The Botanical Garden of Ljubljana

200 years - Illyrian Provinces to the Republic of Slovenia

Tu pride flash
The Botanical Garden of Ljubljana is after the National and University Library, Slovenia's oldest educational, scientific and cultural institution, functioning continuously in its present location since its foundation. It was established under the auspices of Napoleon's rule, when Ljubljana was the capital city of Illyrian Provinces (1809-1813). The first Governor of the Provinces, Marshall Auguste Marmont, honoured the occasion by planting the linden tree, which has now stood for 200 years, as a memorial to national endeavours, and a landmark in Slovenian history. The new French authorities gave recognition to the equality of Slovenian language and culture with that of the other nations, and put the Slovenian people as a nation on the map of Europe. 

It was named the Garden of Native Flora, and set up as a section of the secondary college - Ecole Centrale. The governor appointed Franc Hladnik (1773-1844), a lecturer of Nature Science and Botany at the newly established Ecole Centrale, as its first director.

Hladnik was granted a plot of land measuring 3300 sq m, an annual subsidy of 1000 francs and a post of gardener with 500 francs annual salary. Hladnik set to work with great zeal. He reports in a letter to the tertiary learning institutions (27.12.1810), that 447 botanical species had been planted in September. In the Inventory for the year 1812, there is already considerable increase. He reports that 768 native species are growing in the garden. 

It is thanks to Hladnik and his close connection with Austrian botanists, that with the return to Austrian sovereignty, the garden was not closed down. Despite difficulties, the annual allocation was reduced to 400 florins and the post of paid gardener was lost, Hladnik continued with his endeavours. In 1819 he managed to recover his paid position and took on a student by the name of Andrej Fleischman. After the year 1822 the Garden was extended by a further 1600 sq m and walled in. Hladnik was in charge of the Garden till 1834, when the responsibility was taken over by J. N. Biatzovsky (till 1849). The garden was again enlarged. 

Franc Hladnik was known as a great botanist and investigator in his time, a highly esteemed collaborator  of the famous Wulfen and Host and teacher of such great natural scientists as Freyer, Graf and Tommasini. Based on a report by his student Freyer, he had planted over 2000 plants, bringing them from his excursions to the countryside. He was also an acknowledged educator of renown. For his leadership of the Ljubljana Grammar School, which became known as one of the best schools in Austrian states, he received a gold medal by the Emperor Franc I in 1818.

From 1850 to 1867 the garden was under the direction of Hladnik's student, Andrej Fleischman (1804-1867). In 1844 he published »A Survey of Carniolan Flora« (Uebersicht der Flora Krains). His death in 1867 marks the end of a period of 57 years during which the Garden had undergone outstanding development. Between 1867 and 1886 while headed by Valentin Konsek, professor of linguistics and natural sciences the Garden became predominantly a fruit and vegetable garden, digressing from its original purpose.

Alfonz Paulin (1853-1942), who had taken over the management of the Garden in1886 returned it to its initial direction and purpose. The garden had been left with only 312 species. He began well-planned excursions and embarked the first collection of plants for the Garden. By 1889, he had collcted and planted 3000 plants. In the same year he began to publish an annual seed index (Index seminum).

In 1892 he contacted, on the basis of the index, 78 gardens in Europe. In the years 1901 – 1936 he published his famous herbarium collection of Carniolan flora - Flora exsiccata Carniolica . In 1920 the garden became, after some difficulties a constituent part of the newly established University of Ljubljana. With it, the University acquired one of the best managed and purposeful institutions of the time, with Paulin as an excellent lecturer of systematic botany. The Garden had been well connected with the world. In a single year 3000 seeds packages were sent to 31 universities and live packages to 10 universities.

After World War II, in the year 1946, the garden was again extended to 2.35 hectares and acquired, under the management of Jože Lazar, the first conservatory. His work was continued by Vinko Strgar (1967 – 1992). Due to the widening of the roadway, the surface of the garden was reduced to 2 hectares. Decisions were made to start a new garden as part of the Biological Centre under the Rožnik, opposite the Zoological Gardens, which however never came to realization. With the year 1991 the existing garden was pronounced and protected as a Monument of landscaped gardening at the municipal level. In the year 2008, it acquired the status of a Monument of national importance.

It is regarded as the oldest Botanical Garden in the south-eastern part of Europe, and amongst the oldest continuous gardens of Europe. Today the Botanical Garden is a unit of the Department of Biology within the Biotechnical Faculty, Ljubljana. Its plant collection includes more than 4500 species, subspecies and forms, one third of which are autochthonous, while two thirds came from various parts of Europe and other continents.

The garden has been maintaining exchange contacts with more than 293 botanical gardens worldwide. The Botanical Garden is also involved in scientific research and educational activities. In addition it plays an important role in the growing and protection of endemic and threatened (endangered, vulnerable and rare) species in Slovenia.


Digital brochure of the Botanical Garden of Ljubljana