I grew up in Southern California where wildfires were common during the dry summer months. When I was 9 or t0 a large fire came close enough to the small town where my family and I lived that we could see the orange flames eating up the chaparral as well as a nearby botanic garden. I’d been to the gardens on a school field trip and remember feeling sad that the beautiful plants and flowers were being destroyed.
Scene at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens
Now I find myself living no more than 5 miles from The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens where I have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. In thinking about my good fortune I wondered how long gardens like this have been around and where they are today. Here’s what I discovered:
Although the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans cultivated gardens it wasn’t until the 16th century that something like our modern botanic gardens appeared. Gardens were established in monasteries, to identify medicinal properties of plants and to glorify God.
With worldwide exploration exploding during the same era, the explorers brought back specimens of plants never seen before in Europe. Gardens were set up to receive and cultivate these new discoveries and turn them into commercial enterprises where possible.
Today many universities maintain gardens for research and education, the oldest in the English speaking world at Oxford University (established 1651.)
According to Wikipedia there are currently 1775 botanic gardens and arboreta worldwide with more in the planning and development stage. Their stated purpose is research, conservation and education.
We have a National Botanical Garden in Washington, DC on the capitol grounds. Congress authorized its development in 1816 with strong support from Washington, Jefferson and Madison. It has been in continuous operation since 1850.
Botanical gardens are great destinations for vacationers. A list of gardens in the U.S. can be had here. Some of them are free and others charge an admission fee, but either way they can be a welcome stopover for weary travelers.