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Botanic Gardens

July 26th, 2007

copenhagen botanic garden_1

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Botanicals are funny places: a park devoted to plants. Seems redundant, no? In fact, “no” is the answer. Botanicals have that up-town, sophisticated-cousin feel: they dress up, maybe talk funny, and seem a little weird until you get to know them.

Have you been to a botanical garden lately? Ever? Few people seem to visit them anymore who are under the age of, say, 40 years—unless of course they’re children or grandchildren under tow. Actually, I find that kids love botanic gardnes. And the littler the kids, the more their enjoyment: lots of plants in miniature, like themselves; butterfly houses; lilipads and frogs; the domed glass terrariums housing the sort-of Hanging Gardens of Babylon; ducks and turtles in the ponds.

copenhagen botanic garden_2Copenhagen’s Botanic Garden is a great place for kids to explore. Hey, this may be a museum of plants, but it’s a living and breathing museum. And none of its displays is roped off or hidden behind bulletproof glass. While you will find the occasional “please do not touch” sign, plants are nature’s tactile works of art. They exude beauty, they caress the skin or prick it into reaction, they have aromas. Touch the blessed things!

Speaking of blessed (or the damned), the Botanic Gardens has several specialized plant maps, charts that show you where on the grounds you can find a particular plant. This is typical of botanicals, but one of the maps here charts many of the plants mentioned in the Christian Bible. Fitting, I thought, for such a Christian city (with so many buildings, people, and parts of town named “Christians–” something-or- other). That’s cool.

The botanical’s undulating topography gives you great views from above the pond, within the pine forest, across the bridge, and up to the grand greenhouse. There is a lot of opportunity for recreation in the park. The paths lead you through the different sections of the garden. The sections are divided botanically—for example, low-water species are on a hillside with stone groundcover, and water-saturated plants are along the pond’s banks—and you’ll find some surprises around each bend in the path.

copenhagen botanic garden_3Benches are placed in some great spots. Very well thought out for visitors to watch waterfowl trundle through the parsnip and cattails, or near the little waterfall on the rock-sloped hill, and beneath a trellis arcade with views across the pond and over to the bridge. These are delightful gardens that are neither crowded nor confining.

The Palmhouse highlights the back third of the gardens, but does not dominate the view. It actually enhances the aura of space by reflecting the power of the sunlight and the plants within—literally and figuratively. Inside the main vault you find Royal and Queen palms, and I just love that hothouse humidity and odor. It has that dual life-death quality inherent to the constancy of nature’s cycle. That’s cool.

The tropical and subtropical chambers exhibit sorts of flowering vines; palms and ferns (Did you know more than 10,000 fern varieties exist worldwide? I learned that here); water-born plants in ponds (with fish!); giant lillipads; and a butterfly chamber where you can get some great close-up photos of these docile creatures.

Copenhagen’s Botanic Garden is 30+ acres of quiet beauty that sooths the eye. It’s really a perfect place to get away for a couple hours from crowds—or to start your day. Besides the gardens, you’ll find on the grounds a geology museum and botanical museum.

Family Activities in the Botanic Gardens
There’s lots to teach your children in the gardens, about plants, trees and conservation. And there is a lot for them to learn on their own. You can spend much of your time in the gardens simply touring the Palmhouse, where the bubbling and spurting water plant exhibits will grab their attention and entertain at the same time. Special exhibits during the year focus on flowers, horticulture, conservation, and geology.

(read more about Copenhagen’s Botanic Gardens highlights here

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