Out of all the amusements and attractions a city can offer one of my favorites, and one of the most overlooked, are botanical gardens. These large plots of land offer a sanctuary for more than plant species, they offer sanctuary for people too. A place to separate one’s self from the loud hustle and bustle of city life, a place to rediscover all the glory the natural world has to offer.
The history of these gardens goes back to the sixteenth century, when Italian universities started collecting various botanical specimens in the spirit of study and education. In time the tradition spread to the rest of Europe, until today when most every large city has its own botanical garden and associated research department.
Many times the only side of these gardens that we see are the clean, green, cultivated ones. But behind each garden is a team of scientists and botanists who work to gather and care for the collection, understanding the link between each individual species and the environment in which they live. In most gardens you can see some of this study in the plaques or displays cataloging the different species and their native environment.
Some gardens, such as the world-renowned Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew outside of London, continuously publish journals on their findings while helping to shelter and cultivate rare and endangered plant species from the ecological destruction that is rampant in many areas of the world today. A haven for plants, surely.
But for me the best part about botanical gardens is the fresh-air feeling of walking through them, surrounded by the brightest of what nature has to offering, and being astounded by the wealth of diversity even in the smallest environment. To exist among plants is one of the most calming experiences I take the pleasure of having, the way they make the air cleaner and thicker and impart a sense of patience and grandeur beyond our complicated lives.
So next time you’re touring and can’t think of a thing to do, try a visit to the gardens, it may be the best day you have.