Is there a greenhouse in a botanical garden that can claim 2 oval bardiglio marble bathtubs filled with plants came from Queen Christina of Sweden? The Rome Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico di Roma) has that honor. Queen Christina (1632-1689) became Queen at the age of six. She was referred to as the baby queen. Christina learned to ride, hunt and fence; she spoke 7 languages and in 1650 she invited Descartes to Stockholm, because she was interested in physics. She decided to become a Roman Catholic in 1652 and spent the rest of her life in Rome. She lived in the area which became the site of the Rome Botanical Garden. Christina surrounded herself with artists, astronomers and scientists. She set up a chemical laboratory at her palace, founded a public theatre and planted 300 lemon and orange trees on her property.
In the last period of her life Queen Christiana retired in solitude to Mario Mount in Santa Maria del Rosario, the Covent of the Dominican Friars. “Her only company was the sun, the wind and the light.” This is the story you read before you enter the succulent greenhouse at the Rome Botanic Garden.
If I am in any city that has a botanical garden, I make it my business to visit the garden. One goes to see new plants, old favorites and how various curators have arranged plants in highly designed gardens. I go to learn something about design.
The above tree is native to southern California, southwestern Arizona and northern Mexico. It is found in either desert or semi-desert regions, generally in gorges and canyons where rainwater is channelled form oases. The genus name honors George Washington. Go figure!
At the Rome Botanical Garden, the one exception to rare plants, shrubs and trees is the Japanese Garden.
Rome is a city with many stories. Every piece of ground has hundreds or thousands of years of history. The land the Botanical sits on is no exception. The garden was established on this site in 1883, although it is the successor to the Papal Botanical Gardens going back to the Renaissance. Part of the current Botanical Garden used to be the private garden of the Palazzo Corsini.
The Rome Botanical Garden contains over 3,000 species. It is messy, unkempt and very Roman. It has no bookstore, no cafe, no splashy exhibitions. It’s not a tourist attraction. It does not have many visitors. It’s a place to go to get away from the crowded Rome streets and see plants, not gardens. I recommend it. After all I never would have discovered Queen Christina without a visit to the garden.