The Garden Guide

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

Hermitage palace garden

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451. The palace at St. Petersburgh called the Hermitage was set apart by Catherine II. for the enjoyments of social life. Ascending a flight of stairs, says Elliott, 'we were conducted into a spacious apartment, one door of which leads to a conservatory of trees called the winter garden; beyond which is another, called the summer garden, 400 feet in length, formed of soil elevated on masonry, to a height of more than forty feet' This artificial garden must have been the result of prodigious labour; but in St Peters-burgh all public works are on a scale of magnificence that fills a stranger with astonishment.' (Elliott's Letters, &c., p. 288.) The gardens of the palace of the Hermitage. Dr. Granville describes the winter garden as a large quadrangular conservatory, planted with laurels and orange trees, among which, in former times, linnets and canary birds were allowed to fly about at perfect liberty. But the feathered tribe have disappeared from this formerly enchanting spot, which is now reduced to a simple orangery. The summer garden, he says, connected with it, and having the form of a parallelogram, is about 392 feet long, divided into numerous parterres, and entirely composed of artificial soil raised forty-two feet above the surrounding ground. This pensile garden forms, certainly, not the least interesting of the curiosities of the Hermitage. 'The period of my visit to St. Petersburgh,' continues Dr. Granville, 'precluded the possibility of my seeing it in its brilliant state; but an English traveller, who had an opportunity of enjoying and contemplating its beauties, speaks of them in the following animated strain:�'Here, suspended as it were in the air, the visiter, to his amazement, treads on gravel walks; sees the green turf vivid around him, and finds shrubs, and even trees, growing in luxuriance, under the shelter of which he may take refuge on a couch, and contemplate the execution and fair proportions of some favourite statues, several of which are to be found in the garden. The novelty of the whole scene, and the recollection where it is situated, �not on the ground, but on or near the top of a palace,�added to the overpowering influence of the boundless riches of nature and art which I had just examined, produced an effect which for some time kept me tonguetied, and induced an opinion that the wonders of the Hermitage alone are almost worth a journey to St. Petersburgh.'' (Travels in Russia, &c.)