Orchids & Orangeries: Aspects of private gardens in the late 17th-century Dutch Republic

In the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic the arts of the garden held a great attraction for the wealthy owners of large private estates. Orangeries and hothouses allowed encounters with the exotic plants and fruits of the Mediterranean and the New World, and a collaboration of gardening enthusiasts, horticulturalists, botanists, collectors and writers contributed to scientific knowledge and understanding of nature.  

Orangery Gateway Gunterstein (1680s?)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The Flute's Garden of Delights by 17th-century Dutch composer Jacob van Eyck

Fagel House Building Plans (1706?)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The Fagel Collection at Trinity College Dublin

Purchased for Trinity College in 1802, this library was assembled over a period of a century and a half by several generations of the Fagel family, many of whom held high public office in the province of Holland. It is enormously rich in French, Dutch and English works on politics, religion, economics, sciences, natural history and travel, and reflects the professional concerns of the family. The material ranges in date from 1460 to 1799 with the greater volume of material published in the 18th century and relates to all parts of the world, but with a particular emphasis on Europe and areas outside Europe where the Dutch had trading or colonial interests. The Fagel map collection is one of the finest in the world. There is an exceptional collection of printed botanical books of scientific importance, displaying the book arts of illustration, typography and design at the highest levels. As the working library of an affluent urban family living in The Hague, keenly interested in acquiring knowledge and in the interpretation of the contemporary world, the Fagel Collection is truly a unique treasure. Learn more about the Collection at www.tcd.ie/library/fagel.

Fagel House Garden plans (1700/1710)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

Section from a set of construction plans for the Fagel House in The Hague, built by François Fagel the Elder around 1706. The importance given to the garden is in the tradition of his uncle Gaspar Fagel who had a famous garden with many exotic and rare plants at Leeuwenhorst, near Leiden, during the latter part of the 17th century.

Part of the extensive flowerbeds extending to the stables, rubbish and ash pits, bleaching field and arbour alongside the canal bordering the Noordeinde palace. Separately, there is a detailed planting plan for varieties of tulips sown here in 1718. The plans for the first floor of the house indicate an orangery where citrus and delicate plants could be cultivated.

Clingendael Garden Plan (1690s?)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

Great Estates and Gardens

During the 17th century
houses and gardens on large private estates were constructed and developed by the  landed gentry and the new class of rich merchants. Many proud owners commissioned detailed
engravings of the buildings and elaborate gardens. They formed a network of botanical collectors and amateur horticulturalists exchanging plants and knowledge, not only with each other but with professional botanists and writers of important botanical works. Some of them with gardens of renown growing rare and exotic plants in a area near Amsterdam, Leiden and The Hague, and further inland along the river Vecht in Utrecht will be encountered in this exhibition. This print features Clingendael near The Hague, presenting a vista of the estate from East to West
and showing the influence of French baroque garden design and architecture.

The orangery is on the right, an enclosed space entered by a lattice gate (13) with central pond and fountain (14) and the heated orangery building (15).

Orangery Parterre (1715) by Antoine-Joseph Dezallier d'Argenville (1680-1765)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The design of the gardens was carefully planned and elaborate patterns were devised as in this plate with examples of three parterres: one in the English style, one a flower garden, and one for an orangery including typical elements such as statues, a fountain and citrus trees on display.

Arrival of the Hesperides at Naples (1646) by Giovanni Battista FerrariThe Library of Trinity College Dublin


Several works on citrus fruits published around this time reference the Hesperides in their title, being the garden of the Hesperides which belonged to the goddess Hera. Its golden apples of Greek myth became equated with oranges and other citrus fruits  and conferred immortality, therefore they were a precious fruit to be treasured and revered. Arriving in Europe possibly as early as 830 AD to Sicily, citrus trees came to be cultivated in Northern Europe towards the latter half of the 17th century when they were enthusiastically grown and displayed by professional and amateur horticulturalists alike, symbols of gardening success and high status. Orangeries were a feature of Italian and French large gardens and palaces, and in the Netherlands they were  developed to a high degree of technical expertise. In this drawing the three nymphs of the Hesperides arrive in Naples accompanied by musicians, with mermen carrying the precious fruits to shore.

