Before our visit to the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens in Jerusalem, Israel, I discovered that they also had a fantastic garden center, so we spent some time in there before meeting our guide. This garden center has so many plants in it that we grow...you will see many you recognize. The nice thing about this garden center is all the plants are grown in Israel.
You go through a gate to go into the botanical gardens and once in are greeted with such lush green and striking colour; it is breathtaking. The Pennisetum glacum stood up proudly as we arrived...and mixed with the Echinacea in that stunning shade of orange was a real welcome. We began our journey with a visit to an authentic burial niche. Here I saw a burial chest that would have been used by the Jews around 20-15 BCE. The niches you see there are original. They would prepare the bodies there and they would lay here in these niches for at least a year until the bones could be collected and placed in these ossuaries. Ossuaries were often embellished with vine leaves and grapes, fig leaves and figs, lilies and pomegranates.
On to discover other delights...like the Banksia ashbyi with its gorgeous orange flower. The tropical green houses full of plants like orchids, palms, helliconia and the like. The next beauty was the Xanthorrhoea johnsonii or grass tree at 150 years old. When they got it, it stayed in quarantine for 3 years. Rosemary and lavender plants are every where throughout this large garden.
The team running the garden now are so passionate. Sue Surkes, Director of Development is originally from England and has so many wonderful ideas on how to grow this garden to showcase its full potential. It's happening...three years ago they had 80,000 visitors and now they have 200,000 visitors a year coming to enjoy the bounty, learn about plants and the various areas in this garden (by the new signage), and enjoy the meals in the beautiful restaurant. On her business card it reads, "A place where plants grow people." Right on the mark. The children's area is wonderful.
I did not know that Israel had over 2,300 native species of plants, nor did I know that 414 of them were on the endangered list. The garden is arranged in phytogeographic sections, featuring flora of various regions around the world. The Jerusalem Botanical Gardens opened to the public in 1985. The tropical conservatory opened in 1986 and the South Africa section was planted in 1989. The Hank Greenspan Entrance Plaza, Dvorsky Visitors' Center and restaurant were built in 1990.
This is just one of the many truly awesome gardens that exist in Israel - so watch for a tour coming in 2014!