History - Vriendenvereniging Hortus Haren

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The Botanical Gardens of the State University of Groningen were founded in 1642 by Henricus Munting, an apothecary and botanist. Munting’s first garden was located in the Roosenstraet in Groningen and this was later extended towards the Kruisstraet. Unfortunately all that remains of this garden is a single tree.

In 1691 the garden became part of the State University of Groningen.  By the 20th century the garden had grown too large for its site in Groningen and in 1917 the University of Groningen purchased the large estate of Landgoed De Wolf in Haren, where there was plenty of room for expansion. From 1929 a new Botanical Garden was created on that site and the total area of the Hortus is now 20 hectare.

The first area to be laid out was the Laarmantuin (tuin = garden), named after the man who designed it in the 1930’s. Later more land was purchased and an area was set aside for the Biology Centre. The tropical hothouse was built in 1966. For its time it was a very large greenhouse with metal ribs on the outside and a single layer of glass. (Regrettably it has now become too expensive to keep this greenhouse heated).

In another part of the gardens is an enormous ‘rock garden’ (Dutch:  rotstuin). This cliff-face was built in the 1970’s using boulder clay which was excavated here to make room for the basement of the newly-built Biology Centre. On this mountain pieces of rock were placed and other material from many different mountain ranges in Europe. Streams and a water-fall were then added and finally the area was planted.

In 1986 the Hortus was privatised because the University of Groningen closed the Botany faculty and there was no money available to continue financing the maintenance of the gardens. The gardens were newly laid out with new sight-lines and a division into a “natural” section and a “formal” area. The boulevard along the ‘Grand Canal’ is part of this new design. Themed gardens were laid out along the boulevard (a water garden, bamboo garden, gardens in a single colour, hydrangea garden and rose garden). Several gardens were also transferred here from one of the Floriade festivals.

The Chinese Garden, built in 1995 and unique in Europe, is a historical reconstruction of a garden from the Ming period. This proved to be a very popular attraction from the outset. People came to see how the garden had been laid out and constructed - literally by hand - by a group of workers from China.
Later the renovation of the English Garden (originally from the Floriade) attracted a great deal of attention. In the spring of 1999 the Celtic Garden was laid, designed by Bram Rammeloo. This is not a historical reconstruction but a fantasy garden, with elements from the ancient Celtic culture of Ireland. The idea came from nurseryman Klaas Poppinga. He wanted to have a Celtic tree circle and a horoscope in order to demonstrate his cylindrical and pyramid-shaped tree varieties.

Unfortunately, maintaining the Hortus as an independent Botanic Garden, without any subsidy, became steadily more difficult, and in 2002 it was impossible to avoid bankruptcy. However, the gardens quickly re-opened following a commitment made by the University of Groningen to the Foundation managing the gardens – the Stichting Behoud Groene Hortus (SBGH) – to provide financial support until 2012.


The Association of Friends was founded in 1985 to preserve the Hortus Henricus Munting. Its role has always been a relatively modest one, both before and after the effective independence of the Hortus in 1986.

Various directors and boards of management have tried for some time to turn the Hortus into a profitable enterprise and they have involved the Association in their decision-making to a larger or lesser degree. The Association played a very important role immediately before and after bankruptcy was declared in 2002. Since the financial  commitment from the University came to an end in 2012, the Association of Friends is now the only source of support for the Stichting Behoud Groene Hortus – the Foundation which runs the Hortus – both in financial and in practical terms. Many of the volunteers who now maintain the gardens and keep them open come from the ranks of our members.

There is regular contact between the Association and the Board of the Foundation (SBGH), which manages the Hortus. The chairman of the Friends attends meetings of the Foundation and has in this way gained more of an advisory role.

In 2012 and the beginning of 2013 the Association of Friends has embarked on a project to restore the oldest part of the gardens, the Laarmantuin, and to gain for it the status of a National Plant Collection. (see also the page dedicated to the Laarmantuin)

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