Aurantium Flore Duplici (1646) by Giovanni Battista FerrariThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

This outstanding study of citrus fruits in all their varieties was compiled by Italian Jesuit Giovanni Battista Ferrari, a friend of Galileo. Their origin, methods of cultivation, and medicinal uses are described and many of the engravings are by the Dutch printmaker Cornelis Bloemaert.

Pruning Tools (1646) by Giovanni Battista FerrariThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Methods of pruning were described in detail in many contemporary works on citriculture and Ferrari deems these two pruning knives to warrant a place to the fore in this print, which also shows an example of the ornate containers used for growing and display.

Orangery at Sorgvliet (1690s)The Library of Trinity College Dublin


Orangeries allowed the growing of citrus fruits in Northern climates, where they could be overwintered inside, and brought out to be proudly displayed in summer. This magnificent semi-circular orangery at Sorgvliet near The Hague was built ca 1676, probably designed by Maurits Post in Italian Renaissance style.  The central pond and the arrangement of the trees complement the form of the architecture, and entry by a small bridge over a water course is an appealing part of the design. It is truly a pleasure garden where visitors stroll and converse, marvelling at all the delights for the senses.

Great Hall of the Orangery at Sorgvliet. Exterior (1690s)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The orangery of a grand estate like Sorglviet was often built to function as a place to entertain guests with parties, banquets and balls.

Great Hall of the orangery at Sorgvliet. Interior (1690s)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

The interior design of the aesthetic and entertainment aspects of the great orangeries could receive as much care as the facilities for the plants.

Orangery of Pieter de Wolff. Exterior (1676) by Jan CommelinThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The orangery of Pieter de Wolff, an Amsterdam businessman married to a rich silk merchant, Clementia van der Vecht. The silk business of his own family and that of his wife may have funded this large orangery and garden with statuary and fountains.

Orangery of Commelin (1676) by Jan CommelinThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Jan (Johannes) Commelin was a commissioner at the Hortus Medicus of Amsterdam, now the Hortus Botanicus, which had one of the richest collection of exotic plants in Europe. He and his nephew Caspar were key figures in the world of botany in The Netherlands and beyond. He also maintained his own garden and is seen here supervising the gardeners bringing trees into the orangery for over-wintering.

Leiden Botanic Garden Orangery (1676) by Jan CommelinThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The orangery of the Hortus Botanicus Leiden, founded in 1590. Today its most important research collection is the Orchid Collection.

Views of the River Vecht (1719)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

Along the River Vecht in Breukelen, Utrecht, passing by manor houses, pleasure grounds and castles.

The estates of Boendermaker on the left (1) and the castle of Gunterstein in the distance (2), where Magdalena Poulle had a remarkable garden and collection of exotic plants.

Orangery at Gunterstein (1680s?)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

At Gunterstein it is summertime in the orangery garden, as the pots of plants have been taken outside for airing and display, and a hothouse window is open.

One of the two hothouses at each end of the orangery is a source of interest for visitors.

Dragon Fountain Gunterstein (1680s?)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

Gunterstein's famous Dragon Fountain. As in the mythical Garden of the Hesperides, the precious fruits are guarded by a dragon.

Weesp and Muyden in North Holland (1719)The Library of Trinity College Dublin

Daily life on the River Vecht is seen in this print of the towns of Weesp and Muyden in North Holland. Rural and urban life could also be hard for many citizens of the Republic, with civil unrest, Anglo-Dutch and Anglo-French wars, and religious conflict in Europe. Dutch newspapers reported events at home and abroad; the Oprechte Haerlemse Courant of 14 June 1692 refers to a local revolt in Ireland in Co. Kerry, and tracks arrivals, departures and loss of ships deployed at war and in the Dutch colonies.

