The modern gardener also owes a great deal to the scientific cultivators of the past who worked in botanic gardens.
These were situated at seats of learning all over Europe, the first being started at Padua near Venice in 1543, followed shortly by others on the Continent, one at Oxford in 1621, another at Edinburgh in 1670, and one at Cambridge in 1762. The Edinburgh garden, now known as the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden, is famous for its, primu-las, gentians, and plants from western China, while the one at Cambridge has lately been greatly extended and is of particular interest to those who garden on limy or chalky soils. A garden was also made at the beginning of this century at Liverpool University.
But the most important in Great Britain are the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, the hub of botany in the British Commonwealth. In 1730 Frederick, Prince of Wales, and Princess Augusta went to live at Kew House. Both were interested in gardening, and Augusta was particularly keen on growing rarities. Soon their garden had a great reputation for choice plants. After the Prince died, his widow devoted still more time to the garden. In it the arts and sciences were admirably combined, and it quickly became known far beyond the British Isles. In 1789 William Aiton, then in charge of the plants, listed some 5,500 in his care.
When the Princess died, her brother-in-law, George III, another enthusiastic gardener, bought the adjoining estate of Richmond House, adding it to Kew, and Sir Joseph Banks became the director of the gardens. He was an intrepid traveller, besides being a great administrator and a first-class scientist, and was the first to arrange for men from Kew to go far afield to collect plants. After his death, the gardens lost their glory. The Prince Regent took no interest in them, and though various attempts were made to keep the gardens going, it was not until 18-12 that they became a national institution, and Kew Gardens, as we know them today, were opened to the public.
No account of botanic gardens can be complete, however, without some mention of the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Wisley in Surrey. It is not a true botanic garden, but a gardener’s garden on a huge scale; scientists participate in its administration, and report on it for the benefit of horticulturists. A new and important venture has been the formation of the Northern Horticultural Society’s garden at Harlow Car, Harrogate, which is to provide gardeners of the northern counties with an equivalent to Wisley.