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Warsaw University Botanic Garden (Warsaw, Poland)

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Address: Śródmieście / Aleje Ujazdowskie 4 / Warsaw / Poland

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      09.09.2011 12:34
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      Very enjoyable garden

      Ever since living in Sheffield in my late teens I have always enjoyed a visit to a Botanical Garden or Botty Garden which is an affectionate term our family use to describe this type of garden. The one on Clarkehouse Road in south Sheffield has always been my favourite and although having seen a couple in Poland I hadn't actually visited the one belonging to the University in Warsaw. I had walked past it several times on my way to Lazienki Park as it is right next door but never ventured further than the main entrance. A few weeks ago I decided to go and take a look mainly out of curiosity but I also wanted to see if it was as good as the Botanical garden in Sheffield.

      So you know where you are going let me explain where the Botanic Garden is situated. It's on Aleje Ujazdowskie which is part of the Royal Tract; one of the most elegant streets in Warsaw with well preserved buildings erected at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Botanic Garden itself is situated at number 4, next door to the Royal Park, Lazienki on one side and on the opposite side is the Astronomical Observatory. The best way to reach the garden is to catch a 180 bus from Zamohoff. The bus will drop you off directly across the road from the garden and Lazienki Park. Be careful crossing as this is an extremely busy avenue.

      As far as I know there is only one main entrance and this is on the left side by the Astronomical Observatory. As you walk through you will see a small wooden hut - this is the garden office and ticket booth and it is here where you hand over your cash. No need to panic it is really cheap. We went on a Sunday afternoon and the price was 8 zloty (approx £1.60) but for some reason the lady only charged us 6 zloty (£1.20). We were also given a small map of the garden which came in very useful although the different areas were well marked.

      Walking away from the office the first thing I noticed was a sculpture of a red and black spotted cow trying to climb a tree. The sculpture is pretty good but totally incongruous with the rest of the surroundings. My granddaughter didn't like this cow and she was quite scared so I had to stroke it and say that it was okay and she had nothing to worry about but it took a while before she forgot about it.

      The area covered is 5 hectares in all and various parts of the garden rise and fall so there are steps to climb and some of the paths are narrow and difficult. Really, not very good for wheelchair users or parents wheeling a pushchair.

      The first area we came to didn't look very interesting. It was sort of scruffy and the poor plants looked liked they hadn't been attended to. I know this garden is run by volunteers but I was a bit surprised at the lack of care. There was a beautiful cedar tree centrally placed in this section with wooden benches around it's trunk. The sun was just shimmering through the top branches and from where I stood looked really haunting but sadly, I noticed that all the bottom branches were turning brown. Plants were well labelled with their Latin names and one species I can remember was Calycanthus Occidentalis. This type of plant is native to the mountains of California and is sometimes called the spice bush. An attractive plant that has brownish flowers that smell like sweet red wine or fermenting fruits. These flower heads attract pollinators, small flies and beetles. I didn't spend too much time pondering over this area as I wanted to go and take photos of the fountain.

      The base of the fountain was interesting with it's curvy stone wall which was suitable for sitting on if you wished. Inside the pool of water formed from the spray were several large stones and many polished pebbles. Trees around this section were very green and it was interesting to note that there was a variety of sizes and species. My favourite was the Sophora Japonica (Chinese Scholar) which was very tall and in beautiful condition. At a guess I would say its height was 50 feet. As it was August when we visited the tree was in flower and very pretty flowers they were too; shaped like pea pods, creamy white in colour placed at the tips of the branches.

      Next came the Systematics System; a popular system in Botanical gardens where plants are arranged in beds according to a system of classification. This was a colourful area and good to observe some ornamental species like Ethinacea Purpurea; a single flower bloom on a long, sturdy stem sometimes known as a purple coneflower which has a nice scent and has great medicinal value as it is known to stimulate the immune system.

      Nearby are other interesting plants like the Molucella laevis which can usually be found growing wild in Turkey; green, quite tall, droopy and have many seeds. Interesting but not very pretty. Much nicer to look at are plants from the Labiate family like the Salvia officinalis (Sage herb) and Lavandula angustifolia (English lavender). These have evocative aromas and are used in the preparation of cosmetics and medicine as well as being popular with chefs. Some wonderful shades of lilac and purple in these flowerbeds. My grandaughter loved this area and as she was wearing different shades of purple she blended in well with the planting arrangements.

      On the neighbouring flower bed were some amazing pendant purple blooms belonging to the species Amaranthus Caudatus. This is the Latin name but I prefer to use the more dramatic name of Love Lies Bleeding. These are a droopy flower and not one I would have in my garden as they are just too droopy and I know this would irritate me.

      Walking around the garden was a slow process because I took so many photographs and wanted to smell the flowers as well. There are a few monuments spread throughout the garden paths which always pleases me and one fun feature was a long tunnel formed from vines and other trailing plants. It was good to walk under to keep out of the sun but unfortunately it didn't protect us from those pesky mosquitoes which were everywhere.

      My husband is always interested in an Alpinarium but I didn't find it to be that spectacular. I recognised a lot of the plants that I used to have in my garden when I lived in England last and at first was a bit miffed that I didn't recognise anything unusual until I went around the corner and came across a plant that used to be abundant in the Tatra mountains. It's Latin name is Carlina acaulis but it is commonly known as silver thistle. Its leaves are spiny and sharp when touched. The flowerhead is a shape that I always drew when I was a kid; a central rosette with long slender petals branching out. The centre of the flower is a brownish colour while the sleek petals are silver. This plant is now considered to be rare in Poland and Slovakia due to too many tourists taking samples home so that they can still have their mountain memories. That's a shame as it is a lovely flower and I can just imagine how the Tatras would have looked carpeted in a bed of silver faces.

      We spent a long time in this Botanic Garden - over 4 hours. This is a long time for a two year old to walk round but my granddaughter really enjoyed herself. We would have stayed longer but the mosquitoes were driving us mad and my husband wanted to get home to watch the Man Utd match on the TV. We didn't see everything and will definitely go back another time. Although it isn't anywhere near as spectacular as the Botanical garden in Sheffield it is very interesting and the planting of the garden is different if a little eccentric. There is a shop selling plants but we didn't look in as I have no room for any more on my balcony.

      So there you go - a Botanical Garden in Warsaw run by volunteers from the University. There are so many things to see on this special avenue that I think the Botanical Garden can be overlooked. The entrance isn't spectacular and easily missed. My advice is to look out for the red and black spotted cow near the entrance. What it is doing there I will never know but it is a good point of reference and not easy to forget. Although some sections are a bit scrappy I would say overall this is a good Botty garden and one I recommend.

      Opening times change with each month. Best to check on the website. Times for the month of August were as follows:Mon-Fri 9am-8pm, weekends and bank holidays 10am- 8pm
      Ticket booth closes at 7pm
      web:http://www.garden.uw.edu.pl

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