The Garden Landscape Guide

GARDENS IN MIDDLE GERMANY (2)

 Leipzig Zwinger Japanese Palace (Dresden) Great Garden Gross-Sedlitz Marcolini Falkenlust Schwetzingen Charlottenburg Mon Bijou Sans-Souci Neuruppin St. Georgen Hermitage 

A really amusing place for games, and consistently carried out, is the little pheasantry called Falkenlust at Moritzburg. This is a very neat round building on an extremely small scale, with a Chinese roof and figures, standing on an artificial rock decorated with creatures of all sorts. Here to begin with were the pheasantry buildings, enclosed with trellis overgrown with greenery, and ornamented with various fountains which are more or less well preserved. The little castle is at the junction of the great avenues of the park. In the main walk towards the Moritzburg there is a great canal with artificial rockery, and by the side of it an elaborate garden piece. Hedges of pine are trained to an immense size, so that they slant obliquely from a height of one metre to eight or ten, and then " show clearly and distinctly the initials A.F.A,, of their exalted Majesties.” This main walk leads down from the castle to the lake, and there we find a well-fortified harbour, with pier, light- house, bastions, forts, and a little frigate, all very pretty and dainty. Saxony may boast of having reached a point, not too high, of the prevalent Chinese fashion.

The formal style of garden was now threatened from every side, There were attempts, in adopting features of the new fashion, to combine them with the old severe restriction of the straight line and symmetry, but in the end there was complete capitulation. It even came about that the same owner and architect worked the changes in the same places. One good example of a transition garden is found at Schwetzingen. It was laid out for Charles Theodore of Bavaria by the architect Pigage and the head gardener Petri, in the formal style. It came into existence in the years 1753 to 1770 in a fashion that was entirely French (Fig. 506). The Théorie et Pratique du Jardinage had a great influence in the garden-plan.

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FIG. 506. SCHWETZINGEN—THE CASTLE GARDEN

The parterre ends in a longish basin. On the other side the tapis vert forms a middle axis between the boskets; it is a wide strip of grass adorned with statues, reaching to the great canal that crosses it, and makes a slight widening inside the park. The French garden book also recommends a semicircular end of the parterres in covered trellis, At Schwetzingen these are finished off with galleries that are also in semicircles, which join the two sides of the castle into a whole circle: this gives a peculiar stamp to the garden, so much the more because the parterre, always quite open in France, is traversed by avenues both lengthwise and crosswise, and these are of course kept clipped very low. This was a concession to the taste of the day, which preferred seclusion and shade to the open show-garden. Still from the piano nobile of the castle one could get a view of the whole. The round parterre with its narrow beds in the middle stocked with flowers, and the side plots of trapezium form. High trees now conceal this effect, beautiful in their masses of greenery.

In its great lines the garden belongs to the best traditions of France. On the other hand, it shows some wavering in the laying-out of the boskets, for there is plainly an effort to accommodate itself to the gospel of the wavy line which is foreign to its own style. Of course the patterning of the parterre had already been working towards the change of line. Still, however elaborate the broderie in Louis the Fourteenth’s patterns, they were never simply wavy and niggling. This was checked by the feeling for bold masses and clear symmetrical designs; but under Louis XV. and Madame de Pompadour the little broken-up patterns became ever more numerous, and were mixed up with a completely separate arabesque. In groves more and more licence was allowed, and Les Sources at the Grand Trianon actually showed the wavy line. But what was at first tolerated as variety now began to spread, because even avenues were laid out à l’anglaise, although they were still kept in check by the formal style.

The boskets in the Schwetzingen gardens were free from the peculiar sentimentalities that marked the first period. Pigage, the architect of the little buildings in the park, was no genius, but he showed a delicate feeling for grace and beauty in such places as the out-of-door theatre with the Temple of Apollo as background (Fig. 507), and the Bath Pavilion with its charming aviary. 

