Madrid’s Royal Botanical Garden, Denoting A City Of Abandoned Splendor

I find the garden still more beautiful in this way, imparting at once tragedy and history.

MADRID BOTANICAL GARDEN
PHOTO DRISANA MISRA

The Bourbon kings of the mid 18th century commissioned the Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid during a time of great hope for Spain. They were enlightened kings who aimed to revive and rescue Spain from the decay and bankruptcy brought on by the empire’s demise.  But today, the garden’s faded beauty markedly denotes their reform period as a failed attempt, a remnant of the city’s abandoned splendor.

It seems that the only object of horticulture that can flourish here are bonsai plants. Various white pine, juniper, Japanese Maple, and other alien species grow potted in miniature form along the path. Many of the collection are gifts and utterly dependent on human indulgence. They cannot afford to not take care of them.

MADRID BOTANICAL GARDEN
PHOTO DRISANA MISRA

There are few blooms in the main gardens. Every stir of wind between the leaves seems to suggest the ghostly wisps of linen-frilled, lace-booted aristocracy. They can almost be heard frolicking and laughing in youthful air. But there are hardly even tourists plodding through the grounds.

I find the garden still more beautiful in this way, imparting at once tragedy and history. There is wisdom in the poorly tended roses, dismantled fountains, and persisting grace of labyrinth’s path.  Even the sun casts a gentle haze about the wilting blooms, speckling their veins black with mold.

I wander beneath a trailing garden arbor, once heavy with flora, now bare as the spine of beached whalebones, and come to a clearing encircled by hedges. The soil in the center is combed into a dome to behold, from which sprout, rather than Amazonian flowers, yellow-dried stalks, rising upward and upward until they collapse, never having culminated in fruited blossom.

Madrid, all your gold is yellow husked.

MADRID BOTANICAL GARDEN
PHOTO DRISANA MISRA

Drisana Misra

Originally from Mountain Brook, AL, Drisana can't travel without a compilation of short stories. Her secret travel tip is, "Write down every reflection, no matter how stupid and even if you think you’ll remember it later."

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