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History of the Botanical Garden
Last Update
09.09.2015

© Illustration by Lauma Strazdiņa

1922  In the spring, the first Botanical Garden in Latvia was founded by the University of Latvia. Riga’s City Council allocated 1 hectare (about 3 acres) of land in Dreilinmuiza for the garden. The main objective of the Botanical Garden was to promote education and research, as well as to introduce the public to botany. In 1944, the first manager, Nikolajs Malta, was instated.

 

1923 The Botanical Garden was opened for school trips and to the general public. At that time, there were 1,500 different plant species in their collection.

 

1924 In the spring, the morphological, biological, and geographical beds were arranged. There were now 2,500 different plant species. The first seed list Index Seminum was published and a year later, a seed exchange with 70 other botanical gardens was started. The Index Seminum is constantly updated and exchanging seeds from around the world has always been free-of-charge.

 

1926 The Botanical Garden was rapidly growing and therefore needed to expand. In 1926, after the proposal from Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia, Kārlis Ulmanis, Volfschmidt's inheritors property (about 10 hectors or 25 acres) was purchased in Riga, 2 Kandavas Street. Four buildings from the 1800-1900s have been preserved in the Botanical Garden. Still today they stand, and have been granted the status of wooden architecture monuments of national significance.

Before WWII, work in the garden was very intense 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 accomplished. In 1926, results of the research were published in Acta Horti Botanici Universitatis Latviensis.

1928 To accommodate the tropical, subtropical, and succulent plants, the Botanical Garden began the construction of their greenhouses. These buildings included a Palm House and a 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 created, as were the arboretum and test fields. More than 3,100 different plants were collected in the greenhouses, and around 4,400 various plants were out in the open.

 

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 the study of perennial plants, essential changes began in the Botanical Garden. By arranging decorative-ecological expositions, the present-day image of the 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 Latvia regained independence in 1991, garden staff began to continue work and maintenance that was previously started. They did plant studies, formed collections, and educated the community. Outdoor expositions had about 3,730 varied species, while greenhouses had around 1,670 varieties of plants. The seed exchange carried on and kept in contact with about 500 other botanical gardens from around the world.

 

© Archive of the Botanical Garden of the University of Latvia