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FIG. 507. SCHWETZINGEN—THE APOLLO THEATRE

To show to perfection, both these places need their old surroundings of severely clipped hedges to serve as side scenes of the natural stage, and the trellised walks and aviary for outside bordering. Also the rock fountain with its cascade has nothing of the picturesque colouring of the English park, set as it is in clipped hedgerows. Scarcely, however, had Charles Theodore finished here than he was unable any longer to resist the current of modern thought, and he entrusted to Ludwig Skell, the rising star in the garden world, the task of laying-out his grounds according to the new taste. All the same, Charles Theodore felt so great a respect and reverence for what he had made that he set this new garden only as a girdle round the old French part. The canal, which formed the boundary, was left there by the artist fronting on the old garden, and forming a clever transition in such a way that it lent itself to the picturesque style by dipping into the opposite bank with all manner of deep-cut inlets and curves.

Every court, great or small, had given some flowers to the wreath of lovely gardens that now covered the provinces of the German Empire. Even the young and aspiring court at Berlin had its peculiar, many-sided picture to show. We have already seen how the Great Elector (Frederick William) had worked in the furtherance of the art. At his Residence he had too much to do in establishing his house; and the pleasure-garden of the castle at Berlin was only a smaller garden, though a flourishing one. It was Frederick, the first King of Prussia, who first found in castles and gardens an ample field for his love of magnificence; and the gardens of Oranienburg and Charlottenburg were laid out in a style purely French. They were among those that boasted—though it was but a legend—of having been laid out from the plans of Le Nôtre.

Charlottenburg was remarkable because of its unusual supply of water (Fig. 508).

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FIG. 508. CHARLOTTENBURG—GROUND-PLAN SHOWING CASTLE AND GARDENS

 The Spree ran along the whole length of the garden, and beside it there was a large so-called carp pond, with six rows of trees shaped like a hippodrome round it. Outside, a number of tributaries of the Spree were conducted through the back part of the park, all of them used for gondolas or to rear fish of various kinds. Next to the castle was the tennis-court, and also the orangery. Many statues stood in the very large parterre which was known as the pleasure-ground, and twelve busts of emperors were especially famous; these stand to-day in a pergola at the left of the entrance.

In the time of Frederick William I., the minimum of ornament was insisted upon, and the maximum of use and profit. He converted the pleasure-gardens in front of the castles at Berlin and Potsdam into exercise-grounds, and the place he chiefly used for his own recreation was a fruit- and vegetable-garden, which he laid out on the north-west of Potsdam round a little pleasure-house, on which he conferred the pompous title of the Marly Garden. “ I cannot tell why,” says the Margravine Wilhelmine, who shared her father’s recreations very unwillingly. It is the best proof we can get that Many was the actual name for a small pleasure-house removed from the Residence; the king might just as well have called it a hermitage or some other name of that sort.

His son, the future Frederick the Great, had when he was crown prince shown the strongest inclination towards the art of gardening. Lovingly and with great care he had ornamented his castle of Rheins berg. This love of the garden he inherited from his mother, who converted her little summer place, a very charming house near Berlin on the Spree, into a real treasure which deserved its name of Mon Bijou (Fig. 509). 

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FIG. 509. MON BIJOU, BERLIN—GROUND-PLAN

Until 1725 it was only a small house in the middle of a garden, a real Trianon, made with the same object and in the same spirit, with porcelain and small choice works of art, and on both sides trellised walks and pavilions. A pretty parterre with flowers and fountains and attractive side scenes led to the river from the house, which stood rather high. Near the road the garden was laid out with boskets, leaving a large empty space in front of the house, presumably for games. At the side was the orangery with its own parterre, and opposite this a little menagerie for tame animals. In 1717 this retreat was endangered by a visitor, the Tsar Peter, who spent a couple of days quartered here with his retinue. It was known beforehand, of course, what sort of guests to expect, and the queen had had everything fragile removed. But in spite of this, after their departure house and garden looked “like Jerusalem after the sack,” So says the Margravine of Bayreuth, and as a fact the queen had to have the whole place restored from top to bottom. The mother of Frederick the Great lived here for forty-six years; she was a lover of art, and she had castle and garden greatly ornamented and enlarged, but never altered the fundamental plans.

