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History of the Botanical Garden
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© Illustration by Lauma Strazdiņa

1922 In the spring the first Botanical Garden in Latvia was founded by the University of Latvia. Rīga City Council allocated 1 hectare of land in Dreiliņmuiža for this purpose. The main objective of the Garden was to promote education and research, as well as to facilitate the knowledge in botany among public at large. First manager of the Garden till 1944 was Professor Nikolajs Malta.

1923 Botanical Garden was opened for school trips and general public. At that time there were 1.500 different plant species in collections.

1924 In the spring the Morphological, biological and geographical beds were arranged. The common number of taxons reached 2.500. First seedlist Index Seminum was published, and a year later seed exchange with 70 other botanical gardens was started. Updating of Index Seminum and its mailing has been continued throughout the whole period of existence of the Garden providing free-of-charge exchange with seeds among botanical gardens of the whole world.

1926 The rapid growth of Botanical Garden facilitated the search for a larger territory. Therefore in 1926, after the proposal from Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis, Volfschmidt's inheritors property (about 10 ha) was purchased in Rīga, Street Kandavas 2. Four 18-19th century buildings have been preserved in Garden territory till today and they have been granted the status of wooden architecture monuments of national significance.

Till World War II the work in Garden was very intensive and fruitful. Algae, moss, mushrooms, lichens, fossil flora, systematics of vascular plants, flower morphology, habitats of plants of Latvia, as well as some work in genetics was done. Since 1926 results of research were published in Acta Horti Botanici Universitatis Latviensis.

1928 To accommodate tropical, subtropical and succulent plants, the construction of Greenhouses was started. The set of buildings included a Palm House, separate section for orchids, tropical water plants and succulents.

1932 To promote the development of the Garden, Professor N. Malta established the Association of the Friends of the Botanical Garden (restored in 2013).

1933 The Systematic, biological and cultivated plant beds were set up, as well as the Arboretum and test fields. More than 3.100 different plants were collected in Greenhouses, and around 4.400 various plants in open air collections.

1936 For international seed exchange, contacts with already 245 botanical gardens were maintained.

1937 About 7.500 plants from 225 plant families were presented for visitors of the Garden.

© Archive of the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia

1941-1944 During World War II the German army units were deployed in the Garden, only three gardeners were allowed to continue their work. Part of collections was destroyed. Arboretum trees were used for heating the Greenhouses to preserve collections of tropical and subtropical plants.

1949 In the post-war period work of the Botanical Garden was restored. Territory was enlarged for 6 hectares. Research about apricot and peach introduction and acclimatization was started.

1950ies While Latvia was incorporated in the Soviet Union, all the activities of the Botanical Garden were co-ordinated by the USSR Botanical Garden Council, which defined the overall topics of research - introduction and acclimatization of plants. Hence the plant introduction and selection, biological study, agro-technical study and multiplication of economically significant plants, mainly fruit trees, decorative plants, as well as species and varieties of agricultural plants, were the main topics of research in the Botanical Garden. These activities created changes in the landscape of Garden - in mid-1950ies in the central part the so-called Michurin Garden was established where different varieties of fruit-trees cultivated by Russian Soviet breeder Ivan Michurin were grown.

Fundamental work was done in introduction and acclimatization of Magnolias (Tekla Čaupale), Hydrangeas (Guntars Vītoliņš), low and prostrate bushes (Maija Bice), perennial plants (Andris Orehovs), and decorative grasses and ferns (Gunita Briede). Alongside with that, selection work was accomplished. Outstanding achievement in selection of Peaches and Apricots for the agro-climatic conditions in Latvia were reached by Viktors Vārna. Ornamental plant selection work was done by Evīra Zvaigznīte (Phlox and Michaelmas daisies), Kārlis Ruks (Dahlias), and Ādolfs Zorgevics (Lilies and Gladioli). The largest work done by Professor Rihards Kondratovičs over the past fifty years and which is continued still today, is introduction, selection, physiology research and working out of methods of multiplication of Rhododendrons. 

1953 Reconstruction of the Greenhouses.

1962 When Andris Orehovs turned to introduction and study of perennial plants, essential changes were started in the Garden. By arranging Decorative-ecological expositions, the present day image of Garden was created - it became a landscape garden.

1969 The construction of Greenhouses and Administrative building was launched.

1972 Brand new Greenhouses were completed. Height - 24 m, floor space - 550 m2.

1990ies After the restoration of independence of Latvia in 1991, staff of the Botanical garden was working on the maintenance and continuation of previously started work - doing plant studies, forming collections, educating the society. In outdoor expositions were approximately 3.730 different species, in Greenhouses - around 1.670 varieties of plants. Seed exchange was sustained with about 500 botanical gardens of the world.

© Archive of the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia