The National Botanical Garden of Georgia (former Tbilisi Botanical Garden) is a leading research, cultural-educational and nature conservation institution in the country.
The National Botanical Garden (NBGG) has a long history; its predecessor was a royal botanical garden established in the early XVII c in the lower part of Tsavkisistskali gorge (frequently referred to as “Leghvtakhevi” - Fig gorge) located south of the historical part of the city. The royal garden collections comprised ornamental and medicinal plants. It was assigned a formal status of botanical garden in 1845.
Some highlights about the National Botanical Garden of Georgia, in Tbilisi (Georgia)
1 Botaniukuri St. 0105 Tbilisi
Coordinates: 41.68583, 44.80283
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Every day from 9:00 to 17:30
Phone: 00995 322 724 306
Garden is located in the central part of the capital city. Via steep Botanikuri street from the bath district (Abanotubani) and Sololaki ridge from Rike park via cable car.
The Garden has a long history. Narikala, the Medieval fortress of Tbilisi, occupies the Sololaki ridge on the northern border of the Garden and in the Middle Ages, the area was covered with the orchards of Georgian kings. The French traveller Jean Chardin, who spent several months in Tbilisi in 1672, wrote that in the royal garden, along with fruit trees, he saw beautiful large trees which created shade and coolness. In 1701, the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort observed that plants were well-kept in the royal garden. In the late Middle Ages, a Muslim cemetery appeared next to the garden.
On the plan of Tbilisi made by Prince Vakhushti Bagrationi in 1735, a garden occupies a long and narrow area on the right bank of the Tsavkisistskali river between the present Queen Tamar’s Bridge and the former Muslim cemetery. On the map, it is labelled as the “fortress garden”, which may mean that it no longer belonged to the royal family.
These maps also indicate that a route existed through the current area of the gardens, from east to west, crossing the Narikala Fortress, which formed part of the Silk Road. Another route joined it, within the boundary of the current garden, called the Anatolia Road, connecting Tbilisi with Turkey.
After the annexation of Georgia by the Russian Empire in 1801, the garden became a state property and a municipal garden was established growing fruit and vegetables. During the 19th century, it was kept and managed by various state organisations and saw several periods of decline and renewal. In 1845, Mikhail Vorontsov, the Russian Viceroy of the Caucasus established the Tbilisi Botanical Garden, expanding the garden into the valley, including the former Muslim cemetery, which occupied rising ground on the right bank of the river, in the vicinity of the current Pantheon of Eminent Azerbaijanis, Rose Garden, North American and East Asian Collections.
In 1872-3 ornamental gardens with trees, shrubs and flowers were created in the area around the Museum building (monument number 010507275) and the ‘French Orangerie’. The Botanical Garden became an academic body in the 1890s, and in 1896 occupied approximately 6.5ha on the southern slopes of the Sololaki range, from the current entrance to the waterfall. By the end of the 19th century, the Botanical Garden was expanded to the west and south-west and its collections grew significantly and it was organised in bio-regional groupings from 1897.
By 1903, the Garden had expanded to the Kojori highway (in the vicinity of the present-day Institute of Botany and the surrounding slopes), and later further land was added on the left bank of the river above the waterfall, in the area of the Mediterranean Collection. Many new plants were introduced and an irrigation system was created. Along with decorative and horticultural functions, the Garden was used as a nursery of Caucasian flora. In 1925 the site was expanded further, and in 1946 the area of the Ornamental Herbaceous Plants Collection, above the sulphur waterfall, was added.
Expansion of the area of the gardens continued to the south of the river in the Soviet period and, in 1956, 28ha was added on the Tabori slopes above the Nursery. Directors and conservators of the Garden Karl Heinrich Scharer, Adolf Christian Roloff, Yuri Voronov and others made considerable contribution to its development. They established cooperation and exchange with many botanical gardens and parks all over the world. In the Soviet period, the Garden acquired new lands reaching 128ha in the 1960s. Special attention was paid to the creation of new collections through plant propagation by both seeds and cuttings.
Since the Independence of Georgia was declared in 1991, a new period began in the history of the Garden. After the economic and political difficulties of 1990s, the situation improved in the 2000s and 2010s and in 2000, the gardens were taken over by the city.
Along with its unique collections of plants, the Botanical Garden has a rich cultural heritage and each phase of development of the Garden can be traced in the landscape, buildings, structures and planting that remain today. A number of these are designated cultural monuments and other more recent features, such as the parterre garden, have become distinctive features of the gardens in their own right.
From the main Botanikuri entrance, a steep path rises up above the river promenade to the west past a group of historic ‘Brick Style’ and two stone towers, with the ruins of the Narikala Fortress directly above. After passing the children’s play area, which occupies two terraces, the main path leads onto the gardens surrounding the former Museum, which still retains elements of the formal bed layout seen in historic photographs and remains of historic structures.
A series of artificial terraces climb up an area of slightly more shallow slopes at the foot of the Sololaki ridge. They are retained by a series of stone and brick walls, some of which have been recently rebuilt. Some of these retain ornamental features and there is potential evidence of earlier phases of retaining walls and structures. With a southerly aspect, the terraces enjoy excellent sun exposure.
This area is currently managed as an arboretum, somewhat densely planted and with many self-set trees. Although much of its historical bed layout survives, edged with small rockery stones as shown in historic photographs. On the terrace above the play area there is a display of subtropical plants. The tree cover now heavily shades the area, limiting the potential for growing other plants.
The principal route from the entrance to the Garden is surfaced with asphalt. Other paths are primarily unsurfaced or surfaced with loose gravel, and some are edged with rockery stone in a variety of sizes. There is a brick paved path with brick edges leading to one of the historic towers.
The Museum is at the heart of the historic terraces, overlooking the core of the ornamental gardens. The historic stone towers are also part of the periphery of the site, along with the ‘Brick Style’ historic guesthouse and laboratory (ticket office) buildings near the Botanikuri entrance. In addition to the remains of the ‘French Orangerie’ ornamental conservatory in the south part of the terraces, there were other greenhouses / conservatories in this area.
The large rectangular pool can be seen in historic photographs to have supported a similar structure, and beyond the existing greenhouse a high brick wall is likely to have supported a lean-to greenhouse. There is a pool with a stature remains on the Museum terrace. Historic photographs show a single jet fountain with a pool was previously located in the vicinity. Further up the slope adjacent to the main path below the Sololaki Ridge, there is a substantial brick built grotto with evidence of artificial tufa rustication partially adhering to the brickwork.
A variety of utilities cross the area, most of which are underground. There are some above-ground irrigation network pipes. There is a large, meshcovered rectangular cistern in the north part of the area.
Benches and bins in this area are in a slatted-timber style. There are some with ornamental cast-iron or steel ends, and another type with a curved seat and back. There are several signs and plant tags identifying specimens of interest and orientation signs at some path junctions. There are lampposts at the main path junction in an historic gas lamp style. Views out of the area are limited by the surrounding trees, although there is potential for views out across the river to the gardens beyond.