The Garden Guide

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

Peterhof garden design

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i. Gardening, as an Art of Design and Taste , in the Neighbourhood of Petersburgh Peterhoff, in respect to situation, is perhaps unrivalled. About five hundred fathoms from the sea-shore this region has a second cliff, almost perpendicular, near twelve fathoms high. Bordering on this precipice stands the palace, thereby acquiring a certain peculiar prospect over the gardens and the gulf, to the shores of Carelia and St Petersbugh, and to Cronstadt. It was built in the reign of Peter the Great, by the architect Le Blond, but has received, under the succeeding monarchs, such a variety of improvements, that it has become a sort of specimen of the several tastes that prevailed in each of these eras, the influence whereof is visible in the numerous architectural ornaments, which are all highly gilt. The inside is correspondent with the destination of this palace; throughout are perceptible the remains of antiquated splendour, to which is contrasted the better taste of modern times. The gardens are more interesting by their peculiar beauties. The upper parts of them, before the land-side of the palace, are disposed into walks, plantations, and parterres, which acquire additional elegance by a large basin and canal, plentifully furnished with fountains of various designs and forms. The declivity from the back-front of the palace towards the sea has two magnificent cascades, rolling their streams over the terraces into large basins, and beneath which the visiter may walk as under a vault, without receiving wet, into a beautiful grotto. The whole space in front of this declivity, down to the sea-shore, is one large stately garden, in the old-fashioned style, and is famous for its jets d'eau and artificial waterworks. Some of them throw up columus of water, a foot and a half in diameter, to a height of two and a half or three fathoms. A pellucid canal, lined with stone, and ten fathoms wide, running from the centre of the palace facade into the Gulf of Finland, divides these gardens in two. In a solitary wood stands the summer-house, called Mon-Plaisir, which among other things is remarkable for its elegant kitchen, wherein the empress Elizabeth occasionally amused herself in dressing her own dinner. In another portion of the gardens, close to the shore of the gulf, stands a neat wooden building, formerly a favourite retreat of Peter the Great, as he could there have a view of Cronstadt and the fleet. The bath, situated in the midst of a thicket, is likewise worthy of observation. We enter a large oval space, enclosed by a wooden wall, without a covering at top, and open to the sky, but shaded by the surrounding trees. In this wall are chambers and recesses furnished with all that convenience and luxury can require for bathing. In the centre of the area is a large basin, surrounded by a gallery, and provided with steps, rafts, and gondolas: the water is conducted thither by pipes, which fill the basin only to a certain height. These gardens still exist, and the waterworks are kept in tolerable repair. There is adjoining a small specimen of English gardening, laid out by Meader, once gardener at Syon House, Middlesex, and who is author of The Planter's Guide. Dr. Granville, speaking of these waterworks, in 1829, says, 'that, for number, extent, and playfulness, as well as for variety of design, they are superior to those of Versailles.' (Travels, &c. p. 510.)