The Botanical Garden in Giessen is the oldest botanical garden in Germany, which is still located in its original place.
About the history of the Botanical Garden in Giessen
In the years 1560 to 1566, the city of Giessen was (re)built as a national fortification with ramparts and bastions on a spacious area. A really large fortification with a base area that was not completely filled by the later city of Giessen in 1850. Even today you can see the course of the former city fortification in the annex ring. On the eastern edge of the former fortification wall you will find the Botanical Garden. You will discover remains of the rampart under an artificial hill.
Giessen became known as a "garden city" in the 19th century. The fortification rampart was removed in the early 19th century. After the trench was filled in, these areas could be landscaped. The proportion of parks and gardens soon exceeded 50%. Private vegetable gardens, orchards, pleasure gardens and even the botanical garden adorned the city. The schools also had their own educational gardens, there was an official garden in the Old Castle, as well as many a garden inn, such as "Steins' Garten", which was located on the site of today's Hotel am Nahrungsberg. The Gründerzeit villas were also located in the middle of park-like green areas. In the course of time, the proportion of gardens in Giessen decreased in relation to the city area. In 1888 it was still about 40%, today it is 15%.
The foundation of the Botanical Garden
The Botanical Garden in Giessen is not the oldest botanical garden in Germany. Even before that, corresponding gardens were known in Leipzig, in Eichstätt and in Heidelberg. In the course of the University of Giessen, founded in 1607 by Landgrave Ludwig V, a garden was also established. It was located on Brandplatz behind the college building and extended as far as Sonnenstraße. At that time, botany was primarily understood from the point of view of medicinal plant science, and so the botanical garden was an excellent match for the university's medical faculty. Initially, an area of 1200 square meters was available for the "Hortus Medicus" (garden for medicinal plants). In this context, the botanist Ludwig Jungermann published various local floras and also the 1623 "Flora von Gießen", which, however, no longer exists today. A wintering house was added in 1699 and the first glass house was built in 1720. This glass house lasted until 1859. The name "Botanical University Garden" is documented until 1733.
The Forest Garden
Forestry science was shaped in Giessen by Friedrich Ludwig Walther (1759 to 1824). Walther established the University Forest Garden in 1802 in the adjoining grounds to the east. Here also the former area of the fortress ramparts could be used. In 1825, the forest garden was moved to its present location on the Schiffenberg. However, the magnificent tree population is still one of the landmarks of the Giessen Botanical Garden. In 1826 it was possible to merge the different plants into one large garden with an area of three hectares. To this day, the three-part division of Hortus Medicus, the early extension areas and the former forest garden can still be seen. In 1880, the university administration moved to the new main building in Ludwigstraße. In this context, the former collegiate building was also assigned to the Botanical Garden.
Formative directors of the Botanical Garden in Giessen
Johann Bernhard Wilbrand (1799 to 1846) was the director of the Botanical Garden of Giessen from 1817. Wilbrand implemented the merging of the Botanical Garden with adjacent forest garden grounds. The forest garden had initially been established on the Schiffenberg. In 1824 Wilbrand published the first seed catalog with the title "index seminum". Wilbrand also ensured a lively exchange of seeds with other gardens. In total, a network with 24 other botanical gardens is known.
Alexander Braun (1805 to 1877) became the first representative of botany in Giessen after it was separated from the Faculty of Medicine. His term of service, however, amounted to only eight months. As his successor, Hermann Hoffmann (1819 to 1891) became the founder of phenology. Adolf Hansen (1851 to 1920) concentrated himself on redesigning the garden according to more recent systematic viewpoints. The highlight of the garden until the middle of the 20th century was the tropical house. It was destroyed during the war in 1944. Some very old and valuable trees were also lost in this context.
The reconstruction of the garden after the Second World War was significantly influenced by Ernst Küster (1874 to 1853). His successor Dietrich von Denffer (1914 to 2007) then commemorated Küster with a monument. Denffer himself distinguished himself with the international standard work "Textbook of Botany for Universities". Also a new department for medicinal and poisonous plants, as well as the historical department were created by Denffer. Furthermore, the "Plateau with the Gazelle", the new Alpinum and various greenhouses are associated with Denffer. During this period, the Botanical Garden of Giessen was also unconditionally opened to the general public and the first serenade evenings were held. In 1961, the new building of the Botanical Institute was started opposite the Botanical Garden according to Denffer's plans.
Today, the Botanical Garden is primarily used for research and teaching students. The main focus is on biology, geography, agricultural sciences, medicine and veterinary medicine. About 8000 different plants are labeled in German and Latin. The main entrance is on Senckenbergstraße. There is another entrance to the garden from the downtown area.