The Garden Guide

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

Worlitz Garden Design

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xi. Gardening, as an Art of Design and Taste, in Anhalt 364(A). The gardens of Worlitz, near Dessau, were considered by the Prince de Ligne as the first in Germany; they are situated in a plain, in the neighbourhood of extensive woods; and their boundary is in one part formed naturally by the Lake of Worlitz, and in others by artificial canals, embankments, avenues, and palisades. The effect is fine, as the gardens thus seem to blend with the surrounding scenery, without a stranger being able to ascertain their exact extent. The lake, with two other pieces of water, communicating by canals, supplies a great variety of water-scenery, and affords the advantage of visiting all the remarkable objects of the gardens in a boat. These grounds are divided into five gardens, of which the following are the details: �The palace garden lies between the lake and the town; from which last it is partly concealed by a belt ot evergreens and other shrubs, beyond which is a low wall of stone, rough from the quarry. This garden has two entrances, both of which are open; at a short distance from one of them a full view is obtained of the palace. In front of the building is a large, irregular lawn, on two sides of which are broad gravel-walks, bordered by tall lime-trees and rose-bushes; while the third side, directly in front of the palace, is adorned with large cast-iron vases, in which orange trees are usually placed during the summer. The principal edifices in this garden are the Princess's house, stables, and other structures, built in the Gothic style, on account of their proximity to an old church, the yard of which was formerly the village burying-ground, but which is now a part of the garden; a summer saloon, in front of which is a pump in the form of an altar, resembling some antique fountains at Rome and Herculaneum; a Gothic fountain; a large stone sarcophagus, eleven feet long, five and a half feet broad, and six feet high, having the angles adorned with Corinthian pilasters, and inscription-tablets on each side, supported by winged genii. One of the inscriptions consists of some verses taken from Klopstock's Messiah; another, facing the church, said to be written by the Prince, is as follows:�''Here are deposited the remains of those who departed before us, and who, in our mortal dwellings, have made room for us, as we shall make room for others. ' There is also an Ionic arcade, adorned by numerous statues. The Cedar Hill is so called, because it is chiefly planted with Virginian, Carolina, and red cedars. The summit, where the trees incline backwards in a semicircular form, commands a view of the church and churchyard. Half way down the hill, is a seat shaded with cedars, from which, through a vista of ivy-encircled pines, is a distant view of a funereal urn on the other side of the water. At the foot of the hill is a wilderness, and beyond, a sloping lawn washed by the lake. On the right is a small drawbridge over a deep creek, called the Swan Pond, and near this is a stone seat, commanding a fine perspective view of the palace. Neumark's Garden. This garden, named after the gardener who laid it out, consists of a large island, formed by two arms of the lake, which embrace it on three sides, and are united by a canal on the fourth. There are four other islands considered as belonging to this garden; but three of them are inhabited only by the swans which build their nests on them. The fourth is cultivated, and, on account of the great number of roses spread over it, is called Rose Island. On this island is a stone balcony with a balustrade of vine branches, and a beautiful arbour of honeysuckle and jasmine. A mound or embankment planted with evergreens and fruit trees, and provided with seats at favourable points of view, is carried round the whole of the large island; and a bridge, thrown across the canal, unites it with the main land. The side of the mound, next the lake, is not planted; so that a stranger, who mounts to the summit, passes at once from the most perfect seclusion to a view of scenes of bustling activity on the opposite bank of the lake, where the village damsels bleach their linen, and may be seen, in their tucked-up petticoats, like the Danaides of old, performing a labour which never ends. The garden is divided obliquely by a belt of evergreens; from which a green alley, formed by cherry and plane trees, leads to an arcaded avenue, intended to afford shade during the heat of the day in summer. The chief buildings and garden ornaments in Neumark's Garden are two pavilions: one, on the summit of a well-planted hill, contains curiosities brought from the South Sea Islands and South America; and the other is appropriated to casts from antique statues, and a library, consisting chiefly of journals and travels. A fine copy of