The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 3: European Gardens (500AD-1850)

Astanina Scheremetow Garden

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459. Astanina, the seat of Count Scheremetow, is situated three versts from the exterior barrier of Moscow on the Smolensko road. The grounds are low and flat, and wholly covered with natural forest, chiefly of birch, bird-cherry, and black poplar; and the house and its scenery (fig. 144.) may be described as situated on the margin of this forest. A part of the natural woods and glades is enclosed, traversed by walks, and kept dressed as pleasure-grounds. Its ornaments are a few vases and statues, a temple, and some exotic shrubs: the latter, being sheltered by the natural wood, thrive much better than could be expected from the climate. Rustic buildings are not considered pleasure-ground ornaments in Russia, because they approach too near to the common hovels of the peasantry, which are all built of logs, and some of them very curiously ornamented at the gable ends. In the kitchen-garden there are peach-houses and vineries, which, when we saw them (April 23. 1814), were under the care of a Scotch gardener. Both peaches and grapes were set, and some of the former were stoning. The soil of the garden is a dry sand, and, being favourable for early crops, peas, beans, potatoes, and radishes were in an advanced state; but they required to be covered every night with spruce fir branches, on account of the frost: indeed, there are no early crops in the neighbourhood of Moscow that do not require a great deal of protection; but the materials are abundant, and labour cheap. A foreign gardener may have as many Russian labourers under him as he chooses; though these being generally slaves who work so many days in the year for their cottage and a few acres of land, it requires three or more of them to do the work of a single Briton. It is but doing them justice to state, however, that a little extra pay, and occasional presents or indulgences, have a most sensible effect upon them; and, being docile and imitative, they sometimes make very neat workmen. One circumstance in their favour, it may be interesting to British gardeners to know, viz. that they are perfectly good-hearted, and retaliation in any form, and much less murder or robbery, are scarcely ever heard of among them, from the one end of the empire to the other. The church or chapel here, on the left (in fig. 144.), is of that peculiar architecture which may be called the Russian ecclesiastical style; it is covered with minarets and crosses exteriorly, and with pictures of saints within; and is open every day in the year, from early in the morning till sunset, for the use of the family and their numerous domestics. Service is performed by the priest at stated periods, without regard to the attendance of any one; and any person goes in and says his prayers, without regard to the hours when the priest attends. Like most of the houses in and about Moscow, the mansion of Astanina was built in a great hurry a few years previous to 1814, when we saw it, and it was then showing symptoms of decay. Petrowsky, near Moscow (fig. 145.), is one of those imperial palaces which are not surrounded by gardens. It is, properly speaking, a house for the emperor to halt at, before entering Moscow from the St. Petersburgh road. It is in a singular style of architecture; and, as a foreground to the city, has a most imposing, and at the same time harmonious, appearance. It was built during the sway of Potemkin, by the same architect who designed Tzaritzina. (Gard. Mag., vol. vii. p. 661.)