Museum gardens | when the garden is an exhibit

Gardens of museums, when the garden is an exhibit
Exhibited gardens
Text by Riccardo Bianchini, Inexhibit
For image credits see captions


Adachi Museum of Art, photo Benno Weissenberger / Flickr

The gardens of museums: when the garden is an exhibit

There are museums for which a garden is not only a complement, a pleasant space or a perfect scenario for artworks, but an exhibited content in itself, sometimes only larger that the exhibits displayed in the covered galleries. The most typical cases are Natural History Museums’ botanical gardens, like the gardens of the Botanisches Museum in Berlin, the Natural history museums of Oslo and Copenhagen, the Museo de Ciencias in Barcelona or the U.S. Herbarium at the Museum of Natural History in Washington, just to name a few. For a natural history museum a botanical garden is indeed a living gallery absolutely coherent with the museum’s mission. A slightly different case, but similar in their objective, are wildlife gardens such as the Natural History Museum’s in London or the greenhouses aimed to show biodiversity in science museums, as for the Muse in Italy.
To summarize all such cases, we chose to present here one of the most celebrated botanical gardens in the world, the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

The Jardin des Plantes, MNHN, France

The Jardin des Plantes, founded by Luis XIII in 1635 as a medicinal herb garden, is one of the main features of the MNHN-Musée National Histoire Naturelle in Paris, among the most relevant Natural History museums in the world. The Jardin des Plantes is actually composed of various gardens: botanical gardens, herbaria, tropical greenhouses, wild gardens and even a green labyrinth. It is not the garden of a museum but more a museum made of gardens. As every museum worthy of the name, it is also a place of lively research and scientific discovery but at the same time a relaxing haven in Paris’ city centre.

The Garden’s gardens are eleven. The Carrés de la perspective represents the backbone of the gardens, lined with plane trees, five French-style square gardens are arranged in a spectacular perspective; three of them are particularly important: the garden of butterflies, the medicinal garden of useful plants (medicinal herbs, plants providing natural fibres and dyes)  and the garden of ornamental plants. The Jardin de l’École de Botanique (garden of the Botanical School) is defined as “an open-air school without walls” and contains classified plants from temperate zones across the entire planet. On 4,000 square metres, the Jardin Alpine, as its name suggests, presents mountain flora, again from France and various regions of the world. The Jardin écologique features species from the Île-de-France, the region surrounding Paris.


Jardins des Plantes, Paris, photo Gary Campbell Hall / Flickr

The Grandes Serres is a spectacular ensemble of greenhouses, built from 1714 onwards. Along with being a stunning set of glass and steel architectures, the Serres are a fascinating voyage through biodiversity grouped into four visiting itineraries: Tropical wet environments; Deserts and arid environments; New Caledonia’s environment and History of plants, presenting 400 million years of history of the flora evolution on our planet. The Jardin potager is an orchard and vegetable garden in the heart of Paris; the Jardin de roses et de roches is a romantic-style (but also scientifically conceived) rose garden; the Jardin des pivoines is dedicated to peonies. The Jardin des abeilles et des oiseaux (garden of the bees and birds) is a wild garden that is left in an almost “spontaneous” state; for this reason it is usually not open to the public.
The Labyrinthe is, as the name suggests, a green labyrinth but is also a very peculiar space; due to its particular soil, it features Mediterranean species, including cedars, yews and stone pines, as well as one of the first metal constructions in the world, the 1788 “Gloriette de Buffon”. The Jardin des plantes vivaces houses an impressive collection of perennial crops including 150 species of iris plants. Finally, the Jardin du Stégosaure features “archaic” plants descending from ancestors that were living during the age of dinosaurs.


Jardins des Plantes, Grandes Serres, Paris, photo Fred Romero / Flickr


Jardins des Plantes with the ‘Grande Galerie de l’Evolution’ in the background, Paris, photo Julien Chatelain /Flickr.

In other (quite rare) cases, the garden is exhibited as a piece of art in an art-oriented museum. Differently from the Sculpture Gardens it does not contains artworks other than itself. This is the case of the famous gardens of the Adachi Museum in Japan.

The gardens at the Adachi Museum of Art, Japan

The Adachi Museum of Art features an exceptional ensemble of Japanese gardens which is intended to be an artistic expression in itself, only using different media compared to the collection of modern Japanese paintings housed in the adjacent museum building.
The museum was founded in 1980 by a wealthy businessman and art collector, Adachi Zenko, who was also a passionate Japanese-style garden designer. Over time, Mr Adachi created this masterpiece in collaboration with some of the most skilful Japanese landscape planners.
The gardens are conceived to create a dialogue with the 20th-century Japanese artworks inside the museum and, more specifically, to dynamically change such relationships depending on the seasons of the year.


Adachi Museum of Art, photo Akaitori / Flickr

The Adachi Museum complex includes six gardens for a total surface of 165,000 square metres. The Moss garden is a Kyoto-style garden designed by the famous master Saichi Kojima; if the visitor wonders why the red pine trees in it are all aslant, the reason is that for mr. Kojima it would have been disrespectful to transplant the red pine trees at an angle different from that they had grown at their original sloped environment. The dry landscape garden is a typical rock (or Zen) garden. The Juryu-an garden, characterized by red maple trees, is particularly expressive in autumn and winter. The Pond garden is a chisen-shoyū-teien style garden where water plays a fundamental role and also provides the habitat for several nishiki-goi ornamental carps. The White gravel and Pine garden is a balanced combination of black pines, azalea shrubs and carefully arranged rocks. Finally, the Kikaku-no-taki Waterfall is a garden centred on a cascade, another symbolic representation of water typical of traditional Japanese garden design together with ponds and white gravel (which symbolizes water in dry gardens).


Adachi Museum of Art, photo Aki Sasaki / Flickr


Adachi Museum of Art, photo Big Ben in Japan / Flickr


Adachi Museum of Art, photo Kate Nevens / Flickr

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National Museum of Natural History – Jardin des Plantes, Paris
Natural History Museum Paris Jardin des Plantes

The Jardin des Plantes in Paris is the most popular site of the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, the largest museum of natural history in Franceorld

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