Category Archives: Botanical Gardens & Parks

Garden and Park Schloss Berge, Gelsenkirchen

The park and gardens at Schloss Berge (Gelsenkirchen) offer interesting perspectives. Portals formed by trees frame and reveal new scenes. High beechwood hedges flank the way into a labyrinth. Staggered arrangements emphasize distances. The area around the former castle is divided into three sections: the French garden with its geometrical flower borders and allegorical sculptures was created during the late baroque period, whereas the widespread English landscape garden was added during the 18th century. Between the two lies a labyrinth, which encloses a lavishly laid out herb garden with espalier fruit trees and plenty of healing herbs.

Fellow photographer Anna Krajewski guided me through this wonderful park, while walking her English bulldog. Mist veiled the nature and buildings and provided a chill and relaxed atmosphere. And so the three of us enjoyed the cool day, after an eventful Walpurgis night

French Garden

The first garden at Schloss Berge was created around 1700, in the South of the former mansion. The garden was arranged in the fashion of the time and following the example of French baroque gardens, which are defined by a central visual axis, oblong separated spaces with geometrical flower borders and paths, accompanied by allegorical sculptures depicting scenes and figures from Greek and Roman myth. The message is that of rationalism: the garden is man-made and at distance to a wild untamed nature. These meticulously arranged gardens were high-maintenance and demanded hundreds or even thousands of caretakers. They represented perfection, but ultimately were too fragile. Soon a new trend, from England took over…

The French garden at Schloss Berge was restored during the 1920ies. During the Nazi regime, part of the buildings were torn down and the central flower bed depicted a swastika. The castle was restored after WWII and again in 2004, now housing a hotel and restaurant. During our visit the flower borders at the entrance showed a not-so-subtle FC Schalke 04 theme in blue and white, whereas the central circular bed now depicts the city coat of arms of Gelsenkirchen.

My main interest though was in the trees and shrubs enclosing the French garden, which appeared almost romantic and created wonderful green-in-green contrasts.

Herb Garden

The herb garden is part of the French garden and was also restored during the 1920ies. The oblong garden space is enclosed between beechwood hedges and geometrically arranged around a central fruit tree and low pruned fig. Espalier fruit with mossy stems, boxwood and hop form additional spacers between the paths and herb beds. I counted dozens of different kitchen and healing herbs, almost all of which I also include in my seed boxes. 🙂 I was especially thrilled about the old rue plants, which had developed thick wooden stems. I knew rue (and other herbs such as lavender or mugwort) can do this, but from these one could have made wands! The patch of flowering lily of the valley was lovely too. I overall enjoyed the angles and staggered arrangement of low herb beds, beechwood borders and large individual trees in the distance.

English Garden

In 1790 the owner of Schloss Berge raised to earldom. The former mansion was enlarged and turned into a castle in the style of early neo-classicism. Along with this the park was also expanded towards the West with an English landscape garden.

Seemingly random arrangements of trees and wild plants create scenic settings. A small bridge crosses a hidden channel, which forms the seamless border between garden and forest area. High trees in deepening green reflect on the dark water’s surface. An opening of fresh green male fern contrasts dark yew trees. Wild flowering arums with spotted leaves peek out of the ground and white hawthorn blossoms announce the beginning of May.


Schloss Berge is surrounded by a number of natural and artificial lakes. Visitors can enjoy themselves in one of the beer gardens, rent a pedal boat or simply enjoy a walk through the adjoining nature.

The 230 Years Old Camellia Tree of Pillnitz

The camellia in Pillnitz is around 230 years old and is considered the oldest camellia north of the Alps. It is almost 9 m high and 11 m in diameter. From February to April it is covered in carmine red flowers. During the cold season, the tree, which was planted at this place by court gardener Terscheck in 1801, is protected by a large glass house with stairs. During this time visitors can enter and view the tree from two levels.

In the mid 19th century Dresden became a European hot spot for the culture and breeding of camellias, and exported them to Russia as well as Italy and Spain. The camellia was viewed as a status symbol among European aristocrats, and Russians in particular, had a high demand for camellia flowers, which were exported in thousands to St. Petersburg and Moscow.

With growing popularity among Westerners, and contrary to its Far Eastern symbolism, the meaning of the camellia  flower changed. Thanks to popular literature, most prominently La dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas from 1848, as well as real life personae, such as the “Wiener Cameliendame”, a dancer named Fanny Elßler, the camellia became erotizised!

On the other hand the longevity of the flowers, and particularly white camellia flowers, became associated with death and mourning and were woven into funeral wreaths.

The seeds of all known (about 200) camellia seeds yield a valuable oil, which smoothes the hair and juvenates the skin. The oil is rich in linolenic acid, and is also used in cooking and reduces cholesterine. Samurai rubbed camellia oil unto their sword blades to protect them from rust. The oil is also used as a natural surface finish for wood, as lube in watches and precision engineering and more.

Camellia wood is hard and durable and was used in the manufacture of weapons, different tools as well as kokeshi dolls. Up to the Edo period, a camellia rod was used in Buddhist ceremony to punish and drive out malign spirits. The wood also yielded a spark-free and, hence sought after charcoal.

Camellias are highly resistant against diseases and may contain different antibacterial and fungicidal agents.

Besides, the first Westerner to portrait a camellia flower was likely a Saxon gardener by the name George Meister. His book “Der Orientalisch-Indianische Kunst- und Lust-Gärtner” was published in 1692 in Dresden. In it he describes both the camellia as well as its crop plant, Camellia sinensis var. sinensis – the tea shrub!

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