When Frederick the Great came to the throne, he wanted to build a little hermitage near Berlin according to his own fancy. For this he chose the hill opposite his father’s Many Garden, and in laid the foundation-stone of his castle Sans-Souci. This place would in any case deserve special consideration as the creation of Frederick himself, but there is more than that, for in garden history it fills a page of its own. His nature, a happy blend of the characters of his parents, is very clearly brought out in this his darling home. Even while he was crown prince, he was busy pursuing his love for fruit culture, and in his garden at Neuruppin he had made himself a vineyard and an orchard, which he had called Amalthea, proving that he read his Cicero with love and understanding. At Rheinsberg he tried yet another experiment, for he had his vineyard made in the form of a labyrinth with a temple of Bacchus in the centre.

Now that he was king he desired to make nothing more nor less at Sans-Souci than a great pleasure-garden with a hill planted with vines in the middle. Whether at first his sole intention was to make the hill and the little house—at first called Vigne, which suggests this idea—is not of moment now, the less so as in the first year the garden already showed an important extension in proportion to the house that was actually built. The main thing for us is that in the eighteenth century, which had created gardens purely for pleasure and banished all and every special kind of cultivation of particular things, when every minor prince and every wealthy private person regarded these luxurious pleasure-grounds as theatres for displaying their riches and their power, this king unconcernedly harked back to a stage in garden history that seemed long since superseded and abandoned. 

And just as that primitive garden was made, which we hear of in the ancient days of the Egyptians, so Frederick devised a scheme whereby everything was grouped about the vines, which served as a centre. For the vineyard terrace (Fig. 510), on whose high ground the king erected his pleasant summer-house, the most southerly aspect was carefully selected.

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FIG. 510. SANS-SOUCI, POTSDAM—THE TERRACE GARDEN

 The grapes must have friendly sunshine, and so the supporting walls were sloped, and made a sort of parabola, so as to get for the more precious kinds every ray of sun that the northern clime could yield. In winter they were protected from frosts by glass. On this centre for the cultivation of vines Frederick the Great concentrated all the skill that the science of his own age could supply. In the middle of his projecting terraces, whose very object made their lines beautiful, there rose broad stairs, and at the sides were gently ascending paths made secure by stone-work. The narrow terraces were cut off in front by low hedges of yew clipped into pyramids, and at the back there were in summer orange-trees and pomegranates in flower.

The castle at the top is reminiscent of the first state of Mon Bijou with its low windows, and in spite of its grandeur it never loses its character of a country place. On each side of the upper terrace was a bosket adorned with statues, and covered walks with pavilions flanking the house: in one of these was the beautiful Praying Boy now in the museum at Berlin. There were many busts and vases, but in this upper part there was no parterre. The first one was laid out at the foot of the terraces round a large basin, with a group of gilded statues in the middle. The end of the parterre was made by a canal that crossed one of the terraces and went on farther round the whole park. On the far side of the canal was an avenue with two sphinxes at the upper end, leading to two summer-houses: rows of trees bordered this garden. It had been the king’s first idea to make a little vintage-house here, “ une espèce de vide bouteille," writes the friend of his young days at Rheins- berg, Bielefeld, in 1794, “ mais ce vide bouteille commença par être une retraite de Roi et finit par former un palais d été digne de Frédéric. S.M, en traça Elle même le premier dessein.” Two pen-and-ink drawings confirm these statements.

Illustrations on CD edition of Garden Visit and Travel Guide - see www.gardenvisit.com/order_form.htmThe king’s architect Knobelsdorf carried out the completed plan, but Frederick insisted on  making the final decisions about every detail, hence no doubt amateurish features are to be seen in places. Sans-Souci really became little by little a Marly to the king. It was not in the main axis of the castle that the garden was widened, but at both sides on the slopes of the hill (Fig. 511). On the top the king made on each side of his house another one-storied building, on the west side a small shelter for horsemen (at first intended for an orangery, and looking out on a cherry- garden), and on the east the picture-gallery. From this a terrace-garden descended. The dividing walls, which were covered with shells, led down by steps and grottoes into the so-called Dutch garden, a parterre d’émail, laid out with glass beads and Dutch vases for ornament. Semicircular berceaux led to a lower balustraded terrace. Another small secluded garden, which still breathes the spirit of Frederick, lies farther to the east of this one; on the top is a grotto of Neptune with the god, and nymphs and tritons escort- ing him. A sort of nymphæum was in the mind’s eye of the king in this part of the garden. He had planned handsome water-works, which were to feed this grotto and others; also cascades, but he was badly misled—a most unusual thing at that time—and much to his chagrin, he could never get enough water for them.

