By LAUREN DEWFALL
Situated in the heart of bustling Prague 2, the Charles University Botanical Gardens are a sacred spot of tranquillity. Originally opened in 1898, the gardens boast some 3,000 plant species in the outdoor exhibits alone. Each plant has been transferred to the garden from their original sites around Central Europe, with each representing a unique collection of genetic resources.
The gardens are predominately separated into separate sections according to their species with areas dedicated to plants such as cacti originating from South America. The garden is not only home to some of the most beautiful flowers and plants in Europe but it also houses so called ‘useful plants’ such as tomato, celery and artichoke plants along with aromatic plants such as peppermint and lavender.
Walking through the gardens, it’s hard to hear any of the traffic passing through the busy streets surrounding the gardens. With plenty of benches dotted around the garden and a dedicated gazebo, there are plenty of spots to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery, or to just take a break from city life.
It’s clear to see that the garden is forever developing and expanding with space dedicated to stock plants awaiting their turn to be featured in the public display areas. Whilst these areas are not open to the public, many of them are visible from the many walkways and paths located around the gardens.
The garden is set out in a somewhat terraced design, with different levels accessible by the many pathways and steps throughout the space. With views changing from level to level, the most spectacular views are clear from the top terrace which overlooks the entire garden and gives a glimpse of the many greenhouses and Faculty of Science buildings located on the site.
Alongside the extensive gardens there are also a group of large greenhouses, which are home to a wide variety of plants and flowers. The greenhouses are divided into three main sections, with one dedicated to Tropical plants, one for Subtropical plants and one dedicated to plant cultivation and technical purposes.
The tropical greenhouse is dedicated to some of the most beautiful plants in the world including the much-loved waterlily. Perhaps the most special of them all is the Santa Cruz water lily, known for its large round thorny plate-shape leaves, the flower blooms for just two nights. Amongst all of the tropical flowers, including the delicate orchid species, are a small selection of tropical fish species which can be viewed by the public.
The subtropical greenhouse has been split into two different atmospheres, a dry and a humid atmosphere. Within the humid atmosphere there are a large selection of Mediterranean and Australian plants, which during the summer months are located either outside of the greenhouses or in the outdoor container garden near the main entrance. This area of the greenhouse is home to some of the most interesting and unique plants the gardens have to offer.
Finally the dry subtropical greenhouse, home to an impressive range of cacti and dry climate plants. The atmosphere in this greenhouse is maintained to ensure that tenants are in the optimum condition at all times. This area is the part of a large permanent exhibition which is constantly replenished.
The gardens and their greenhouses are a piece of tranquillity amounts the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Situated just a quick tram ride from the Old Town Square, the gardens are easily accessible and well worth the visit. Whether you are interested in plants and flowers from around the world or are just looking for a bit of peace and quiet, there is something for everyone.