We The Italians | Italian gardens and parks: The gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle

Italian gardens and parks: The gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle

Italian gardens and parks: The gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle

  • WTI Magazine #150 Apr 23, 2022
  • 301

The Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle, also known as the Gardens of Sissi, in honor of the beloved Austrian empress who stayed there several times from 1870, are located in Merano, on a large sun-kissed amphitheater, occupying a sloping area of 12 hectares. Opened in 2001, they bring together 80 botanical environments, including landscapes, themed gardens, terraces, waterways, plants from all over the world, most of which are able to grow outdoors, art pavilions, multi-sensory stations and much more. From spring to autumn there are blooms and themed exhibitions, which make the visit interesting and always new.

Their realization began in 1994, at the behest of the Province and the Municipality, with the intent both to honor the memory of Empress Sissi, whose presence in Merano contributed greatly to the fortune of the town, and to renew its long tradition of botanical experimentation: it was in fact nicknamed "garden city" since the mid-nineteenth century, famous throughout Europe for the great variety of plants, including Mediterranean and exotic, which, favored by particularly favorable microclimates, have been acclimatized, especially along the slopes around the castle.

Scattered around the gardens, there are numerous reminders of the visits of the much-loved Empress of Austria, who has become an object of worship, to whose stays Merano has become world famous, such as the Sissi Terrace and the Sissi Throne: Baron von Deuster (owner of Trauttmansdorff Castle from 1897 to 1921) organized a princely party in 1908 to commemorate the last visit of the imperial couple. To mark the occasion, he had a 3-meter-long white marble throne with effigies of the Emperor and Empress placed in Sissi's favorite spot in the shade of an old chestnut tree. Since 2005 the throne has been located on the open terrace on the south side of the castle, from which you can admire a magnificent view of the botanical garden and in particular of the Water Lily Pond.

Very suggestive is also the Walk of Sissi, along which there is a marble bust depicting her: lover of physical activity, the Empress loved in fact to walk long in the property, so she made "pleasant paths covered with gravel" in the forest of oaks (Quercus pubescens) near the Castle "to walk undisturbed by the bustle of the world.

The gardens

The gardens are divided into four large thematic areas, within which there are several environments and botanical rarities: The Sun Gardens, Woods of the World, Water and Terraced Gardens, and Landscapes of South Tyrol.

 

The Sun Gardens are located on the southern slope: Dedicated to the region and the landscapes of the Mediterranean, they consist of mostly evergreen trees and shrubs, including holm oaks (Quercus ilex) and cork oaks (Quercus suber), olive trees, which form the northernmost olive grove in Italy, dominated by a 700-year-old specimen, pines, and cypresses; there are also lush fruit trees typical of southern Italy, such as pomegranates, vines, figs and mulberries, hundreds of sunflowers, and, in the Terrace of the Lemon House, oranges, lemons, kumquats, bergamots and spectacular cedars "Buddha's Hand"; finally, the Semidesert of Succulents, collects large South African aloes, North African agaves, countless Euphorbiaceae: in winter the area is closed and protected under a greenhouse.

The area dedicated to the Woods of the World and its landscapes, instead, extends on the northern side of the castle, offering a pleasant coolness in summer. There are reconstructed corners of forests of North America, South America and East Asia, with large specimens of broadleaf and needle trees; the Valley of Ferns, formed by streams and waterfalls, specimens of Ginkgo biloba, araucaria and metasequoia, and a precious specimen of Wollemia nobilis, a prehistoric species considered extinct; the Japanese Garden with its typical elements: water, stones and plants that tell examples of the history of East Asian civilization; an Asian rice paddy field; a tea plantation; botanical collections including a collection of flowering cherry trees and over 300 varieties and species of rhododendron; the Clay Walls, consisting of 1,500 square meters of flower beds, arranged in a semi-perpendicular position; the Palm Beach, which, despite the background of snowy peaks, evokes the romantic atmosphere of tropical beaches; and finally, inaugurated in 2014, the Greenhouse, which houses tropical plants and a terrarium with insects and lizards from around the world.

In this section there is also the bamboo forest, of which there are as many as 40 different varieties, each with its own particularity: taller, lower, colored canes.