Lots of activity at the sea dyke at Muyden, with its castle in the background.

Sluice-gates in North Holland. (1680) by Jan Jansz DouThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Lakker - clip from Emergo

Water management in Holland was vital then as now, evinced by this elaborately illustrated depiction of sluice-gates in Kennemerland. Weather, storms and floods were of great concern to this low-lying land. While tropical plants were being grown in hothouses, Holland was experiencing severe winters along with much of Northern Europe.

The audio is a clip from the track Emergo, from "Struggle & Emerge" by Irish band Lakker. This is a composition commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to examine the relationship between the Dutch and water.

Man Writing a Letter (National Gallery of Ireland) (1660s) by Gabriel MetsuThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Exotic Plants and Botanical Illustration

This was the Golden Age of the Dutch Republic, and its gardens invited skilled architects, designers and botanical illustrators to flourish within the visual arts and the botanical sciences. It was also the era of extensive Dutch exploration and travel which transformed the nature and visual aspect of the gardens at home. These were above all the large privately-owned, the princely (Het Loo and Honselaarsdijk), and the botanic gardens of Amsterdam, Leiden and Utrecht. Behind the open casement in Gabriel Metsu's painting a large globe is in a prominent position, reminiscent of that in Vermeer's painting of The Geographer.  Several other Dutch painters reflected this sense of discovery of the wider world in their domestic interiors with globes, maps and charts, and also featured exotic flowers, fruit and shells.  

Accuratissima Totius Asiae Tabula Recens Emendata (1680) by Frederick de WitThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The Dutch were leaders in the science and art of map-making and atlas production in the 17th century. The Dutch East India and Dutch West India Companies played a vital role in the advancement of cartography and also commissioned botanists and artists to record the natural history of lands they had re-discovered.

The cartouche in this map of Asia shows a Jesuit and traders with their exotic cargo. Jesuit missionaries were often responsible for surveying and mapping territories where they were active and sometimes adopted elements of local costume.

Pineapple from Surinam (1719) by Maria Sibylla MerianThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Supreme botanical illustrator and entomologist Maria Merian chose the pineapple for the first two illustrations in her classic work on the metamorphosis of insects in the Dutch colony of Surinam in South America. She spent two years there studying and drawing the insects and flora for one of the most beautiful books on natural history ever published.

Ripe Pineapple from Surinam (1719) by Maria Sibylla MerianThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The orangery could not provide the conditions needed for growing tropical flowers and fruits. The Dutch led the development of the hothouse, pioneered at the botanic garden of the Hortus Medicus Amsterdam in 1682. Hot stoves, under-floor heating, light and ventilation were key elements which enabled the pineapple and other exotic plants to be grown in Europe.

Agnes Block (Amsterdams Historisch Museum) (1694?) by Jan WeenixThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Agnes Block was the first to fruit a pineapple plant in Europe. Her pineapple appears in this portrait with her family at Vijverhof on the River Vecht, with greenhouses and hothouses, aviaries and exotic plants in the background.

Agnes's pineapple is on the left; the book on the right is most likely a volume from her famous florilegia. She invited the best Dutch floral artists of the time to come to Vijverhof and portray her collection.

Pineapple with Ships (1714) by Johann Georg VolckamerThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Silk merchant Johann Volckamer maintained a city garden, Gostenhof, in Nuremberg where he grew citrus and exotic fruits. For this work he commissioned illustrations based on some of his own produce. He also described an old wooden style of orangery, with the roof insulated with straw and loam.

