Heritage hot spots: History, nature, art, environment

Sat, Feb 4, 2012, 00:00

National Botanic Gardens

What is it?The National Botanic Gardens are both a sanctuary within easy reach of Dublin city centre and a living reference library for gardeners, horticulturists and botanists. The Royal Dublin Society was granted land in Glasnevin to establish a public botanic garden in 1795. Initially, the focus was on growing plants for human and animal food, medicines and dyeing. The gardens were opened to the public in 1800. By the 1830s, the agricultural focus was overtaken by the pursuit of botanical knowledge and the arrival of plants from around the world. The famous Curvilinear Range, a series of glasshouses, was built by the Dublin ironmaster Richard Turner to house exotic plants that needed constant heat. The botanic gardens came into State care in 1878. More recently Turner’s glasshouses have been restored and a botanical library, herbarium (with a million dried plant species) and visitor centre have been built.

Why visit?Set on almost 20 hectares, the National Botanic Gardens has more than 15,000 living plants, including tropical and subtropical plants, plus alpine, rock and rose gardens, herbaceous borders and an arboretum. It contains more than 300 endangered species of plants from around the world and six species that are already extinct in the wild. As well as a being a wonderful amenity, the gardens conserve and record information on plants and act as a living reference library for gardeners, horticulturists and botanists. The visitor centre, whose cafe has views of the gardens, has occasional exhibitions.

Why now?Spring has sprung, and horticulturists at the gardens are offering gardening classes, workshops and demonstrations from today.

The Growing Green Fingers beginner’s gardening classes start today at 10am or on Tuesday at 7.30pm.

Workshops on growing organic vegetables and planting for allotments will be held in March and April. And free demonstrations in the gardens begin in March. Evening classes on Irish botany run throughout May. Bookings on 01-8040319

How do I get there?The gardens are on Botanic Road in Glasnevin. Buses 4, 9 and 83 pass near the main entrance. Open Monday-Friday, 9am-4.30pm (5pm from March); Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays, 10am-4.30pm (6pm from March). Admission is free. Free guided tours on Sundays at noon and 2.30pm. Group tours booked in advance €2 per person. Car parking €2. Call 01-8040319 or see botanicgardens.ie.