June 23, 2015

Weekend of open gardens – Part 2 – Arboretum Sofronka

Within the Weekend of open gardens which I mentioned in my previous post we also visited Arboretum Sofronka and I would like to introduce it to you now. All the following photos were taken in the arboretum.

Arboretum Sofronka which is situated in Pilsen was established in 1956 as a workplace of Research institute of forest management and hunting with the intention of doing research into pine tree breeding. In 2009 the workplace was cancelled and the arboretum was taken over by the city Pilsen.

The place itself doesn't look extraordinary, it feels like just a forest. But when you start to focus on what's around you, you'll find out that there are two educational trails – one of them devoted to pine trees and the other one to bees.

I was actually quite surprised to see how close the various pine-tree species were growing one to another. Seen in this way, the differences between them were sometimes quite striking. Such variety in the length and colour of their needles, shape of the branches as well as shape of the trees, the ways the needles were arranged in groups…

Up to now, there were 61 pine-tree species from all over the world planted there, all grown from seeds. Nowadays 16 species that adopted themselves are represented there, other 14 species survived in just one or several specimen. The others didn't survive under the conditions inherent to the location – poor sandy soil with minimum contents of nutrients, arid climate, extreme temperatures and frequent early and late frost. They say that the species that survived there can be grown in most localities of Central Europe. 

The aim of the arboretum was to undertake research on evolution, biology and natural capacity of the individual pine-tree species so in principle, no fertilization, chemical protection or pruning was applied and trees were let to grow in natural environment. It was proved there that every species evolves in accordance with environmental changes under which it grows and undergoes evolution in connection with evolution of the forest community it belongs to. That knowledge brought into existence a new science branch - evolutionary dendrology.

Information acquired based on the research has helped to understand forest ecosystems. When it comes to forest management, many grave mistakes were made by humans but nowadays we know better. Forests should be used and grown with respect to their natural characteristics and without unnecessary human intervention. 

Based on the value of the research and the valuable pine-tree collection, the arboretum was put on an international list of the most significant botanical gardens and arboreta in the central register in Reading in the United Kingdom.

Well, all of this may sound much too educational but it fascinates me to see and discover the spectrum of what people examine, pay their attention to, try to understand and then try to use that knowledge properly. There are so many fields that everyone can find their own place of interest.

June 18, 2015

Weekend of open gardens – Part 1 – Luft's Garden

Some time ago I noticed a poster in a street inviting those passing by to visit a garden belonging to a Dominican monastery within an event called "Weekend of open gardens". As I had never heard of such an event, that invitation caught my attention and I thought about finding more pieces of information on the Internet when I get home. But you know what, soon I had other things on my mind and if it wasn't for my colleague who reminded me of that event when the weekend was close, I would have missed that. 

The "Weekend of open gardens" is inspired by the English "Open Garden & Squares Weekend" tradition and started its own tradition in 2010 with just three Prague gardens registered. In this 6th year there were 162 gardens registered throughout the Czech Republic and I'm sure that every year new gardens will join the project. Every garden which can offer an interesting piece of history, unusual design, environmental attitude, interesting collection of trees and bushes or attractive story is welcome to be registered and participate. 

It's helpful that you can have a look at the event's website and choose exactly the gardens you are interested in based on what they offer as the registered gardens cover a wide spectrum of variety and include kindergarten gardens, community gardens, arboreta, cemeteries, castle gardens and small private gardens, to name some of them. Some of the gardens look spectacular, others offer ideas and inspiration. Some of the gardens are open throughout the whole year, some just from spring to autumn and the rest only on special occasions. During the event most of the gardens offer not only open gates and free (but not necessarily for free) access but also commented tours, exhibitions, musical or theatrical performance.

This year the event took place last weekend and I visited with my husband three gardens in Pilsen which caught our attention in the list of the local registered gardens. I'd like to introduce all three of them to you in this and the following two posts.