Gaspar Fagel (Haags Historisch Museum) (1600s) by Johannes Vollevens de OudeThe Library of Trinity College Dublin


Gaspar (or Caspar) Fagel (1634 – 1688) was a Dutch statesman with the title of Greffier and Grand Pensioner of Holland in the era of Stadholder William III, Prince of Orange. A resident of the Hague, he rented an estate at Leeuwenhorst, in the same province of South Holland, and here he created a garden of renown. He was one of the community of collectors and amateur horticulturalists growing exotic plants from the Dutch colonies and many of the plants he grew were referenced in the great botanical works of the time. His garden was visited by famous botanists such as Paul Hermann, Jacob Breyne, John Watts and Richard Richardson. The plants grown there came from many parts of the world and especially from the Dutch colonies in Ceylon, Malabar, Indonesia and the Cape, Brazil, Surinam, Curaçao and North America.  Fagel was the first to bring a tropical orchid into flower in Europe. 

Orchid Vignette (1651) by Francisco HernándezThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The first European depiction of a tropical orchid appeared as a woodcut and vignette theme in a work on plants with medicinal properties in the Spanish Empire in the New World. Cultivated by the Aztecs of central Mexico, it is described by Francisco Hernández, the physician of Philip II, under its Indian name Coatzonte coxochitl. (Now called Stanhopea hernandezii)

Epidendron Corassavicum (1698) by Paul HermannThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

This engraving of Epidendron Curassavicum folio crasso sulcato is the first record of a tropical orchid in cultivation in Europe. Originating in Curaçao, in present nomenclature it is Brassavola nodosa, popularly called Lady-of-the-Night because of the pleasant nocturnal fragrance of its white flowers. As an epiphytic orchid growing on trees in the tropical rain-forest, a hothouse would have been required to bring it into flower in Northern Europe.

In the accompanying description Hermann presents an image drawn from life, as seen growing "in Horto Fageliano" (in Fagel’s garden). Paul Hermann was medical officer to the Dutch East India Company in Sri Lanka, and later director of the famous botanic garden at the University of Leiden.
He recorded in his notebook details of the plants which he saw in the gardens he visited; he includes a list of plants from Fagel’s garden, and Fagel sent him seeds and cuttings for his herbarium.

Ambon and Neighbouring Islands (1724) by François ValentijnThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Georg E. Rumphf (Rumphius) was one of the great tropical naturalists of the seventeenth century. Born in Germany, he spent most of his life working for the Dutch East India Company, stationed on the island of Ambon in eastern Indonesia. His Ambonese herbal describing the native plants of that island and its archipelago is a masterpiece of tropical botanical literature.

Orchis Amboinensis (1698) by Paul HermannThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Rumphius named this white orchid Flos Susannae after his wife, a native of the island: “in memory of her who during her life was my first mate and helpmeet when searching for herbs and plants, and who showed me this flower also.” (Now called Pecteilis susannae or Habaneria susannae.)

Hieronymus van Beverningk (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam) (1670) by Jan de BaenThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Hieronymus van Beverningk was another statesman and cultivator of exotic plants whose plant collection and library was an important source for writers of botanical works. The garden at his country house Oud-Teylingen, close to Leiden, features as background in this portrait, and diarist Contanstijn Hugens mentions meeting him on several occasions in the company of Fagel.

Exotic and Rare Plants Title Page (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Polish merchant and botanist Jakob Breyne visited private gardens in the Netherlands to gather information for his works on exotic and rare plants around the world. He describes his visits and gives lists of plants from the gardens of Fagel and Van Beverningk, among others.

Orchis cercopithecum (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Breyne gives praise and prominence to Van Beverningk's wonderful garden where he observed some of these rare terrestrial orchids, including this one "of beautiful appearance".

Portuguese Orchis apem (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A rare bee orchid, introduced into the Netherlands from Portugal. A reference to Van Beverningk's garden - [BE]VERNINGIANO in HORTO can be partially read where the text shows through the plate (referring to Orchis cercopithecum).

The blue Orchis muscam majorem coeruleam (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Breyne writes of the visual pleasure to be found in observing all the varieties of orchids such as this lovely cerulean blue specimen.

