Nov 4, 2008

The Jerusalem Botanical Garden

After a month of being here in Israel, and working in the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, I am beginning to get into the routine of things in the gardens. Upon arriving the temperature was still very hot during the day but has since settled to the pleasant feeling of an Indian Summer.

One morning there was even a nice surprise to wake up and see all of the surrounding streets shrouded in a dense carpet of fog.

The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens are located in Western Jerusalem, which is a ten minute walk from the apartment where I am living. The garden itself is large, covering 45 acres and representing some 10,000 plant species. The garden is divided into six geographic sections consisting of Mediterranean, Asia, Europe, Australia, North America and South Africa. These areas are then sub-divided into subsections representing specific forms of vegetation, flora and climactic conditions. There is another 20 acres of the gardens that is not used which will be developed, once funding has been completed, into Sub-tropical South America and Eastern Temperate Asia (China and Japan).
This is the conservatory which houses many of the tropical plants in the gardens collection.
There are features of the garden that I would have never expected to encounter such as historic tombs from the 2nd Temple Period (over 2000 years old) , a Roman water cistern with an ancient dovecote in the conservatory , and a large amount of bird species that seem to pass through the garden. Israel is a major stopover point for many migrating birds and with all of the diverse plant species in the garden here they find plenty of food and shelter to take advantage of.
I am amazed too with the huge chameleons walking in the branches near my head, jackals quickly darting through the garden so as not to be seen, and the occasional sighting of scorpions.
I often find myself walking through the North American section to soak up whatever fall color I can.
Fall is one of the most romantic seasons of the year, as we too know that we are preparing for winter, getting ready to start nesting inside our warm homes.. Except, that is not happening this year for me, the cold at least.....

This is the first time I have worked in a Botanical Garden and am finding it to be very different from both Longwood and Great Dixter. The focus is on the collections themselves and the amount of plants they have can seem tremendously overwhelming. The gardens are also coming off of a 7 year practice called Shmitta in which every 7th year the soil is allowed to rest, so no planting or anything to do with disturbing the soil was allowed to take place in this past year (being the 7th year). There were a lot of empty spots in the garden beds due to this and to counteract not being able to plant, plastic sheets where laid over these areas for the whole year to suffocate any of the weeds and weed seedlings that were in the soil.
I spent the first few weeks helping to construct and build a large retaining wall and am now working on helping to get the nursery situated and sorted out. We are getting ready for a few large planting projects due to Shmitta being over now, which ended on the Jewish New Year Holiday of Rosh Hashanah.

The gardens coordinate a different trip once a month to see wildflowers and some of the many sights of Israel. Other planned trips include seeing the bulbs in their native habitat such asTulips, Narcissus and Anemones amongst many others. Bulbs are among some of my favorite plants and I am excited in seeing the desert come to life in this way which should start happening with the rains that come in November. See all the yellow blooms to the left of the tree?

These are the lovely yellow Sternbergia clusiana, which was collected in Jordan in an area called Little Petra.

Centranthes ruber and Callistemon

Here are some plantings seen around Jerusalem.... A large sweep of pink Gaura.

And here is a happy accident... A Cypress tree with both the blue Plumbago and a pink Bougainvillea growing up through it.......

1 comment:

  1. YAY! New pictures!!! I am so excited to see the world through your eyes. Oh, and our friend Autumn N. New York said she misses you too. :)

    xoxox, Sissy