A botanical essay entitled Viridaria varia regia et academia publica [Various royal gardens and public academies], attributed to Joachim Gerstorf and published in 1653, includes two Varsovian gardens in its catalogue of European botanical gardens: the suburban royal gardens and the royal gardens at the castle. The records of court physician Andrzej Gnotelius, dating from the same period, tell us that the suburban gardens had 770 species of plant and those at the castle 740.
This suburban garden, i.e. the one on the grounds behind Casimir Palace, was described by another doctor during the Saxon period as being ‘embellished with varied and wonderful contrivances’. During the period of the Kingdom of Poland (or Congress Poland), the garden came to be called 'Botanika’ (Botany) .
Fryderyk Chopin grew up in Warsaw during this period, when the city abounded in beautiful green spaces, filled with flora. Yet the Botanical Gardens behind the University boasted some of the world’s rarest plants.
The custodian of ‘Botanika’ was Prof. Michał Szubert. A Temple of Divine Providence was to have been erected on this site during his time, in remembrance of the Third of May Constitution. The plans, however, were reportedly shelved by the Targowica Confederation, allied to Russia, and the temple got no further than the foundations, long since overgrown with grass.
When Mikołaj Chopin taught at the Warsaw Lyceum, then housed in Casimir Palace, the botanical gardens were made available to the pupils, who learnt there by cultivating garden patches and observing seedling development for themselves. After a few years, ‘Botanika’ was made into a park, where the teachers at the Lyceum and their charges could stroll among the well-tended flower beds or sit on the benches. The teenage Chopin described the change to one of his friends, Jan Białobłocki, as follows: ‘The Commission ordered that my botanical garden, that old one, in other words, the one behind the Palace, be put very beautifully in order. Now there are no longer carrots, which once upon a time we consumed greedily by the spring, […] nor canapés, nor arbours, nor lettuce, cabbage, bad smells, etc., but flowerbeds à la manière anglaise.’ Eugeniusz Skrodzki, looking back in the 1880s, recalled how the young Chopin, roughly ten years his senior, would occasionally spend a lovely romantic evening in ‘Botanika’, teasing and flirting with the young women who went walking there.