It is probably the smallest botanic garden I’ve ever been to, but at 1.2 hectares it remains a tranquil and refreshing oasis in the midst of a busy city, thanks largely to the curving layouts, always focusing the visitor inwards. It also reeks of authenticity, probably because it is was originally scientifically motivated, though today aesthetics have been added that make it a delight to wander through.
Originally created in 1638 as a medicinal herb garden to supply the local apothecaries and medics, this very centrally located garden has grown to now contain over 4,000 different plant species from all over the world.
The most famous case in point being the Coffea arabica plant.
Having built a lucrative trade in coffee beans with Arab traders the Dutch decided to cut out the middleman and grow their own, starting here in the De Hortus greenhouses, then exporting young plants to Batavia (Indoneisa) to grow large scale plantations.
The coffee craze was sweeping Europe and a gift of coffee bushes was made to Louis 14th of France who then exported cuttings to colonies in the Americas, where it eventually found its way down to Brazil. The rest, as we say, is history.
So as we sit and enjoy our double-shot espresso in the elegantly imposing Orangery cafe, we remember that it all started here at Hortus Botanicus, over 375 years ago, just outside the old walls of Amsterdam, on newly reclaimed land in the world’s first botanic garden.
As they say here . . “Dank U Well,” or thanks a lot.
P.S. the Dutch are also to be thanked for bringing so many natural delights to the world apart from coffee – like tulips, carrots and a plethora of shrubs, flowers and bulbs.
Author: Bob Saunders (www.gardensonline.com.au)