meadow, labelled and with good enough light to take a decent picture.
|Pasqueflower, probably Pulsatilla vulgaris.|
© the author
The meadow was part of an extensive nature trail which goes beyond the grounds of the Garden, but something I like very much as it brings the collections and their natural setting closer together. The only other garden which I'm aware doing the same thing is the National Botanical Garden of Wales which has a large nature reserve attached which is based on a traditionally managed farmstead.
I didn't have time to follow the nature trail, but instead spent time in the tree collections: specifically those of Birches (Betula), Alders (Alnus), and Willows and Poplars (Salicaceae). All three groups are boreo-temperate in distribution so it was a chance to examine and take photos of species I had not come across before.
Tartu University Botanic Garden.
|Clematis sp., Tartu Botanic Garden|
It was certainly a delightful place to eat and drink on the Saturday evening of SotM Baltics under the watchful eye of a pagan Lithuanian goddess (see main picture), but there was no chance to really explore, and the light was not good for photography.
By good chance I met Zkir on top of one of the towers of the old cathedral and we returned to the Botanical Garden together on Monday. It was far too hot to contemplate visiting the glasshouses, but we had a nice tour before the need for ice-cream manifested itself. The Gardens themselves are situated on a former bastion of the city fortifications, which presumably explains the bowl where we had our Saturday evening event.
|Clematis sp., Tartu Botanical Garden|
|Phlox collection at Tartu.|
The planting is very clever ensuring that the bright colours of the flowers do not overwhelm everything else.
University Botanic Garden, Riga
|Arboretum area of Riga University Botanic Garden|
In terms of collections it is similar in size to the others, with around 5000 species and varieties. It has a good tree collection with a range of larches (Larix spp.), but the water features were either dried out or somewhat overgrown.
Staff were working on the order beds when I was there, and these contained an interesting range of plants. One oddity was to see Canadian Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) in the Order beds: this is clearly a major invasive species in the Baltic States as it was very common along roadsides and I saw several places where it dominated ruderal vegetation on the outskirts of Riga.
Of course Riga also had a large collection of Phlox, and a substantial Dahlia bed, which looked to be supported by local enthusiasts. I don't know how botanical collections work elsewhere, but in the UK there are many national collections: some maintained by amateurs, with others being held in major private and public gardens. I have a friend who maintains the national Hydrangea collection in Derby, and another who used to keep the national Crocus collection (until the stress incurred when it was attacked by mice made it too big a responsibility. The University of Nottingham also had the national Canna collection, which was held in the walled garden. So I suspect the Dahlias in Riga were something similar.
Mapping Botanical GardensAs this is a blog about maps, I better steer slightly on topic.
OpenStreetMap has made a great and enjoyable tradition from mapping zoos. Botanical Gardens are a somewhat different proposition. Even a large zoo rarely exhibits more than a couple of hundred species, and even some of these (fish, reptiles, etc.) are small. Only the so-called charismatic mega-fauna are likely to occupy their own distinct areas of the zoo.
|Orientation map of Jagellionian University Garden|
Showing different areas colour-coded by type, important specimen trees , as well as visitor facilities.
In the main the botanical gardens I've checked have similar features mapped:
- The path network
- Water features
- Glasshouses, administration buildings, cafes and toilets.
- Some areas mapped as woodland (often this is somewhat inaccurate).
- A number of nodes tagged leisure=garden marking a specific feature, such as a Rose Garden.
|Interpretation panel showing species of Acer (maples) in the Jagellonian University Botanical Garden.|
This is representative of the type of detail which mapping gardens might entail.
Perhaps it's time to have a special mapping party.