In the Water and Terraced Gardens, staircases and streams of water connect different levels, creating the characteristic scenery of European garden architecture: spherical boxwoods, geometric flowerbeds and labyrinths evoke the atmosphere of the Italian Renaissance gardens; flowerbeds, geometric but freer, represent the English Garden; aromatic plants, roses, lilies and jasmine form the evocative Garden of the Senses; at the foot of the terraces, the romantic Water Lily Pond opens up, inhabited by Koi carp, ducks, turtles and many other specimens of aquatic fauna, framed by lush riparian vegetation dominated by irises, emerald lilies and marsh plants, and, in the area dedicated to lotus flowers (Nelumbo nucifera), by a dense palm grove, consisting of over 200 specimens, along with camellias and azaleas; the collections of clematis and peonies; the Rose Garden, made up of over 50 wild species and 30 historical varieties; finally, the Labyrinth, formed by yew hedges (Taxus baccata), in the middle of which stands a pomegranate (Punica granatum).

The area dedicated to the Landscapes of South Tyrol runs along the course of an artificial stream: the oak forest (Quercus pubescens) gives way, further down, to the riparian forest dominated by alders and willows, which once covered the marshy plains of the main valleys of South Tyrol; on the banks of the lake, it is then replaced by the typical marshy vegetation of tife and reeds. The area is also home to a large Floral Meadow, an extensively cultivated orchard with ancient varieties of apples and pears; the vineyard, made up of "Gewürztraminer", "Schiava", and "Lagrein" vines, a dozen very old native vines that are almost no longer cultivated: there is a precious collection of objects from three millennia of South Tyrolean wine history.

Among other things, a gold copy of a 7000-year-old grape seed, a gift from the National Museum of Tbilisi, Georgia, and 2400-year-old local grape seeds can be admired. Finally, the vegetable garden, bordered by the characteristic woven palisade: it was handmade by a farmer from the nearby Val d'Ultimo. Narrow walkways separate the different areas of the vegetable garden, which are typically planted with vegetables, flowers, aromatic and medicinal plants.

In 2011, a unique installation was inaugurated here: the "Underground Plant Kingdom": a 200-metre-long multimedia educational path carved into the rock, which, through a play of light and sound, leads to an insight into the underground life of plants, and the relationship between water, soil, nutrients, root systems and light.

Another attraction of the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle are the animals that live there: rabbits and peacocks, Hungarian Zackel sheep and dwarf goats, Chinese ducks, Japanese carp and many others.

Among other things, a gold copy of a 7000-year-old grape seed, a gift from the National Museum of Tbilisi, Georgia, and 2400-year-old local grape seeds can be admired. Finally, the vegetable garden, bordered by the characteristic woven palisade: it was handmade by a farmer from the nearby Val d'Ultimo. Narrow walkways separate the different areas of the vegetable garden, which are typically planted with vegetables, flowers, aromatic and medicinal plants.

Botanical rarities

 

In 1994, a sensational botanical discovery was made: in an Australian gorge about 100 specimens of a conifer considered extinct were found: Wollemia nobilis, widespread throughout the world up to 65 million years ago. An international program for the proliferation and breeding of this interesting plant has ensured its survival since 1999. Since April 2006, the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle have had a specimen, the first in Italy: it is located in the Fern Valley, together with other "living fossils" such as Ginkgo biloba and Metasequoia glyptostroboides. In order to study the cold resistance of the plant, an agreement has been reached with the Australian government: the conifer overwinters in the open air and, in case of damage caused by frost, it will be replaced by the Australian government.

Among the 400 rhododendrons present in the Gardens, there is a 5-6 m tall specimen of Rhododendron arboreum, transported from Lake Maggiore. the Japanese Garden with its typical elements: water, stones and plants that tell the story of the civilization of East Asia.

In the Giardini del Sole grows a spectacular 700 years old olive tree, arrived from Sardinia. The circumference of the trunk now measures 3 meters and the diameter at breast height is 93 centimeters.

Trauttmansdorff Castle has the largest collection of sage in Italy that is open to the public, comprising 154 varieties and species from different continents.

The largest vine in the world: at the foot of the nearby Katzenzungen Castle, there is the largest and probably oldest vine in the world, of which the Gardens of Trauttmansdorff Castle acquired patronage in 2006: this is a plant of "Versoaln", an ancient vine native to the Vinschgau Valley, from which a wine tinged with green is produced, with a fruity flavor and delicate structure, with just a hint of acidity. With 350 years of age and a leaf area of more than 300 square meters, this extraordinary vine is today a natural monument and cultural asset of South Tyrol.