the Dying Gladiator, by Erlich, is placed on a small elevation, and surrounded by Virginian cedars. At the end of a short avenue of plane trees, a monument to the memory of Jean Jacques Rousseau is discovered on a small island planted with poplars, on the lake. In the middle of this island, as at Ermenonville, an altar with a stone urn is elevated upon steps, within a circle of Italian poplars. In front of the altar is an inscription to the memory of Rousseau, written by the prince; on the back is a half-length bas-relief of the philosopher, and on the sides are a lyre and a wreath of oak. An allegorical labyrinth, intended to typify human life, is, however, one of the most curious objects in this garden. This labyrinth has the appearance of a deep valley of wood and rock, through which wind narrow uneven paths, to which the light of day can only penetrate at intervals. In some parts the soil is sterile, and bears only the gloomy pine; in others, solitary flowers blossom. Here we behold a barren rock: there a glowing prospect opens to our view. In the centre of the labyrinth is a place shaded by a circular row of acacias, within black walls, divided by three inlets. The same number of sandstone niches, ornamented with Corinthian pilasters, rest against the walls. One of these niches is vacant. In the other two are placed the busts of Gellert and Lavater: both busts are sculptured out of a grey stone found in the Weimar territory. The opening between the vacant niche and the one which contains the bust of Eavater suddenly leads, by an abrupt turning out of the labyrinth, into a broad grass path, to intimate how abruptly the path of life may sometimes be cut short. Those who wish to pursue the allegory, however, must leave the circle by the inlet between the two busts, which leads deeper into the wilderness. This path winds along darkly through the wood, is hemmed in on each side by rocks, and gradually contracted, until it forms a deep hollow way, over which passes one of the arches of a bridge thrown across the valley. This arch has a balustrade made of dry bought, and on a white tablet is the following inscription: � 'Traveller ! choose thy way with judgment. ' The wanderer now walks circumspectly under the arch; �the alarms increase; �the sharp-pointed rocks grow more formidable and impending, the foot-path more rough and steep. The hollow soon becomes contracted to a point, affording only, through a hole, the distant prospect of a funereal monument. Here, however, the path turns to the left. Some steps lead up a narrow passage, overshaded with honeysuckle and Ivy, and provided with seats placed without any regular order. The passage widens and opens into a deep black cavity, over which appear, inscribed on a white tablet, the following words: � 'Here the choice becomes difficult, and must be decisive. ' If the adventurer decides upon entering, he will find the cave thirty-five paces long; and, at first, nothing dismaying will appear, for it is still wide, and light penetrates by a lateral aperture, through which a statue of Leda with her swan is seen. On advancing towards the statue, the following words, on the wall by the side of the opening, catch the eye: � 'Turn back quickly!' If the curious stranger should still venture to step forward, and pass through the opening, he shudders to find himself on the precipitous brink of a broad canal, and loses no time in obeying the injunction. On turning back, a narrow, dismal, and terror-striking path is perceived to run off obliquely to the right. The ground is uneven, the walls on each side dirty, and the overhanging rocks of the roof threaten danger. This horror overcome, and the path entered, it soon leads into a dark, gloomy thicket, on issuing from which, the undaunted explorer unexpectedly finds himself transported at once into Elysium. This Elysium is an exquisitely laid out piece of ground in an oval form. The interior is a beautiful lawn of the same shape, carpeted with a velvet turf of the richest green, and studded on the margin with circular beds of flowers, and groups of lovely trees, among which are the tulip tree, the orange, the red-flowering acacia, the almond, the cherry, and the thorn. A broad gravel-walk surrounds the lawn. On the right, beside the path which leads into Elysium, white flowering acacias, planted in semicircles, form two recesses or arbours, within which are seats. The farthest is considered to produce the crowning effect of the whole; from this seat through a high vaulted arch, washed at its base by the waters of the lake, the mausoleum of the princely family is seen rising in the distance, thus uniting the ideas of death and Elysium. The Ladies' Green presents nothing remarkable. It has obtained its name from the circumstance of the trees which surround it having been all planted by ladies. Some interesting prospects are obtained from the neighbouring walks. Schoch's Garden also derives its name from