Today we visited the Botanic Garden of Hamburg, Germany. Not, however, the old, well-known park Planten un Blomen, but the gardens at the second site in the suburb of Klein Flottbek. They are right next to the biological teaching and research centre (Biozentrum) of the Hamburg University.
The gardens are large and offer a huge diversity of sections, including steppe plants, crop plants, medical plants, regional sections representing everything from northern Germany to South America, and much more. A few examples:
The Bauerngarten, or farmer's garden. It features a nice selection of useful plants and ornamentals. There are also some old farming machines exhibited in a corner.
The garden designers show some humour in the Alpinum, the alpine section. Here is a sign as one would see it in the German Alps, reading in translation: Experience with the Alpine environment, a sure step, and a head for heights required. Signed, the German Alps Society.
A few metres on we find this Gipfelkreuz, as one would usually see on the summit of a large mountain (in overly Christian countries, that is). The background shows what dizzying heights the intrepid Alpine hiker will have braved at this point.
While on the topic of crosses, the weirdest part of the botanic gardens might be the Bibelgarten, which consists of plants mentioned in the holy book of one particular religion and signage listing the relevant bible verses. Let's just say that Germany is not the most secular country on the planet and move on.
Much nicer is the Asian section. Not only is it very well landscaped and features beautiful plants...
...it also includes a Japanese rock garden. Despite a slightly confusing sign that seems to forbid it visitors are invited to walk across the larger rocks and the platform but obviously shouldn't step onto the pebble patterns.
Finally, the systematic section. Despite being very new its explanatory signage suffers a bit from scala naturae thinking (e.g. ginkgoes are described as the "oldest" gymnosperms). It is, however, an unusually well landscaped systematic section; this kind of display is all too often built as a simple, linear row of flowerbeds.
The garden does not have an entry fee. Unfortunately the visitor shop is only open on weekends.
Before seeing the gardens I was also able to pay a visit to the Hamburg Herbarium (HBG) and to study some specimens two levels below the ground. The herbarium is huge - I was told 1.8 million specimens -, and the vaults are accordingly large and were in fact something of a maze to me. One factor may be that, as the picture shows, the specimens are not stored in compactus units. I am grateful that I was able to examine a species I could not lay my hands on in Australia, so all in all a great day today.