The Landscape Guide


We have already considered what was done by Prince Pückler in Germany in the first half of the century. His importance lay in the lofty enthusiasm with which he maintamed the interests of the garden, though he largely shared the weakness of his own day, in that he had no notion of how to lay out the parts near the house. It is difficult to see how the colour-gardens of which he speaks, the blue and the yellow, were managed. He may have taken the idea from Paris, possibly from Parc Monceau. He certainly had carpet-beds with flowers of many colours. Peter Lenné made a great name in North Germany as director of the garden at Potsdam. It was perhaps only the respect for the past felt by the master of the house that prevented the whole garden of Sans-Souci from being turned into a landscape park, with even its axial lines obliterated, for we know that Lenné had already executed designs for such a change. Happily he was content with having: boskets all round the place, but even then much was lost of the original form, Lenné mellowed as time went on, and when he had Schinkel as a fellow-worker, and as patron a man of so much artistic taste as King Frederick William IV.. He helped to create at Sans-Souci a work typical of the time of the Italian Renaissance. Under this king Potsdam with its surroundings grew to be one of the finest princely seats in existence. As early as 1825, while crown prince, he received a small piece of land to the south-west of Sans-Souci as a gift from his father, and the next year he began to build the house he called Charlottenhof, in the style that was then considered to be classical Italian. Schinkel infused a strong flavour of his own masterful personality into this type of building when he was working as architect in Berlin, and by his treatment had given it much character and individuality. He had a great plan for Charlottenhof, where there were to be gardens with pillared corridors round them, and ornamental parterres in the Italian style. The limited means of the crown prince would not permit of a large house. He seems to have had the Villa Albani in mind, and made a terrace (Fig. 612) which ended in an arbour of vines with a Roman seat and a shell fountain. 

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Certain parts of the place must have reminded him of happy days spent in Italy, for here were the so-called Roman baths, which properly represented an Italian villa rustica, with its impluvium and its terrace.

When he became king, as Frederick William IV., he conceived far-reaching plans for embracing not only Sans-Souci but also Potsdam itself in a general scheme. His father had already greatly enlarged the circle of princely castles which lay around Potsdam, and had given a special seat to each of his sons. Babelsberg was assigned to Prince William, whose taste differed from that of his brother, and he had this house, which was in the neo-Gothic style, set in the middle of a real landscape garden. Its beauty, apart from the old trees, mainly lay in its fine view over the Sacred Lake. Prince Charles, whose taste resembled that of his elder brother, decorated Glienicke, which fell to his lot, with a great many small sites imitating an antique style, but also with some very fine genuine antiques. Frederick William now wished to close in the circle of stately gardens on the north-west, and had an idea of connecting the Pfingstberg, where his father had had a little tea-house, with the new garden at the Marble Palace by means of a handsome terrace construction. Only the castle and the upper portion of these terraces were ever finished; and the town, as a fact, made its way in between the various parts of the circle of gardens. What was actually made was not really a series of garden terraces, which would have had to be continued farther down, The building was a curious and unmethodical mixture, reminiscent of Italian and Moorish styles, and it produced a bizarre effect.

The king had some plans for developments at Sans-Souci, but these were only partially carried out. His chief innovation was the new orangery, which very clearly showed the Italian ideal that then dominated Northern Europe. Towers, pierced and furnished with loggias, were connected by corridors on pillar supports, and these were the most striking feature; then three terraces, of which the highest one had a flower-parterre on it, descended to the main road. The most conspicuous of the smaller parts was the pretty Sicilian garden. The king had it put in the place of the old orangeries of Frederick's day, and laid out as a jardin fleuriste in front of a fine balustraded wall furnished with alcoves containing many statues. Unfortunately the effect of this graceful work was utterly spoiled by the introduction in 1902 of the colossal bronze figure of the Archer into the fore- ground. What Frederick William accomplished at Sans-Souci was superior architecturally to anything done in the way of Italianised gardens in other countries, but even in Germany it remained a personal and unique fancy of the king. Lenné was dragged in on the artistic side by the king’s strong influence and by the powerful personality of Schinkel. 

