Tag Archives: may

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.

May 2017

Rue, rosemary, rose, columbine, belladonna and henbane, various trays with young henbane plants, pots with mandrakes

May is a tough month, both for me, as well as the green. Whilst April is still cool, bulbous spring plants are in bloom and other plants just begin sprouting fresh green, May sees the arrival of the first hot days and the green now grow and expand rapidly. It’s the first time during the year that I find myself running and watering daily. Seedlings have to be replanted and previously pricked out plants demand larger pots or have to be planted to the ground, least they wither. It’s an overall stressful period. And as I find myself plagued with pollen allergy the plants too start to suffer from various diseases: first and foremost aphids (which have been multiplying rapidly and in significantly larger amounts than in previous years), secondly black spot disease and mildew (plaguing my beloved Munstead Wood rose) and thirdly a fungus that causes leaves to crumble and roll up (this fungus infests fruit trees and is effecting our cherry tree heavily this year). So I am constantly on watch, removing aphids by hand and cutting off diseased leaves and twigs.

It’s also a month for harvest: paying attention to the moon’s phase, auspicious days and planetary hours, I dug up mandrake and greater celandine root and collected elder flowers. Further the seed capsules of the Hellebores can set free their load any day and I am of course eager to collect their seeds, especially those of the black flowering variants. Alas, ants also have an interest in the oil-rich and therefore nutritious seeds and quickly carry them away into the darkness of their underground abodes. I got serious competition…  Did I mention it’s a stressful month as pertaining to the garden?

But there are also joyful moments, e.g. when the light of the evening sun shines through the flowering trees…

End of May the elder trees start blooming and the air smells of their sweet scent. I gathered the flowers during the night and hour of Venus.
Dog rose, swaying in the evening sun…

And yet there is more work to get done. My garden goals for this year include making a new flower bed beside our back porch. It’s a spot, where flowers will enjoy noon and afternoon sun during the summer. But before I can plant anything here, I first have to break up the old ground, which includes the removal of old tree roots as well as implementing a root barrier to the side of the hedge, mainly to keep the ground elder out. This part is done now. When finished with digging up the entire space and removing weed, I will blend the old soil with compost and humus-rich soil. The process thus far:

New flower bed process: breaking up soil and implementing root barrier to keep ground-elder from spreading, removing old tree roots

You see, it’s still a way to go for my future flower bed! But now some more impressions from the garden and recent herb harvest….

Leaving flower ‘islands’ on our lawn: this year appeared these lovely heartsease
Black petunia flower, floral galaxy unfolding…
Nightsky in a flower, May ’17
These two irises are back and I love them!
Valerian, Foxglove and Monkshood at dusk
Buzzy times for bumblebees. Here is one cleaning itself and almost falling over from the flower of my Valerian.
Mandrake root harvested in May ’17, under the waning moon: long legs and an auspicious hip swing it got!
The way it looked at me from the ground… sadly the upper part was rotten, probably due to a late frost in April. I saved what was left.
Greater celandine (Chelidonium majus), harvested on the day of Mars and night hour of the Sun. To me it is one of the most powerful witching herbs native to where I live.
The color is real. Here it shows why greater celandine is sometimes compared to Canadian blood root. It is also known as tetterwort and its applications in herbal medicine are similar.