Orchid blossom from the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens


The acquisition of valuable collections was one of the princes' greatest passions in the 18th century. They collected paintings, porcelain or books as well as plants. After all, the gardens surrounding the palace were a princely representation.

Aerial view of Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens

Aerial view of the former princely pleasure gardens.


A main courtyard to the front, a garden to the back, this was the typical design used in baroque palace complexes. Karlsruhe's was different, due to its complicated historical origin: Margrave Karl Wilhelm von Baden-Durlach was a plant lover and the palace was south-facing. That is why the princely pleasure gardens were established in front of the sprawling wings of the Karlsruhe Residential Palace. The hunting area was located behind the palace.

Bird's-eye view of the Residential Palace and the city of Karlsruhe, copper engraving, 1739, Christian Thran

Reminders of its former glory.


Impressive copper engravings based on drawings by court gardener Christian Thran (1701–1778) are striking reminders of the pleasure gardens. At Karl Wilhelm's behest, Thran traveled to collect plants, including a trip to Africa, where he acquired palms and camphor trees. A 1733 inventory listed 2,000 plant species within the gardens. Citrus trees overwintered in the orangery, then located south-west of the palace. They symbolized the ruler's eternal life and the fruits were used in cooking.

Watercolor folio from the Karlsruhe Book of Tulips

Bulbs created a true tulip mania.


The 17th century saw an outright tulip mania. Flowers from the Orient were still valued in the 18th century, for example by Margrave Karl Wilhelm von Baden-Durlach. He himself traveled to Holland several times to buy bulbs. He had 6,000 plants from his garden, of which 5,300 were tulips, immortalized in detailed watercolors in the so-called "Karlsruhe Book of Tulips". 72 folios remain and are kept at the Baden State Library, an impressive abundance of colors and shapes.


Karl Wilhelm died of a stroke in 1738, he was in his garden, supposedly gardening. His successor, Karl Friedrich, and Karl Friedrich's wife, Karoline Luise, began systematically collecting plants in the 1760s, including those of scientific relevance. A 1791 inventory listed 4,000 species. Even in the year of his death, 1811, Karl Friedrich sent garden inspector Andreas Johann Hartweg to Paris to buy plants. At that time, there were already 6,000 species in the Karlsruhe gardens, including many agricultural plants.

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