Let's start with LUFT'S GARDEN.

For the moment Luft's Garden belongs to those gardens which don't look spectacular – and that's why I didn't take many photos there which I regret now as I should have documented more parts of the garden – but it can offer an interesting story and moreover, it obviously has a potential. 

The garden was built in the years 1886 – 1909 and included two ponds used for fish breeding. The ponds are still part of the garden and especially one of them adds significantly to the feel of the garden. In 1912 the garden was bequeathed to Mr. Luft who started to remodel it into a private residential garden and planted exotic wood species there. He wanted to build a villa in the garden premises but he was never granted permission by the building office. Thus nowadays the garden is funnily enough characterized as a unique residential garden without a residence.

When Mr. Luft died, the garden stayed in the family ownership until 1959 when state officials made its owner sell the garden to the state under the threat of expropriation so that a public park was established there. Nevertheless, the garden's future didn't develop as it was planned and though it was used, proper care wasn't taken of it and it started to deteriorate. They say that the good side of that development was that the concept of the garden was preserved and the garden can be restored now. 

Since 1991 Luft's garden has belonged to the property of the city Pilsen which started its regeneration in 1996. In 2010 the garden was open to public and nowadays it's open for free every first Wednesday of a month. The garden is listed as a "significant landscape element" and is included in a regional bio corridor of the territorial system of environmental stability. If there were spare finances in the city budget, it might become a beautiful place…

May 19, 2015

Peony and other beauties

Quite a few years ago I planted a little tree peony bush (Paeonia suffruticosa) in our garden. I bought it in a garden centre because I liked the picture of its pink flowers presented on a label and based on described growing conditions I decided the peony could grow happily here. It did and though they say the plant doesn't tolerate replanting easily, it even survived when we needed to move it into a different part of the garden. It doesn't grow way too quickly but every spring it is covered with impressive buds and then flowers which I'll never grow tired of being looking at.

In autumn those beautiful flowers turn into quite interesting ovaries. I'm going to collect and dry a few of them and add them to my still life photography props. (You know, the other day I saw similar dried ovaries in a hobby centre and remembered the peony immediately...)

A few days ago I went to the garden with the intention to take a few photos there and my first steps headed towards the peony. When I got closer and chose a flower I wanted to portray, I noticed there was quite a big green beetle sitting inside. I was surprised to see another beetle sitting inside a near flower as well and eventually I found out that there were quite many of them sitting or moving inside the flowers, apparently drinking the nectar. Some of them had a nice shining wing case, others had their wing case scratched and worn. I wonder whether it might have corresponded to their age or perhaps to how adventurous they were? :)

Based on the beetle's appearance and behaving, I identified it as a Rose Chafer (Cetonia aurata). I found two quite interesting facts regarding rose chafers. Firstly, though they have quite hard looking wing cases, they keep them down when flying, which means the wing cases stay closed in the air and just the wings are out. Secondly, according to Wikipedia "The metallic green colouring of the beetle is caused by the reflection of mostly circularly polarised light, typically left circularly polarised light. When viewed through a right circular polariser, the beetle appears to be colourless." How curious is that?

I decided to take more photos in the garden this year to document it better. I've been key-wording my archive photos lately and I've found it very interesting to get back in time and see how the garden and the plants looked those years ago. Look at this Saxifraga × arendsi that is decorating my rock garden at the moment... Wasn't the capture worth the time and effort?

Or having captured the tulip, beautifully contrasting a Hosta...

...which has just unrolled its leaves. 

I've just replanted my Hostas and hope they will like their new place. They are very decorative plants and I only regret that they don't keep their leaves throughout winter.

A garden may become a friend one loves to visit and spend time with, including all the work that needs to be done and all the effort that needs to be made. A garden may also become an enemy if the work and time consumed don't seem worth the results. I feel fortunate enough to have the garden as a friend that inspires me and challenges me year after year...