Vanilla Orchid (1703) by Charles PlumierThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The vanilla orchid was brought to Europe from Mexico but could only be pollinated by a bee unique to its native habitat. A method of hand-pollination was not discovered until the 19th century.

Spice Islands (1600s) by Jan JanssonThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Jansson's decorative map of the fabled Spice Islands in Indonesia ( Maluku Islands or the Moluccas). On the sea are European and local ships, two of which are engaged in battle. The Spice Wars saw European rivals in conflict to control the lucrative spice trade. The negative side of European expansion included slavery and destruction of indigenous people and cultures.

Camellia sinensis (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The cultivation, preparation and properties of tea in Japan are covered here in an eleven-page appendix. This was written by a Dutch surgeon and botanist with the Dutch East India Company, Willem ten Rhyne. Tea was introduced to the Netherlands early in the 17th century from China and later came from Dutch plantations in Java and Sumatra. Tea bushes were observed in the gardens of Agnes Block and Gaspar Fagel.

Plumeria rubra from Surinam (1719) by Maria Sibylla MerianThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A frangipane from Merian's book on Surinamese insects showing different stages in the metamorphosis of the Red Cracker Butterfly.

Jasmin Semper Americana (1696) by Abraham MuntingThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Gelsemium sempervirens or Yellow Jasmine is a climbing vine with fragrant yellow flowers, native to the southern Atlantic states of the USA and Central America. Jasmine plants recorded as growing in these Dutch gardens would have lent their scent to the perfumed air of the pleasure gardens.

Munting included this poisonous plant in his work on medical botany, which is lavishly illustrated, and shows the plants against carefully composed landscapes.

Aloe purpura laevis (1696) by Abraham MuntingThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A striking hand-coloured engraving of a purple aloe by Munting. The style of presentation with ribbons bearing the Latin name of the plant, and the insertion of background landscapes was a departure from traditional botanical illustration of the time.

Cape of Good Hope (1738) by Johannes BurmanThe Library of Trinity College Dublin


View of the Cape of Good Hope showing the settlement of the Dutch East India Trading Company (VOC) at Table Mountain. Here was a rich source of rare plants for affluent private collectors and the botanic gardens of the Dutch Republic, and for the gardens of the Stadholder William III.  Many botanists travelled there for first hand encounters with exotic plants, which were collected and carefully packed for transportation back home and possible propagation there. Simon van der Stel was commander, then governor at the Cape until 1699, driving local exploration and increase in scientific knowledge of the local flora and fauna. 

VOC Garden Cape of Good Hope (1727) by Peter KolbThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

The VOC garden supported the provisioning of ships which was initially the main purpose of the settlement, rather than trade. Van der Stel was one of Fagel’s contacts and planted cinnamon, clove and camphor trees in the garden, to be ready for shipment and planting at home. These were ordered to be destroyed to protect the monopoly of the VOC over the spice trade. In 1688 a shipment was made of seventeen cases of trees and plants to the gardens of William, the Hortus Medicus of Amsterdam, and Fagel.

Citrus fruits, figs and apples are being grown at q in the circular pattern of trees on the left-hand plot.

Pelargonium (1685) by Simon van der StelThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Pelargonium from Van der Stel's report to the VOC of his expedition to the Copper Mountains of Namaqualand in 1685. The manuscript is illustrated with images of the flora and fauna he encountered on his journey, most likely drawn by Hendrick Claudius. Described as "a kind of geranium with a sweet and edible root and therefore much favoured by the inhabitants... Found on the 24th September [1685]".

Monsonia spinosa (1738) by Johannes BurmanThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A drawing of the ferocious looking Monsonia spinosa from Burman's work on African plants.

Exotic and Rare Plants Frontispiece (1678) by Jakob BreyneThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A wondrous plant from South Africa enthralls Kings Solomon and Cyrus the Great, along with Greek and Roman botanists Dioscorides and Pliny. Recording his observations is Theophrastus, the Greek writer known as the Father of Botany. The plant has been identified as Conicosia pugioniformis, a common plant around Cape Town.

