There are many gardens in Europe worth viewing. But some are especially spectacular. Usually, a very exceptional and creative brain is behind them.
Ireland: Caher Bridge Garden
“This must be the most stupid place for a garden,” says the man who should know, the gardener Carl Wright. He is pointing towards the windswept, boulder-strewn landscape of Irelands’s western county of Clare, a place where it can rain for weeks on end.
But that didn’t stop Wright from hauling in 1,500 tonnes of soil and spreading it around by hand to create his Caher Bridge Garden.
Every hole for each plant he had to carve out of the rocky soil – gardening against all the odds. But the result is a natural-looking magic garden that blends into the landscape and features rare plants that sport the most varying shades of green imaginable.
France: Jardin Potager de Chateau Miromesnil
“I am living my dream, as well as my gardening dream,” is what Nathalie Romatet says about the park of her Miromesnil chateau south of Dieppe in the Normandie region. The 46-year-old French woman runs one of the largest kitchen gardens in all of Europe, filled with vegetables, all sorts of berries and flowers.
She particularly loves rare old flower species. Whereas in other castle parks the kitchen gardens have long since vanished, the unpretentious castle heiress has resurrected the vegetable garden of her grandmother, dating back to the 18th Century. Forming a cordon along the protective brick walls there are roses, herbaceous perennials and fruit trees.
Gardening fans from all around Europe make the pilgrimage to the Jardin Potager de Chateau Miromesnil in order to admire the variety on display in the grand vegetable plots. This is most definitely not one of those perfectly-manicured baroque gardens you find everywhere else in France.
Germany: Dennenlohe Castle
In the Franconia region of northern Bavaria, Robert Baron von Suesskind has created a landscape park that knows no equal. For close to three decades the “green Baron” has been digging, shovelling and excavating heavy clay soil in order to convert this flat piece of land into a designed landscape.
The path leads visitors through a round Chinese moon gate to a rhododendron park, then a labyrinth of hedgerows, across a hanging bridge, into a bamboo grove and then up a lookout hill topped by a temple from Bhutan. The nobleman-gardener is always coming up with exceptional ideas for his park.
Spain: Jardin El Capricho
The idyllic Jardin El Capricho, hidden on the periphery of Madrid, is testimony to some of the craziness of Spanish history. Starting in 1787, at the behest of Duchess Maria Josefa Pimentel (1754-1834), leading landscape architects began creating the garden – with summer palace, a villa for bees and a labyrinth of laurel trees.
The park has Italian, French and English-style gardens where the gardening-crazy duchess would receive artists such as Goya, who painted her portrait. In later epochs, the garden was a place for duels, while during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), bunkers were built by the Republicans to plan military operations against Francisco Franco. Years later on, the garden was used to shoot Dracula films.
Austria: Hildegard von Bingen herbal garden
Hildegard von Bingen, the grand wise lady of the Middle Ages, was an abbess, saint and expert on plants. She never did visit the Alpbachtal valley in Austria’s province of Tyrol, but a number of female gardeners established the Hildegard von Bingen Herbal Garden in the town of Reith in 2012.
“We divided up the beds and planted herbal plants according to bodily functions, such as breathing,” says Irmgard Rendl, one of the gardeners. The ladies guide visitors through their garden and point out those herbs with medicinal qualities. For visitors, a healthy walk in more way than one.
Austria: Kittenberger adventure garden
Gardener Reinhard Kittenberger has created a gigantic plant kingdom in the Lower Austrian town of Schiltern. Visitors can go exploring the Kittenberger Adventure Garden that covers some 40,000 sq m.
There are more than 40 thematic gardens where visitors may just get some ideas for their own gardens back home. Kittenberger, a gardener by profession as well as a semi-professional singer-entertainer, is untiring in creating his highly imaginative empire. You just might hear him with his firm voice singing passionately while he is working. He is not shy about his idiosyncrasies.
One of the most-visited gardens in Europe is designed by one of the youngest gardeners: Martin Elling, not yet 30 years old.
Each year, the landscape architect plans anew the pattern for the huge flower beds of the Keukenhof garden in the Dutch town of Lisse.
The Dutchman spends a whole year together with his team working on a garden that for just seven weeks is a festival of blossoms during the spring season. So that the blossoms of the tulips, daffodils and grape hyacinths are especially fulsome, as many as one thousand employees plant millions of bulbs in a day. – dpa/Daniela David