Plants can change the world

The Argotti Botanical complex will help sustain an edutainment and children’s area through a set of science edutainment models that will be set up for children to learn more about the science of plants

The Argotti Gardens is not just another public garden. There is a strong educational potential in Argotti Botanical Gardens. It is a botanical garden which forms part of the Faculty of Science at the University of Malta. The University maintains the national herbarium and the living collection of predominantly Mediterranean type plants at these gardens. It is also involved in teaching and research activities within the Department of Biology, of which it forms part.

The Argotti Gardens started off as two private gardens in the early 18th century. The association with the University of Malta goes back to 1805 and the whole botanical collection was officially transferred in 1855.

During the last 15 years, the number of plant species within the University section at these gardens has increased considerably. It provides students with an opportunity to discover unusual plants and to learn biology outside the classroom. The Argotti Gardens also serves to promote a better understanding of plants and innovative plant science.

Research projects focus on plant concentration, ecology and bioactive plants’ extracts. Current research into plant-related studies will continue and we hope to set up a school for horticulture training. Additionally, the gardens serve as an open classroom for primary and secondary school children of various ages who are invited to attend guided tours and activities tailored to the students’ age and educational level. Organised tours, especially for school children, will remain the hallmark of the Garden complex. 

Space is at a premium. There is now a new proposal, spearheaded by Dr Joseph Buhagiar, the Director of Argotti Botanical Gardens, to create a botanic garden complex that will utilise better the space available and integrate the inner and outer gardens, St. Phillip’s Garden and the nearby Mall Gardens, Notre Dame Nursery, Sa Maison Garden and the Sa Maison Pinetum.

As part of this project, we envisage that the existing train tunnel situated within St Phillip’s garden will be rehabilitated to provide an easy means of joining St Phillip’s garden with the Pinetum and Valletta. Eventually this will form part of a historical heritage trail that will incorporate all historical assets from the new Valletta entrance to the green belt of Floriana.

This is an important project that will make the Argotti Botanical Gardens an important venue for local and foreign visitors. It is a project that can be phased over the next few years to be targeted for completion by 2018 – the year Valletta will be the European Capital of Culture. This new botanical complex will be modelled on the lines of Kew Gardens in London and will provide a multi-cultural experience on the outskirts of Valletta. 

The restored villa in the inner Argotti will function as a Visitors’ Centre and will host two specialised museums – one for plant science and another for garden history.  We also hope to create space to house a permanent exhibition on the history of the Maltese train “il-Vapur tal-Art”, which travelled directly beneath Argotti Gardens. The garden will also house the restored greenhouses and will have an upgraded garden infrastructure. A walk-through butterfly house and aviary are also envisaged as major attractions. 

The Argotti Botanical complex will help sustain an edutainment and children’s area through a set of science edutainment models that will be set up for children to learn more about the science of plants. They will be able to investigate and explore plant diversity for multiple uses and study the different adaptations of plants in everyday life, including their use of medicinal purposes.

We are enthusiastic about this project. An open weekend at the Argotti Gardens, organised by Dr Joseph Buhagiar on behalf of the Department of Biology at the University of Malta, has helped create greater awareness.

There are many benefits of garden-based learning among children and youths.  Research has indicated that successful garden-based learning programmes demonstrate high levels of youth development and leadership. These environments can foster science literacy and social skills, while enhancing an awareness of the link between plants in the landscape and our daily life. We would like these gardens to be used by our students and schools as an exciting educational resource to learn science by doing it.