The Garden Guide

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

Russian botanic garden

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471. The first private botanic garden formed in Russia was that of General Demidow, begun during Peter the Great's reign. It was chiefly devoted to native plants; but still the hothouses for exotics occupied more than one acre of ground. Two botanists were sent to travel over the whole of Asiatic Russia. In 1786 a catalogue was published, when the collection amounted to 4363 species or varieties, exclusive of 572 varieties of fruit trees, 600 varieties of florists' flowers, and 2000 species which had not flowered. 'One single anecdote,' says Deleuze, 'will prove how eager Demidow was to enrich his garden. Being at Rome, in 1773, he found in the garden of the Petits Augustins del Corso the handsomest orange tree he had ever seen. The monks did not wish to part with it, and he was obliged to employ a good deal of money and influence to overcome their scruples. Having succeeded, he caused the tree, which was planted in the open air, to be taken up with an immense ball, put in a large box, set on a carriage made on purpose, and transported to Moscow.' (Annales, &c., tom. ix. p. 174.) The botanic garden of Gorenki, already mentioned, presents the most extensive private establishment not only in Russia, but perhaps in the world. The great extent of glass has been alluded to. When we saw these hothouses, in 1814, they were much injured by the French; the establishment has since been broken up, and Dr. Fischer, formerly its director, is now (1849) in the same capacity at St. Petersburgh. Dr. Fischer is a well-known botanist, and corresponds with most botanical cultivators in Europe. A catalogue of this garden was published in Moscow, by Dr. Redowsky, in 1804. There are other private botanic gardens near St. Petersburgh and Moscow; and good collections of ornamental plants at Paulowsky and Gatschina, both imperial residences. The Baron Rahl has an extensive range of hothouses, devoted chiefly to fruits and flowers; and many of the Dutch and German merchants cultivate flowers in the gardens of their summer residences, on the Strelna road, at St. Petersburgh. Excepting, however, among the first of the nobility, and the wealthy foreign merchants, ornamental culture of every description is quite unknown in Russia. The taste of the ordinary noblemen is too gross; the peasant is out of the question; and there is no middle class in the empire of the czars.