its designer. It is situated on the north of the lake, and consists partly of an island and partly of the main land, the walks being carried on by a variety of picturesque bridges. One of these is ornamented with black flower vases, and is thrown across the mouth of a canal, over which the branches of a thick plantation of high alder, birch, oak, and other trees, unite in forming a vaulted shade. Another bridge is formed of an oak sawn asunder lengthwise; planks being laid across the two halves of the tree, and the balustrade being composed of crooked boughs. The Bridge of Stairs is so called, because, in consequence of the high spring of the arch, it is ascended from each end, to nearly the middle, by steps. The Turn Bridge has a very curious appearance. It turns on a pillar fixed in the bank, and, as the equilibrium is well distributed, it is easily set in motion; its length is about ten ells (30 feet), and its breadth three feet. The balustrade is made of light wood, and the whole structure is painted white. A swinging aerial bridge, which the Prince de Ligne has described as making the passengers appear like rope-dancers, is suspended by chains from the bare sides of two opposite rocks, which seem to have been rent asunder by some convulsion of nature. A little stream of clear sparkling water runs along the bottom of the abyss. This perilous-looking bridge is, however, perfectly secure. Four strong iron chains are drawn from the one side of the rock to the other, and firmly soldered into stones, concealed within the rock as counterpoises. Planks are placed diagonally, and so well secured by cramps, that they cannot possibly give way. Two other chains, carried along the bridge on each side, supply the want of balustrades. Schoch's Island. Near the banks of the lake is a plot of flowers growing in the form of a pyramid, and encircled by six plane trees. A gravel walk runs between the flowers and the planes. Diana's wood is an irregular oval thicket, planted with silver poplars, plane, ash, elm, and other trees, with some clumps of yew. In the centre of the wood is a statue of the goddess, about four feet high, elevated on a pedestal, with a hound at her side. A remarkable illusion is produced in one part of this island. The stranger appears to be in a long deep valley. He sees neither bridges nor buildings, except the roof of the pavilion, where the curiosities from the South Sea Islands are kept, which is observed rising above some trees near the horizon. The lake cannot be said to be seen: we have only an obscure impression of its situation. But by what enchantment is the place so mysteriously changed? A few plantations and elevations of the soil alone transform the whole prospect. Thickets seem grown up by chance; here, a solitary tree, there a few, and sometimes a cluster of trees, give not only variety to the scene, but, also, in appearance, remove near objects to a distance, connect those that are disjoined, bring the distance to the foreground, separate what is united, conceal what was before uncovered, and make visible what was concealed. There are but few buildings on this island. The Nymph�um is a place sacred to the nymphs. It is a grotto constructed in a woody mountain, and it is 21 feet deep and 26 feet long. The entrance is ornamented with two fluted stone pillars, without a base, between two pilasters. The order is the ancient Ionic. The pillars support an entablature with griffins in the frieze, between which project candelabra, ornamented with leafwork. In the interior, the walls are covered with polished white gypsum, and the floor paved with flag-stones. The tomb of the elder Schoch, by whom this part of the garden was laid out, is at the foot of a little hill, planted with yews and firs, among which are placed numerous seats. Over the entrance to the tomb is the following inscription:� 'Schoch's place of rest. The labour of his mind-directed hand adorned these fields. ' The Gothic House is the next object of attraction. This interesting edifice has the form of a cloister, and stands on the summit of a verdant acclivity, not less soft to the eye than the feet, upon the sides of which are planted some slender poplars, which wave with every breath of wind. It is a large building, with more depth backward than breadth in front, surmounted with turrets, and embellished by numerous windows of painted glass. One readily perceives all that laborious intricacy, affectation, singularity, and rude grandeur, joined with an indescribable waste of labour, so peculiar to the Gothic taste. In short, we see here the emblem of that age of superstition, discord, violence, and gallantry, when every knight had a double duty to perform, namely,�' Der kirche mit dem schwerdt zu nutzen, Der damen ehre zu beschutzen ! ' His sword to draw, the church to serve, And ladies' honour to preserve!' We now quit the island to visit those portions of Schoch's Garden which are on the mainland.