Visiting the botanical garden in Vácrátót is an ideal choice either if you wish to get to know the flora of Hungary in the largest arboretum of the country or just take a pleasant walk in an amazing environment. A great programme for any age group.
The National Botanical Garden in Vácrátót is home to one of the richest scientific collections of plant species in Hungary. The garden established 200 years ago has a status of a scheduled monument and natural protection. Following an extensive network of pathways scattered with bridges and tunnels visitors may explore ponds formed by damming a creek, artificial ruins and a castle in an everchanging natural environment. From spring to autumn, a cavalcade of roses fascinates guests. Colourful patches of systematic collections tempt not only visitors but various butterflies, bees and other bugs too. Every season offers something different and guided tours change month by month.
An interactive exhibition on the rowan and the forest involves every age group in learning. Those planning to create a rock garden at home may gain abundant inspiration here. You can explore the palm house in a rainforest-like atmosphere and the cactus house presents a variety of succulents. By watching carefully, you may spot several of the 62 species of birds, 73 species of molluscs and 22 species of fish.
It is advisable to allow a whole day for the 27-hectare garden. There are several benches along the paths to take a rest but the tropical house (Trópusi-ház), the water mill and Ferenc Mound (Ferenc-halom) offer even a picnic spot with benches and tables. Dining facilities are not available except vending machines.
Various programmes are offered to present the history of the garden or plants referenced in the Bible and even a watercolour painting course with plants of the garden as models. Several types of information booklets at the ticket office and guided tours (booked in advance) for groups and individuals are available for a more enhanced exploration of the garden.
The history of the arboretum
The garden was first mentioned in a land registry from 1827 as a property of the Géczys. A military map from 1842 clearly shows it with winding pathways, ponds and clearings. After changing hands a few times, the land was purchased by Earl Sándor Vigyázó in 1871. He invited renowned designer Vilmos Jámbor, who also had Archduke Joseph of Austria among his clients, to remodel the garden. The works began under the management of chief gardener Henrik Band and a few decades later it turned into a romantic landscape garden. Typical elements include ponds, gently rolling hillocks, clearings set against trees of special colour or foliage, artificial waterfalls and historicist garden buildings.
By the end of the 19th century, a new planting design trend had emerged favouring collections of exotic plants arranged in an aesthetic way, which greatly affected the current layout of the arboretum.
Earl Vigyázó left all his wealth to the Hungarian Academy of Science (1921), however, due to long disputes over inheritance and, of course, the war the garden was left neglected until the 1950s. It was only in 1952 when the Botanical Research Institute was established here under the management of Prof. Miklós Ujvárosi, who developed it into a botanical garden preserving its original style. By 1961 it had reached the condition to open for the public.
Botanical values and rarities
Out of the four main collections it is that of trees that contains the most species, especially ones from East and Central Asia with various specimens of maples, cotoneasters, guelder roses, lime trees, ashes. Several ancient trees commemorate major eras of garden design in the 19th century (“plane tree era” or “pine era”) with specimens of plane trees, common oaks, red oaks, common hackberries, black walnuts, honey locusts, Pannonian ashes, white elms, firs, spruces, bald cypresses and common yews, for example. The special microclimate of this old section makes undergrowth quite rich too with myriads of early spiring herbaceous and bulbous plants under the shadow of the trees and clearings.
The Taxonomic Collection presents flowering plants systematically by their evolutionary relations. This is the largest collection of the country and renowned internationally also with 2500-2800 species and varieties of 80 families.
The collection of perennials and rock garden plants contains nearly 3,100 species of plants with a bulb, tuber or rhizome, e.g. 400 different plantain lilies. The Greenhouse Collection displays 3,000 species and varieties of tropical climate planted in separate houses in accordance with their varying needs for temperature, humidity and light. Visitors may enter the 15-metre-high house of palms and tropical plants, the house of orchids and bromeliads as well as the house of cacti and succulents.
Buildings and follies
The arboretum has preserved its landscape garden design so it has a protected historic garden status. The most important architectural elements include the pond system made by damming Sződ-Rákos Creek, the watermill, the waterfall, the tunnel, Ferenc Mound, and the ruin folly. The statue of “the girl with chello”, “the Forest Fairy”, the bust of Earl Sándor Vigyázó and the Monumental Column of Botanists were erected more recently.
The garden has a nature reserve status with numerous protected species. As a member of Pannonian Seed Bank project, the National Botanical Garden has developed methodologies for the collection and storage of seeds from the biogeographical region as well as experiments in plant reintroduction and carried out further related tasks. They have also played a major role in establishing and maintaining extensive records on fauna (birds, fish, insects and molluscs) and mushroom.