Botanical gardens are gardens which cultivate, nurture, collect, and preserve a wide variety of plants. The plants at botanical gardens are always labeled with their botanical name, which is the formal scientific name, and are grouped together according to their taxonomic relationships. Botanical gardens serve as spaces for people to visit and connect with aspects of the natural environment plus for educational and research purposes. Botanical gardens are uniquely conceptualized and designed in ways that provide benefits on ecological, educational, and cultural levels.
Botanical garden collections
Designing a botanical garden is very complex and requires many different players such as landscape architects, landscape designers, horticulturalists, botanists, and irrigation specialists. These gardens are designed in a structure that exhibits ornamental plants while promoting natural relationships. Plant collections at botanical gardens include specialist plants like succulents and cacti, herb gardens, tropical plants, alpine plants, native plants, exotic plants, and other plants from all around the world. Non-native plants that are able to survive an area’s climate and conditions are also cultivated at botanical gardens. For example, several botanical gardens in the United States consist of sections devoted to South African native plants or Japanese native plants.
Botanical gardens consist of many elements and spaces such as demonstration gardens (demo gardens), greenhouses, shade houses, arboretums, herbariums, butterfly gardens, and water features, which may be in outdoor or indoor spaces.
Demo gardens within botanical gardens are spaces developed to focus on plant care, different types of plants, growing techniques, and sustainable practices. Demo gardens serve educational purposes by teaching and showing people about the types of non-native plants that work well in the area and that are viable options to grow in their own yards.
Greenhouses are designed with glass or plastic roofs and serve a purpose to grow plants or propagate plants by natural processes to ensure survival throughout different seasons and temperatures. Greenhouses act as a controlled environment for climate and include heating, ventilation, and irrigation systems in order for a wide variety of plants to survive. Common plants in greenhouses include ornamentals such as ferns, geraniums, petunias, and impatiens, which are often grouped together based on preference for sun or shade. Greenhouses are also ideal for tropical plants like cacti, orchids, carnivorous plants, and Venus flytraps. In addition, these spaces also include vegetables, which are separated based on whether they are cool season crops, like lettuce, broccoli, or carrots, or warm season vegetables like cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers.
Shade houses are designed to provide plants with shade and protect plants from weather conditions such as heat or snow, in addition to protecting vegetation from pests. Shade houses typically are covered with a shade cloth or netting which lies over a metal frame. Although seedlings are usually raised in greenhouses, they are sometimes transferred to a shade house for their secondary growth phase. Shade houses are also ideal for shade-loving plants like orchids, ferns, spinach, arugula, and strawberries.
Arboretums are display gardens that consist of woody plants like shrubs and trees. Arboretums that specifically grow pine trees or other types of conifers are called pinetum and are typically developed for scientific or ornamental purposes. Another type of specialist arboretum is called a saliceta, which is a collection of willows. In addition, arboretums that include groups of oak trees are called querceta.
Herbariums are collections of dried or preserved plant specimens. The plant specimens are typically used for scientific study. Herbariums are useful for identifying plant names by family, genus, and species. By preserving plant specimens in an herbaria, both current and future generations are able to study biodiversity, identify plants, and promote plant conservation, and sustainability practices.
Butterfly gardens are conservatories designated to retain populations of butterflies which are both native to an area and migratory. Throughout butterfly gardens, there are nectar plants which serve to provide food for butterflies, and host plants which provide food for caterpillars. Butterfly conservatories typically include water features such as fountains which have shallow sources of water for butterflies to drink from. These habitats are attractive and safe spaces for butterflies to grow and thrive.
The combination of a variety of plant collections and elements of botanical gardens promote plant conservation, environmental sustainability, and a biodiverse atmosphere while educating on plants and allowing humans to connect with natural vegetation.