SARCHÍ – The eyes of the nation recently turned to this coffee and craft town about an hour’s drive northwest of San José when it produced the largest oxcart in the world and placed it on display for all to see at its central park (TT, July 21).
Now, with the official inauguration of the ElseKientzlerBotanical Garden, a sevenhectare collection of exotic plants from around the globe, Sarchí offers another reason to embark on a day trip to the area over beautiful mountain roads.
“Sarchí used to be a stopover on the way to the volcano (Poás), but today… the history of Sarchí is changing,” said Hector Rodríguez, president of the Sarchí Tourism Chamber, at the garden’s inauguration ceremony July 27.
Over the past 10 years, the garden’s history has also changed substantially. A part of ornamental plant export company Innovaplant de Costa Rica S.A., the garden was started in 1998 on a section of the company’s property.
It was opened to visitors in 2004 (TT, Dec. 3, 2004) and has been operating since, but the recent inauguration ceremony marked the garden’s official birthday, according to Innovaplant general manager Thomas Schuster.
The garden was developed in an area planted with coffee crops that were removed to give way to trails, a nursery and gardens that are now planted with a variety of orchids, bromeliads, hibiscus, heliconias and succulents.
In total, it is home to 2,000 different types of plants belonging to more than 80 families, and boasts fruit trees, an arboretum, leisure areas, a lovely lake and a garden for the blind, where visitors can enjoy the botanical experience through their senses of touch, sound, smell and taste.
Small plaques provide information on specimens throughout the garden, and with plenty of hanging seats, benches, picnic tables and lookout points immersed in the calm of the green surroundings, the garden is best enjoyed at a slow pace. However, the full tour can take anywhere from 45 minutes to three hours, depending on the visitor’s hurry.
Handicapped visitors can use approximately 40% of the trails, as an estimated 60% could pose difficulties to those with physical disabilities, according to a statement from the garden.
And for whom is it named?
At the inauguration, which brought together Sarchí Mayor Victor Manuel Rojas and representatives of the Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT), the Tropical Agronomy Research Center (CATIE) and several universities, Innovaplant president Ludwig Kientzler, from Germany, explained that the garden is named after his mother, who for years managed the family-run German company Kientzler, Innovaplant de Costa Rica’s parent company.
Kientzler explained that his father died in 1961, leaving behind three children, his wife and the botanical company, which many people thought she would not be able to run on her own. But run it she did, and the German company has now made it to its 100th anniversary.
In a visit to Costa Rica with other family members for the ceremony, Else Kientzler officially inaugurated the garden, snipping ribbons of intertwined German and Costa Rican flags.
Her son said he has plans to extend the botanical garden, which employs more than 500 people. Three more hectares are slated for development, in addition to plans to build a restaurant. The garden’s second part could open within one or two years, Kientzler said.
Else KientzlerBotanical Garden is at Finca La Evita, 800 meters north of the Sarchí Norte Stadium. It is open every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Entrance fees range from ¢600 (approximately $1.20) for Costa Rican children ages 5-12, to $12 for foreign adults.
Children under 5 are admitted free of charge. The garden arranges group packages and offers guided tours in Spanish, German and English.
For more info, visit www.elsekientzlergarden. com or call 454-2070.