The layout of botanical gardens can certainly be very different. This thought occurred to me when visiting Jardín Botánico de la Universidad de València recently. The one nearest to me at home is very much in the style of English landscape gardens. Meandering paths gently rolled out in a hilly-ish terrain. In Valencia the landscape is nothing but flat and the borders are organized in a highly formalized grid system. The tightly controlled design of the hardscaping provides a fascinating contrast to the lush, thriving, exotic vegetation.
Valencia’s botanical garden dates back to 1567 but has been in its current location since 1802. Like most of the city it was hugely damaged by flooding in 1957 and had to be more or less fully restored. That includes beddings, plants and architectural features. Today there are around 4,500 different species of plants and trees in the gardens, categorised in 20 different collections. These collections are arranged according to three sections; plants used by humans, plants cultivated under human protection, and finally, plants of the same ecological environment.
What I like about botanical gardens is that they are not some kind of stale artefact, they are places for learning, visiting, enjoying beautiful outdoor environs, botanical study, research, development and dissemination. In short, they are attractive and useful.
But going back to the layout of this garden. Being restored in 1957 it must have been tempting to go for a more contemporary design. Valencia is this year Capital of Design, and from what I saw when there, this is not a city that steers clear of modernism. Having said that, the grid system is at the core of modern urban planning, not only a feature of 16th and 17th century formal garden design….