WHILE OTHER GARDENS SLUMBER - Botanical Gardens, Berlin

February 2018

In early winter, we made our way through the deserted arboretum of the Berlin Botanical Garden, with only the wildlife breaking the stillness of the day. A solitary bird pecking at a cluster of bright purple berries, its shape silhouetted amongst the tangle of sparse branches of a Callicarpa dichotoma. Squirrels raced through the undergrowth and the ground was littered with leaves crunching underfoot and the plants had settled down into their winter slumber.

 

During our visit we ascended the dormant plant geography section and the rock gardens, originally designed by the former director and famous botanist Adolf Engler (1844-1930), when the gardens were moved at the start of the 20th century from central Berlin to the current location in Dahlem. The planting of this area combines an intricate tapestry of native species from North America, the Alps and the Himalayas. Engler’s aspiration was to create a world within a single garden and this idea can be seen throughout the whole of the botanical gardens. 

 

The next stop on our journey was the Japanese garden where we spied the Mediterranean glasshouse. The metal skeleton of the glasshouse resembles the silhouette of a cathedral against a monochrome sky. Designed by the architect Alfred Körner, the glasshouse is designed in a more traditional ornamental style than neighbouring glass structures, filled with the scents and textures of Mediterranean planting. 

 

It has a tree fern grove nestled in the last room of the glasshouse, the cool misted climate allowing the lush green ferns to thrive with tightly spiralled leaves unwinding, texturising the floor and walls of the snug and vertical space. The narrow dotted trunks of the tree ferns reach 10-15 meters almost grazing the ceiling of the vaulted roof.

 

On a cold winter’s day in Berlin, the tropical glass house was our main attraction for visiting the gardens and once inside, the network of adjoining glasshouses captured our attention for the rest of the afternoon. We emerged as dusk crept in, our search for greenery and warmth fulfilled. 

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