July 10, 2015

Weekend of open gardens – Part 3 – Meditation garden

The third garden which we visited in Pilsen within the Weekend of open gardens was the "Memorial to victims of evil" also known as a "Meditation garden" or the "Hruška's garden".

There was a man, Mr. Hruška, who spent more than 10 years as a political prisoner in a communist prison. When he came home in 1960, he started to remodel his fruit garden and changed it into an ornamental park. Though he had a job, he was attending lectures on garden architecture in a far city. He chopped down fruit trees and planted ornamental trees and bushes, created water and grassy areas. He wanted to commemorate suffering of those people who opposed totalitarian regimes, whether fascist or communist, and he decided to express that suffering by the suffering of Jesus Christ who accepted his suffering as sacrifice on behalf of humankind. 

A sand-stone Calvary was placed into the remodelled garden and changed it even further into a meditation garden as well as a memorial to victims of evil.

Furthermore, a chapel dedicated to Maxmilian Kolbe, a Polish friar who offered his life for the life of a stranger in the German death camp of Auschwitz because the other man had a family at home, was built in the garden.

In 1995 Mr. Hruška donated the garden to bishop's office in Pilsen that owns it now and the garden is open to public.

There was a charming exhibition of flowers in unusual decorations, I loved many of them. 

In my eyes, the garden is an impressive place, whether you believe in Christ and his mission or not. It's not very large but it is beautifully created, dense and full of content. Somewhat sad though, personifying all the suffering. 

The flower decorations added the light I needed and brought hope aboard, something I was grateful for. 

That's it, all three gardens introduced. I'd like to highlight that there is one thing that connects them all and that is the personal effort of someone who invested their energy, reason and dreams and created something timeless. I take my hat off to them all in gratitude.

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…