Penang is always sunny, except for the wet months from August to October. Mostly, the weather is bright and cheerful, which makes Penang the perfect place to grow rich colorful gardens. Penang Botanic Gardens is a 30-hectare public park that is made up of several gardens, featuring different types of flora and fauna. In the middle of the gardens is a waterfall, which is why the park is also called “Waterfall Gardens”. Sadly, however, the green foliage overgrowth has now covered the cascading water, and today the waterfall is restricted to tourists.
The tranquil Penang Botanic Gardens is covered with lush rainforests and greenery. People come here to relax, stroll around, jog, trek, take a breath of fresh air and appreciate the beauty of nature. Found on Jalan Kebun Bunga, the gardens are open every day to the public. Admission is absolutely free.
The gardens have more history than one might think. Because it is neither a museum nor a monument, people would be surprised to know that the original gardens were actually put up as early as 1884 from an old quarry site. The first superintendent was Charles Curtis, a respected botanist in those times. Before that time, Penang had two earlier garden parks, namely the Spice Gardens and Kitchen Gardens.
In 1794, the East India Company commissioned Christopher Smith, a botanist, to build a spice garden in Penang for the primary purpose of challenging the Dutch spice trade. Smith planted a 10.5-hectare spice garden in Ayer Itam valley and a 158-hectare garden in Sungai Keluang. It is not clear today, however, where exactly these gardens were located. In the early 1800s, the spice gardens had 1,300 plants, which included peppers, cloves, nutmegs, canary nuts and sugar palms.
The Kitchen Gardens, on the other hand, were established by William Edward Philips, then Governor of Penang. The gardens did not yield as much as hoped for, and so it was tended only until 1834.
In 1884, the superintendent of the Singapore Botanic Gardens came to Penang to establish the botanic gardens as they are now. Charles Curtis was the assistant superintendent. The Gardens and Forests Department of the Straits Settlement was in charge of cultivation, inspection of crops and educating the planting community. Curtis personally supervised the garden layout and the transformation of an old granite quarry site.
Under Curtis, the gardens were named “Experimental Gardens”, which included the “Top Hill Nursery”, which later became the Government Bungalow Garden, the “Plains Nursery”, which later comprised the Government Residency, and the “Waterfall Nursery Gardens”, which later became what now is the Penang Botanic Gardens.
Today, Penang Botanic Gardens aims to initiate conservation programs, create a safe and clean public recreation area, educate the public and raise awareness towards appreciation of Mother Nature. Administrators of Penang’s botanic gardens collaborate with other botanic gardens in other countries in the hopes of developing and implementing botanical and ecological research programs in Malaysia and around the word. With on-going research and studies, Penang Botanic Gardens aims to provide professional tips and knowledge related to botany, taxonomy, horticulture and landscaping.