Friday, 24 August 2012

Expect the unexpected: Krajina and Čapek in Prague's Botanic Garden



I should have expected Vladimir Krajina but to my shame I wasn't aware of his importance to botanic, politics and humanity. Karel Čapek I would expect in Prague, but not necessarily in the botanic garden.

Today I visited the Botanická zahrada of University Karlovy v Praze (Charles University in Prague), what I take to be Prague's major botanic garden. Continuing my post-modern musings from last week I've can feel myself becoming more tolerant of gardens and looking beyond the neatly trimmed edges and sparkling horticulture. All that is good and proper, and for good measure I'll end this post with some extreme gardening of this kind from the Vrtbovaska Garden, but I want more.

For a botanic garden my goal (this week at least) is to look for something unexpected: unexpectedly good, or at least not bad. I found this at the Botanická zahrada. Overall it wasn't a spectacular landscape but if felt intimate and inviting, with even a nice informative display of rocks for the geological minded.


There were scientists at work in the research garden. Real scientists I think - I could tell because there were no lab coats to be seen.


In the glasshouses there was the 'Sukulenty'. Not the most innovative display of cacti and succulents but lots of variety and all very interesting (if you like this sort of thing, and I do). 


Take this Opuntia echios var. zacana near the door way. Nothing special (although it is from the Galapagos Islands, or Galapágy as we call it here) but pretty close-up.


Outside there was Ginkgo biloba ‘Praga’. I gather this cultivar has some relationship to the cultivar ‘Pedula’ but the sign was broken as well as my understanding of Czech language.


There were also sheep, and birds inside the glasshouses (the latter looking less happy than the former I'd have to say). Plus a courageous attempt to display and interpret aquatic plants in a series of buried dishes. They looked fine to me in my new post-modern mood.


Then this lovely plaque commemorating Vladimir Krajina.  From the University of British Columbia website I find that he was leader in underground resistance during World War II, Secretary of State in the Czech government, and then had to flee when the communists took over in 1948. He had the dubious honour to be sentenced to death by both Nazis and Communists. 


In North America he taught plant ecology at University of British Columbia and campaigned successfully for nature reserves in that State as well as developing a reserve system which I gather has been adopted all over the world, including Western Australia.

Another surprise, a quotation (in Czech) on the pathway. I'm assuming it is from The Gardener’s Year by Karel Čapek, given his name is at the start and it mentions plants and things like that (Čapek by the way coined the term 'robot'). By the way, a tip for botanic gardens visitor services staff - QL codes printed on paths soon wear away so that you can't read them on your phone.


I've now bought a copy of this book, plus his War with the Newts. I like to buy and read authors from places I visit and I've also ordered a copy of I Served the King of England by Bohumil Hrabal because we ate in a pub that he used to frequent.

Of course some things didn't work so well. I was interested to see lots of plants in pots, buried in the ground, presumably so they could be saved from the Prague winter. The Blue Gums, however, didn't look so good in this setting.


To finish off this post, as promised, the view through this unimposing gate way near to Church of sv Mikuláš (St Nicholas).  


Vrtbovaska (or Vrtba) Garden, an Italian style terrace garden built by the Vrtbovský palace between 1715-1720 for the Earl of Vrtba, now much restored as said (by them) to be ‘one of the most important baroque gardens in Prague’. I visited it on the wonderful advice of Catherine Stewart, who read my last post and suggested this might be a garden worth visiting - which is was!




And you do get one of the best views of Church of sv Mikuláš.




2 comments:

Silas said...

Great post Tim. I love finding out about some of the lesser known botanic gardens of the world. Hope to visit there one day.

reflectivegardener.blogspot.com.au/

Tim Entwisle said...

Thanks. Always fun to discover a new botanic garden, particularly one I haven't heard about before.