History of plants and labour in the botanical garden


This video is about the Leiden botanical garden.

Today, to the botanical garden.

It was sunny and about ten degrees centigrade.

Much more like a fine autumn or spring day than a typical January day.

Could this be global warming already?

Even compared to the last few years, this weather looks unusual.

And still more compared to the botanical garden as it was about a hundred years ago.

There was a guided tour about that today, based on a garden manager’s diary from 1907, and photographs from the 1890s.

On many of these photographs made in winter time, there is snow.

This may, however, be partly due to photographers who liked to make unusual pictures when there was snow.

Laura van der Kraats, a museum academy student, had studied the old photographs.

She wore a long dress, somewhat reminiscent of fashion a hundred years ago.

On the day here, exactly a hundred years ago, temperature was between 2 and 7 degrees centigrade; still recorded in Fahrenheit degrees then.

Originally, in the early seventeenth century, the garden was only a small part of the size of today.

Later, in the eighteenth and nineteenth century, as more and more subtropical and tropical plants arrived, it expanded.

In the late nineteenth century, it had reached the limits as they are now.

Except for the reconstruction of the early seventeenth century garden of Carolus Clusius, on land added in the twentieth century, where there used to be horse riding earlier.

However, during the twentieth century, there was quite some change in buildings.

Hothouse techniques changed.

A hundred years ago, coal stoves heated the hothouses. Now, it is central heating.

Then, there were many small hothouses for special groups of plants spread throughout the garden: for tree ferns, cacti, etc.

Later, they were centralized, making more efficient heating possible.

The main hothouse complex was built around a gingko tree planted in 1785, in order not to harm it.

In the 1970s, there came a policy of various botanical collections no longer trying all to have as many plant species as possible from all countries, but each specializing on plants from one continent.

This botanical garden then specialized in Asia.

That meant that its big collection of South American Bromeliaceae moved to Blijdorp zoo in Rotterdam.

There are still some Bromeliaceae here now, but not a big collection any more.

And, of course, the also South American Victoria amazonica is still here, in a pond in a hothouse of its own, part of the main hothouse complex.

In the Victoria pond, also smaller plants, including water hyacinth and water ferns.

A hundred years ago, Victoria amazonica used to have its separate hothouse, built in 1874, with a royal crown on top.

That crown was lent to a German flower exhibition in 1930 and did not come back.

Later, the old Victoria hothouse was torn down. Its place was taken by the big outdoor pond of today.

The rose garden now is where the tree-fern house used to be.

Botanical garden workers

In 1907, gardeners of the botanical gardens made twenty Dutch cents an hour.

Women who cleaned the flower pots and other things made just five cents an hour.

So did the doorman.

Working times were from seven in the morning till six in the evening, with a noon break for a hot meal.

Then, only two of the work force were women.

Today, that is about fifty-fifty.

However, (female) manager Stans van der Veen had to confess, women workers still get less money than male workers.

Especially in spring (end of April) and autumn, many plants, some of them heavy trees, had and have to be moved out or in of hothouses.

That used to be heavy work, sometimes with bad health consequences like injured backs.

Today, plants are mainly moved with motor cars.

In the 1880s-1890s, there was an international ‘fern craze’.

Ferns in the wild in England suffered from picking for gardens.

Many ended up in artificial rock gardens.

A rock garden here of over a hundred years old is still there, with ferns growing on it.

This 2017 video is called Tree ID: Caucasian Wingnut (Pterocarya fraxinifolia).

Also there: a Caucasian wingnut tree from 1818.

Inside the hothouses: ferns with coiled leaf blades, resembling violins.

There are over 12,000 plant specimens in the garden.

Most of them from the tropics and subtropics: there are only 1,500 species in The Netherlands.

Finally, outside, yellow flowers of Crocus flavus.

Invasive water hyacinths in Africa: here.

3 thoughts on “History of plants and labour in the botanical garden

  1. Pingback: Skiing may threaten rare alpine birds | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Pondskaters and dead-nettles in the botanical garden | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Sixteenth century botanist Clusius now on the Internet | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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