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Ringve Botanical Garden, Norway - 20 Years Anniversary

Volume 2 Number 3 - May 1994
Arne Rosvik

Ringve Botanical Garden in Norway was established in 1973. A symposium had been planned to celebrate the 20th anniversary, but this unfortunately had to be abandoned.

The garden lies on the Ringve estate on the Lade peninsula, 4 km northeast of Trondheim city centre. It occupies an area of 14 ha of sloping ground overlooking Trondheimsfjord to the north.

Norway has a cool temperate climate. In Trondheim, the mean temperature for the coldest month (January) is -3.4ºC. Summers are correspondingly cool, the mean July temperature being 14.4ºC. The annual precipitation is 857 mm, more or less evenly distributed throughout the year. Snow cover in normal years lasts from December through to April.

Three organisations co-operate to run the botanic garden: the University of Trondheim, the city of Trondheim and the Ringve estate. This estate is one of the oldest in this part of the country, with fine buildings, now protected, dating from the 17th century. The last private owner, Mrs Victoria Bachke, turned the estate into a museum for musical instruments, complete with a concert hall, souvenir shop and restaurant. Much of the land had already been sold. What remained was leased to the city, which in turn placed it at the disposal of the University for the express purpose of creating and maintaining a botanic garden, open to the general public.

The museum has thousands of visitors each year. By bringing labelled plants into the courtyard of the museum, sometimes even into the museum itself, the garden can advertise its presence to these visitors. To the people of Trondheim, Ringve has quite simply become the place for Music and Flowers (or vice versa!). It is possible to attend a concert, enjoy the garden, and have a meal in the restaurant - maybe spending the whole day here.

The botanic garden has three main parts, the 19th century garden, the arboretum, and the systematic section.

The 19th century garden is the original garden of the Ringve estate, now reconstructed. The last private owners were not interested in the garden and allowed it to deteriorate. Reconstruction has been carried out according to plans drawn up by Dr Magne Bruun, resulting in an English "wild garden". The most conspicuous tree is a venerable beech (Fagus sylvatica), planted sometime between 1810 and 1820. Visitors seem to find this garden especially attractive in spring, when it has drifts of Galanthus, Crocus, Primula, Anemone and other flowers.

The arboretum is arranged geographically and demonstrates forest trees from the northern boreal zone. A man-made lake in the centre symbolises the Arctic Ocean. A clockwise walk around the lake corresponds to a journey from east to west, with the trees closest to the lake forming the polar tree line. The arboretum currently contains 78 species of trees and about 40 species of shrubs and tall herbs, mainly as underplantings.

One of the most successful trees in the arboretum is Cercidiphyllum magnificum, received as a packet of seeds from the botanic garden in Tokyo in 1975. Dahurian larch (Larix gmelinii) grew well at first, but the last four or five years have been difficult, with unstable winters and serious damage from late spring frosts.

The systematic garden is divided into subsections by hedges of Alpine redcurrant (Ribes alpinum). Each subsection represents a separate plant order. The subsections/orders are arranged according to evolutionary history, as set out by Professor Armen Takhtajan in his Flowering Plants: Origin and Dispersal (1973). Openings in the hedges indicate different evolutionary lines. Plant species have been selected to give the best possible presentation of the order in question, although their layout and grouping within a subsection is decided entirely on a horticultural and aesthetic basis. There is room for lawns and a number of benches, and the terrain has necessitated some walls and terraces. Each subsection/order presents itself as an individual garden in its own right and yet forms part of a whole.

There are now 50 orders, represented by some 1200 species. Of individual plants, Magnolia salicifolia is worth special mention. When it first flowered, in 1989, it was the first time that a Magnolia had flowered in this part of Norway and it created much excitement.

Ringve Botanical Garden has a permanent staff of one botanist, one head gardener and two gardeners, as well as some seasonal workers.

It is estimated that the garden had about 18,000 visitors in 1992, calculated by counting the number of people to be observed at different times of the day and different days of the week. Admission is free. Since 1990, courses in guiding parties have been arranged for members of our Society of Friends, and we can now provide guiding in four languages. As a direct result of this development, we are now advertising guided tours at fixed times, in cooperation with travel agencies.

Contact with the public is given high priority. Much time is spent giving advice, answering questions and identifying plants, by post, telephone or for personal callers. The whole staff takes part in this activity.

The garden still has undeveloped areas. Plans for the future include:

  • An alpine garden
  • A historical section - showing the immigration of plants and development of plant associations since the last glaciation.
  • Plant breeding - from wild species to cultivated forms.
  • Economically important plants.
  • Public greenhouses.