I think I know what heaven must be like


“The many great gardens of the world, of literature and poetry, of painting and music, of religion and architecture, all make the point as clear as possible: The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don’t want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don’t have a soul.”  Thomas More

“When you increase the number of gardens, you increase the number of heavens too!”  Mehmet Murat Ildan

I wandered a heavenly space last week, only for an hour or so, at the end of a busy day. It was refreshing to body, mind and soul. I wandered, entranced by the beauty and the magnitude of the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Cairns is a city in far north Queensland. It is part of Australia’s wet tropics and is framed by stunning rainforests and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Cairns is a very popular tourist destination.

I fortuitously came across the gardens on my predawn walk and determined to return that afternoon to explore. What better way to spend an afternoon when travelling for work? I did not expect to be so enthralled by the magnificence of the space and of the beauty I discovered there.

I came to learn that the Cairns Botanic Gardens has one of the best tropical plant exhibitions in Australia. The gardens developed, according to early records, in the late 1800’s when a significant quantity of land was set aside for a recreational reserve. Today it has blossomed into several botanic spaces with a diverse plant life that provides visitors with a taste of the wet tropics.

Cairns Botanic Gardens exhibits over 4000 tropical plant species from around the world. Most of the plants throughout the gardens are labelled with both their botanical and commonly used name, which provides interest. There are bromeliads (which I recognised), cycads, epiphytes, ginger plants, lots of flowers and various ferns, along with many native plants, trees and palms. I collected a brochure, one of many, on the Aboriginal Plant Use Garden and took a self-guided walk. It was a truly informative walk; I had no idea plants could be used for so many purposes other than food.

Sharing the space is an arts hub, several neat cafes, an education centre, places for picnics and open space for sprawling on the grass and relaxing. I could have stayed for hours drinking in the uniqueness of the orchids, water lilies, and the carnivorous plants (which are always fascinating) in the conservatory. On my next visit I am keen to explore the Centenary Lakes and the Gondwana Heritage Garden.

Give me a book, a garden to read it in and a cup of tea and I’m as content as can be. I enjoy the beauty of gardens and the functionality of plants. My garden at home isn’t beautiful but it does contain plants that can be cultivated for medicinal and culinary purposes. Herb and plant lore fascinate me. Doing a little research one quickly learns that gardens and the cultivation of plants have been around for thousands of years dating back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Romans, also keen gardeners, were aware of the medicinal properties of plants. Monastic gardens were created around the 8th century and Monks used the beauty of plants and flowers as a celebration of god. Later, what are referred to as psychic gardens, appeared. Basically these were herb gardens designed for academic purposes. The herbs were studied to determine their medicinal properties. The first psychic gardens began to arise in Italy around the 16th and 17th centuries and were often found mostly in the grounds of universities. These were, in essence botanic gardens, though not as we know them today.

Botanic gardens, as we know them today, did not appear until much later. A precursor saw the establishment of gardens, not for the joy or pleasure to be had in the plant itself, but for the nurturing of crops and the commercial advantages to be gained. When international trade became commonplace gardens were established in many countries to try to cultivate new species that were being brought back from expeditions to far off and exotic locations.

In the 19th and 20th centuries gardens for pleasure were created throughout Europe and the British Commonwealth. The scientific programs, previously established in “botanic” gardens, were phased out, though plants continue to be scientifically labelled for our education and enjoyment.

Botanic Gardens Conservation International claims there are currently close to 2000 botanic gardens and arboreta in 148 countries around the world with many more under construction or being planned. I’ve visited only a handful of these in several countries. Which ones have you visited? Did you have a favourite?




9 thoughts on “I think I know what heaven must be like

  1. I truly love the captures of those gorgeous plants. In the US, I have frequented botanical gardens in Chicago, New York (Brooklyn) and Michigan (Detroit). They were all fabulous and I would love to visit them again.

  2. Shannyn aren’t some of these plants amazing. Perhaps as diverse as the animals of Australia so too are the plants? I can appreciate how rejuvenating such a visit is. I don’t know a lot about plants but there is a calming presence when one wanders through such a botanical garden. The last one we visited was in Montreal in eastern Canada.

  3. Love those plants , amazing , so interesting and such a calming influence .
    We often don’t take the trouble to visit what is on our doorstep . If we did more often it could take our interests in a totally different direction .
    A few weeks ago I drove a completely different direction and I found a beautiful woodland beside a national trust house . It was beautiful in its own right , full to brimming with spring flowers . But then I discovered some tiny doors made out of pottery at the foot of many trees . When I picked them up it instructed me to be sure to replace them ,but if interested, just go on Facebook bla bla . So I did.
    I’ve now met a lovely friend in the locality who began to place these doors at the foot of trees for her children , told them they were fairy doors , it was to restore magic in their heads and to get them out in fresh air , instead of spending too much time indoors .
    Now so many people are interested she had started a business selling these adorable doors and very soon she is arranging a potters night , so local people can get involved in making them and of course a lot of fun will be had by all, especially cos the venue will be a local pub 😉
    I am now on the hunt for botanical gardens in my area I wonder what I will discover there .
    Sorry about the ramble ….tee hee

  4. Oh Cherry, what fun. I love discovering new places. Your inquisitiveness led you to a beautiful garden, a new friend and a whole new world of people and fun. I love the idea of the little doors on trees, the are so magical. I would love to make some of these. It would be so much fun to leave some in the forest near my home for people to discover.
    When I was young, in primary school, I wrote a story and created a large poster image to go with it. It was the story of a little elf who lived in a tree. He had a door at the base of the tree and little windows to look out of. I was entranced by that story and the idea of living in a tree. Fancy thinking about that all those years ago. 😊
    I love to hear from you and what’s going on in your life. ‘Ramble’ away!😄

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