The Garden Guide

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

Frankfurt Public Gardens

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xiii. Gardening, as an Art of Design and Taste, in the Neighbourhood of the Free Towns of Frankfort, Hamburg, and Bremen 369. The public garden at Frankfort is one of the handsomest in Germany, though it does not possess the extent and parklike appearance of the English garden at Munich. Frankfort is surrounded, except on the side bounded by the Maine, with a pleasure-ground at least two miles in length, and occupying the breadth of the former ditch and ramparts; it is laid out in the English style, and affords great variety of shady walks and picturesque scenery, with the grand advantage of being accessible from every part of the city in a few minutes. One peculiar feature of this pleasure-ground is, that it is not confined to trees and shrubs, but contains a profusion of the choicest roses, dahlias, chrysanthemums, &c., together with most of the showy annuals, such as balsams, stocks, China asters, &c. In 1827 even pelargoniums and Tigridia Pavonia, planted in large masses of each, and intermixed with vast beds of mignonette, were in a high state of luxuriance and beauty. Nothing could be more brilliant than the display of this garden in September in that year, when the dahlias and the superb clumps of Brugmansia suaveolens, Salvia coccinea, &c, were in flower; and, as a proof of the scale on which it is managed, and the attention paid to it, it may be mentioned, that the gardeners were then preparing a bed of irregular figure, wholly for pinks, above sixty feet long, and from nine to fifteen feet broad, which they were trenching two feet deep, after laying manure at the bottom of each trench, and carefully picking out the stones. This garden affords a striking, and, to an Englishman, very mortifying, proof of the great superiority of the manners of the German lower classes over those of the English. Though merely separated from a public high road by a low hedge, which may be stridden across; though at all times accessible (there being no doors or gates of any kind to the entrances) to every individual of a population of 50,000 souls; and though constantly frequented by servants and children of all descriptions, not a flower, or even a leaf, of any one of the plants, from the earliest and most showy to the humblest, seems ever touched. Even the beds of mignonette looked as untrodden and unplucked as if in an English private garden. It is needless to say how utterly impossible it would be to have near any large English town a similar garden thus open to the public, and thus scrupulously kept from injury; and yet there were apparently no persons to watch; and, instead of threats of heavy penalties, a printed paper was affixed to a board at each entrance, expressing, in German, that, the public authorities having originally formed, and annually keeping up the garden for the gratification of the citizens, its trees, shrubs, and flowers are committed to the safeguard of their individual protection. This simple appeal is quite sufficient. (Gard. Mag., vol. v. p. 209.) This garden was designed and chiefly laid out by M. Zeyer, of Schwezingen; and it does him the highest honour. It was planted by M. Rinz, nurseryman at Frankfort. It is particularly gratifying to find that in many parts of the Continent public gardens are taking the place of ramparts and fortifications, a circumstance which we trust we may regard as a pledge for the general peace of Europe; or, at all events, as a proof that nations contemplate, in case of any future quarrel, a more speedy mode of bringing it to a conclusion than the ancient tedious ones of besieging and defending fortified towns. The public garden at Frankfort is under the control of the corporation; for in Frankfort, as in most other places on the Continent, the public garden has not originated from the spirit of the people, but from that of the government.