Letter to Gaspar Fagel (Nationaal Archief) (1688) by Catharina Juliana SeepThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

A letter from Catharina Juliana Seep accompanying a basket of bulbs and a box of seeds sent to Fagel from Cartagena in Colombia in 1688.

Garden Vignette (1696) by Abraham MuntingThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

This allegorical scene in Munting’s floriligium references medicinal properties of plants, toil, and the reward of the beauty and bounty of the garden. After Gaspar Fagel's death in December 1688, his collection of plants was sold to William III, who had them transported to Hampton Court Palace, Middlesex, where they formed the nucleus of Queen Mary's collection there. William had commissioned the painter Cousijn to create a record of the garden and plants at Leeuwenhorst beginning in 1685. The Codex Regius Honselaerdicensis, a manuscript of watercolours is now in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.

Bourrées by Nicolas Vallet, a French composer living in Amsterdam in the 17th century.

Garden Vignette (1696) by Abraham MuntingThe Library of Trinity College Dublin

Gaspar Fagel had many botanical works in his library which was auctioned in The Hague and London. Books such as this exquisite hand-coloured publication by Munting were luxury items and works of art for purchase by wealthy collectors such as the Fagel family, and were also reference works of immense scientific value. The Fagel family continued to collect books on botany and horticulture as evidenced by the very many rich volumes in the collection at Trinity College Library.

Credits: Story

Learn more about the Collection at our Fagel website.

Curation: Regina Whelan Richardson, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Technical assistance: Greg Sheaf, Digital Systems and Services, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

Imaging: Gill Whelan, Digital Resources and Imaging Services, the Library of Trinity College Dublin.

With thanks to Lydia Ferguson, Shane Mawe, Anita Cooper, Simon Lang, Helen McGinley, Paul Ferguson, Peter Guilding and Ellen O'Flaherty (the Library of Trinity College Dublin) and the Botany Department at Trinity College Dublin for their assistance. For further assistance our thanks to Marieke van Delft (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and Arthur de Weduwen, author of "Dutch and Flemish Newspapers of the Seventeenth Century, 1618-1700". Leiden,2017.

We would like to express our gratitude to the National Gallery of Ireland, the Nationaal Archief (The Hague), the Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam), The Museum of The Hague and the Amsterdam Museum for providing images from their collections and permissions to use them in this exhibition.

17th century Dutch composer Jacob van Eyck's "The Flute's Garden of Delights", played by Dutch musician Lucie Horsch.

"Emergo", by Irish band Lakker. "Struggle & Emerge" is a composition commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to examine the relationship between the Dutch and water. Released in 2016.

"Bourrée I & II" by Nicolas Vallet, a French composer living in Amsterdam in the 17th century, played by John Renbourne.

In the course of researching this exhibition, I have drawn from many works on the subject and the following in particular were a fount of information and inspiration:

Den Hartog, Elizabeth, and Carla Teune. “Gaspar Fagel (1633-88): His Garden and Plant Collection at Leeuwenhorst.” Garden History, vol. 30, no. 2, 2002, pp. 191–205.

Hunt, John Dixon, and Erik de Jong., eds. The Anglo-Dutch Garden in the age of William and Mary : catalogue = De Gouden eeuw van de Hollandse tuinkunst : catalogus. London, 1988.

Hunt, John Dixon, ed. The Dutch Garden in the Seventeenth Century. Washington, D.C., 1990

Jackson, Timothy R., ed. Frozen in Time: the Fagel Collection in the Library of Trinity College Dublin. Dublin, 2016.

Zwaan, Marisca Sikkens-De. “Magdalena Poulle (1632-99): A Dutch Lady in a Circle of Botanical Collectors.” Garden History, vol. 30, no. 2, 2002, pp. 206–220.

Note: Description and style of botanical nomenclature based on the original sources.

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