 

 

 

 

FIG. 151 SANS-SOUCCI - GENERAL PLAN

By the side of the nymphæum, at the foot of the hill, was the chief entrance to the garden, a semicircular gateway with beautiful doors in the middle, and made with double columns, which at one time also had convenient low doors. They were unfortunately replaced by the immense, ostentatious gates fit for an exhibition, which now quite spoil the delicate beauty of the entrance. From this part there is a wide, very long avenue leading first through a front garden, and then right through the main parterre and across the whole of the park (Fig. 511), which extends on the west of the castle, and was originally meant for deer and pheasants. Behind the parterre this main axis again passes through boskets ornamentally laid out with statues and basins, and goes on to the wall at the end, which separates the pleasure-garden proper on the west side from the park, meeting near the middle of the park the Marble Colonnade (Fig. 512), a charming building made by Knobelsdorf.
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FIG. 512. SANS-SOUCI, POTSDAM—THE COLONNADE IN THE PARK

 This was an imitation of the colonnade of the bosket at Versailles, but unfortunately it was broken up later, so that its columns could be given to the marble palace built in the reign of Frederick William II. As an end and point de vue a great grotto construction was contemplated, but after the Seven Years’ War the New Palace was built a little behind, and the grotto had to give place to this.

In the park itself the king had several small buildings set up, so as to bring the northern hill into connection with it, and among them the beautiful Belvedere, a two-storied rotunda with Corinthian columns round it on the north-western slope. Below was a Chinese pagoda; and farther to the east, immediately above the castle, Roman ruins were built on the hill. Round them there was to be a reservoir, and they were to give a point de vue for the rather long colonnade, which is in front of the back façade of the castle. In the south-east corner of the park there was still standing, a little while before the Seven Years’ War broke out, the Chinese Tea-House (Fig. 513), one of the most freakish attempts in this foreign style. 

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FIG. 513. SANS-SOUCI, POTSDAM—THE CHINESE TEA-HOUSE

The cheerful little rotunda has an overhanging roof with a China- man on the top, supported on gilded palm-trunks; round these columns are grouped Chinese figures taking tea. The whole place is merely a fancy, and it lies prettily in the middle of a space bordered with hedges, which opens on three of its sides into small grass paths, narrowing as they advance. Vases made of Misnian porcelain stand at the end.

Before the Seven Years War the park itself was crossed by straight avenues. But in the meanwhile the new style had penetrated into Northern Germany, which was nearest to England. There were actual examples to be found here and there, and people were beginning in a cautious way—sometimes painfully and unintelligently—to obey the new gospel. The change in the park at Sans-Souci, which was effected after 1763 when the New Palace was put up, is a good example of the somewhat uncomfortable kind of com- promise. What chiefly inspired the designers of these transition gardens was the dogma of the wavy “ line of beauty.” In various other gardens we have found the same idea, especially in the treatment of the small boskets, still more or less under the control of the laws of symmetry. But here the walks were allowed to run about, right and left of the middle axis—itself straight and happily not tampered with—in the oddest curves and windings. On both sides these paths were hedged, and would have given the impression of an endlessly long labyrinth to anyone strolling there, had they not been interrupted now and again by an opening with a view of some meadow landscape, which adjoined the narrow thicket at the side of the path. Especially unrestrained were the serpentine paths round about the Chinese tea-house; so possibly the notion of a labyrinth was intentional there. When we come to study the development of the fundamental principles of the English style, we will consider again the complete misunderstanding shown in this park.

It is certainly not to be regretted that the next state of this garden was not merely in part, but entirely modern. Would that instead Sans-Souci’s pleasure-gardens had been kept in their old form, and above all the great parterre! But here everything is upside-down. Because the new taste was partially adopted by way of compromise, the finest effect of Frederick’s estate was lost through introducing woodland at the foot of the terraces. All the same, we can still enjoy the sight of the king’s work, one of the greatest achievements of his days of peace, and easily disentangled from foreign trimmings. On the threshold of a new ideal of art, Frederick produced a work which was so clearly his own that it is difficult to speak of any decided influence, and to separate what is due to France and what to Italy. We must accept it as an expression of his personality.

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