A wine press house turns into university – the beginnings
The Arboretum of Buda has become one of the richest botanical garden in the country. Its origin is closely linked to the foundation of the Training Institute of Wine Making and Horticulture. The founder, Ferenc Entz (1805-1877) worked as a viticulturist and horticulturist, although he is also known for serving as a chief military physician during the Independence War of 1848. His bust is displayed at Building A in the Lower Garden.
It was Entz who established the first garden for horticultural education in Hungary, which later on gained recognition continent-wide. The first building (currently E building) on the left in the Upper Garden used to function as a wine press house as hillsides of Buda used to be covered with vineyards until the devastation of the philloxera epidemic in the late 1800s. The eclectic style building just opposite the entrance (Building F) used to host the management board office.
Planting works began around the two buildings in autumn of 1893 and spring of 1894 by the plans of chief horticulturist and dendrologist Károly Räde. The arrangement of the plants according to taxonomic classification served educational purposes. It was also Räde who designed the green houses and supervised their construction.
Besides the green houses and outdoor crops around 1000 types of trees and shrubs as well as 90 perennials were planted in 3 hectares. Some of them have survived until today with an age over 125 years.
In the 1920s expansion was necessary and the other side of Ménesi Street was attached to the arboretum forming two parts (Upper Garden, Lower Garden). Based on a concept by landscape architect Dr. Béla Rerrich the project was managed by dendrologist Gyula Magyar, also teacher of the training institute. Several rarities were planted extending the botanical collection to more than 1300 species.
The Lower Garden was designed to follow a different arrangement concept compared to that of the Upper Garden. Unlike in the Upper Garden arrangement was based on plant communities with plants of similar needs rather than taxonomic classification. As a result a park-like garden was established with 19 thematic groups of plant communities. Following the map of the arboretum it is easy to find the rock garden, bamboos, shade-loving plants, climbing plants or pines, just to mention a few. The green houses are home to subtropical plants and a tiny pond in the Lower Garden displays an aquatic plant community.
Unfortunately, plants demanding special soil conditions, climate and care were short-lived and the two world wars also caused considerable damages. Marks of firearms are still visible on the trunk of some old trees. The number of species dropped to around 800.
Post-war years brought progress again. The training institute had outgrown this location by then so the educational farm was relocated to the outskirts of the city. Rehabilitation could begin under the management of Prof. Imre Ormos. Damaged and old plants were replaced. The number of specimens per species was increased to assure their survival.
The arboretum today
It gained a nature reserve status in 1975 and since 2005 it has been a protected heritage site open to the public. Visitors may enjoy blooming flowers in spring, 30 species of native singing birds in summer, foliage in a variety of colours in autumn and sleeping nature in winter, all hidden in the middle of a bustling city. To the left of the entrance across the parking lot a map guides visitors and plant tags help to identify plants.
Since 2018 the arboretum has also functioned as a campus of Szent István University. Students may graduate as horticulturists, landscape designers, viticulturists, wine makers and brewers here.
The Lower Garden hosts an ornamental plant fair and exhibition every spring and autumn.