Whenever Lenné designed gardens outside Potsdam, he adhered strictly to the forms of the jardin fleuriste. In the Instruction Book, which was published in 1860 by his best-known pupil, Gustav Meyer, the ideas of the time, and principally those of Lenné, were adopted for the treatment of the formal parts. “The amount of space to be used for laying out formally near the house must be dependent on the size and style of that house. At a country place it is necessary to have formal paths and a couple of rose-trees on the lawn. Palaces need more, but Nature must never be altered by clipping or the like, and Gothic buildings need very little regularity.” Such teaching in a German treatise, which enjoyed unbounded popularity right on to the end of the century, showed how little account was taken of places of this kind, Lenné’s own heart was entirely in favour of the free development of a natural style, and he found great opportunities at Potsdam, at the park at Babelsberg, at Glienicke, and in the garden of the Marble Palace; for at all these there was much that he could do.

Even more peculiar than the great work at Potsdam—indeed one might say absolutely unique—were the works of King Ludwig II. of Bavaria in the second half of the century. The Bavarian royal house had early shown an inclination for the formal style. Ludwig I. took pains that the long-neglected garden of Schleissheim should have its parterres made once more after the old drawings, and there were similar plans for Nymphenburg. King Max wanted to build himself a castle in the unfinished park of Feldafing, after Lenné’s plan, and with formal surroundings, but this remained no more than a vision. His chief gardening activities were restricted to the hanging winter gardens at the Residence in Munich. There he wanted to have scenery of the kind found in Upper Italy, so the tiresome greenhouse was to be concealed as much as possible on one side by evergreen oaks and fig-trees, and a pergola on pillars with a fountain at the end of it must entice one’s steps forward, and give the illusion of a garden in a southern land (Fig. 613).

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His son, yielding to a love for what was disproportionate and fantastic, played a higher trump card than this winter garden, and combined the flora of India with the architecture of the Moors. However, the lake which he put on the roof of the house soon proved to be insecurely supported from below. Soon after his death, the garden perished, like so much else of his work; and, as he had strictly excluded the public, very few people can ever have seen it except himself and the gardeners. The gardens which he laid out round the castles were much larger and still more fanciful. Ludwig was like Philip V. of Spain in that he was fond of lonely valleys in the mountains. As Philip felt about San Ildefonso, so Ludwig felt on seeing a little hunting-box at Graswangthal near Oberammergau, and he wanted to make a Versailles in the solitude of the hills. This scheme was never carried out at Linderhof, the place originally proposed, for the king changed his mind and selected another, the island of Herrenchiemsee, which was still less suitable. At Linderhof, however, he had a great terrace-garden made in the later baroque style. He had no perfectly clear pattern before his eyes, and the place reminds one most of certain castles built by Augustus the Strong, and in particular of Gross-Sedlitz, for in the same way the main axis passes right across the valley, and has to ascend the slope on both sides. At Linderhof (Fig. 614), so called from a lime-tree which was kept standing in the middle of the architectural design, the castle stands on almost the lowest possible level. 
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Close behind was a cascade. On one side stood three imposing terraces in succession to a sunk parterre; they mounted up by elliptical stairs to a temple, and each terrace carried flower-beds graduated in size. The most successful parts of the arrangement are found in the small giardini secreti, which are attractively laid out at the side of the house, with parterres bordered by trellis paths.

The whole formal picture was set in a landscape which was treated rather carelessly. On either side of the water stairway, parts of the hill-slope were brought into the formal portion of the grounds by the aid of semicircular leafy paths. Unfortunately much of this is unfinished, and all of it very badly preserved.

People regarded the whole idea of an architectural garden at Linderhof as a mere freak or hobby of the king’s, but even less defensible was the disastrous imitation at Herrenchiemsee of the mighty model of Versailles. In the first place, the site was a little island, about two kilometres in length, and, small as it was, it could not all be used; moreover, it had nothing in common with Versailles. To give the appearance of a canal, dams were put in the lake, and planted round with hedges. It was very characteristic of the time that the parterre from the Latona to the Apollo fountain was copied exactly, whereas the boskets were reduced to a minimum, for there was no intelligent grasp of the scheme. Ludwig was perhaps told that the two large fountains in front of the castle had central groups originally; in any case he adorned them with copies of groups in the park at San Ildefonso. Ludwig’s gardens have remained the monument of a too excitable personality.