Kerkrade Botanical Garden

The Garden

In 1937, the “Limburg Horticultural Association” presented a plan to the “State Mining Social Fund” for the creation of a garden, the aim of which was to inform miners and their families about plants. In 1938, the well-known garden designer from Oisterwijk, John Bergmans (1892 – 1980), was commissioned to draw up plans for two areas of land adjoining each other. At the church on St. Hubertuslaan he designed a landscape park which was completely surrounded by a band of vegetation and which featured curved paths and a kidney-shaped pond. For the area of land at Callistusstraat, a former factory site, he designed a rock garden.

Botanische tuin Kerkrade

The creation of a botanical garden must have been an ideal job for John Bergmans. His use of form as a landscape designer was not exactly revolutionary. All the more impressive, on the other hand, was his expert knowledge of planting, especially with regard to the use of shrubs and herbaceous perennials. He was also particularly interested in rock plants. These small-flowered species were at the time above all a reaction to the garishly-coloured annuals which were over-abundant in traditional parks and gardens. Bergmans wrote four books on rock plants during his lifetime: Rotsplanten in kleine tuinen (1923), Vaste planten en rotsheesters (1924), De rotstuin praktisch handboek (1928) and De rotstuin (1934). Today, both the landscape garden and the rock garden remain a visual delight – not merely due to their rich variety of herbaceous perennials and plants - and are well worth an extended visit.

Botanische tuin Kerkrade

The landscape garden offers numerous charming views across its slightly upward-sloping lawns as well as of its ponds and various groups of trees and bushes. Here Bergmans combined the basic principles of landscape style as described by English garden designer Humphry Repton (1752 -1818) with the modern use of herbaceous borders. He succeeded in generating a sense of space and variation within a relatively small area on the one hand while managing to show a large variety of plants from mainly temperate climatic zones on the other.

Botanische tuin Kerkrade

Jos van Loo, the master gardener at Schloss Wijlre, was appointed director of the Botanical Gardens in 1939. However, the Second World War forced the botanical garden to be put to more prosaic use – potatoes and vegetables were grown for the occupying forces. The botanical character of the garden was restored after 1945. New plants were added and an entrance gate built at St. Hubertuslaan. The area was extended twice, whereby Bergmans was once again entrusted with the role of garden designer.

In 1972, the “State Mining Social Fund” transferred ownership of the meanwhile derelict botanical garden to the municipality of Kerkrade. Today, the “Kerkrade Botanical Garden Foundation” looks after the maintenance, administration and cultivation of the site and oversees its use for educational purposes for both botanists and interested visitors. The garden, which has always specialised in the flora of Limburg province, has been home to a collection of threatened succulents from Madagascar since the construction of a greenhouse in the nineties. The care of the Madagascar collection, which includes some significant Euphorbia (spurges), was a condition for an increase in the garden’s subsidy from the Biological Board.

In 1998, Kerkrade Botanical Garden was added to the list of national monuments. Readings are held and excursions organised in the visitor centre, which was inaugurated in 1992.