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Philipp J. Conrad

Prince Pückler’s Gardens

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Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was a German nobleman, author, bon vivant, world traveller and garden designer. His interest in gardens and landscape design was aroused as a young man. Pückler, who is considered to be the most important Prussian garden artist, designed three large landscape parks, in the course of his life:

  • first the park around Muskau Palace, where he grew up,

  • later the Babelsberg Park in Potsdam, commissioned by the emperor, and

  • lastly Branitz Park around Branitz Palace, where he spent the rest of his life.

These three parks are still preserved for posterity, are considered garden monuments, and serve as green oases for the recreation of visitors.

The highest degree of landscape gardening is only reached where it appears to be free nature again, but in its noblest form.
Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau | Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei
  • Schloss Muskau in Muskau Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Bad Muskau, Saxony.

    Bad Muskau

    Bad Muskau is a town in Saxony on the banks of the Neisse river. It gained worldwide fame through its landscape park. Built by Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau, it is the largest English-style landscape park in Europe. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is divided between Germany and Poland.

    Hermann von Pückler-Muskau was born in Saxony in 1785, more precisely in Muskau Castle, which was owned by his mother's family, Countess Clementine von Callenberg, and which he inherited in 1811.

    From 1815 onwards, the prince worked to transform the lands around the New Moscow Castle into a landscape park. To this end, he had an entire village relocated and two new bridges built, the English Bridge and the Double Bridge, both of which cross the Neisse River. His principles were based on English garden design, which he studied on his travels through the country. These include curved, natural-looking paths, no rigid structures or straight lines, and visual axes that allow park visitors to discover new things again and again. A landscape painting technique that works with different levels and divides the landscape into foreground, background and the space between also plays a decisive role.

    In the course of the work on his first green oasis, the prince became increasingly indebted. Saving or budgeting, or dealing with money in general, were not among his strengths. Still, a park was created that is unparalleled.

    Today Muskauer Park is divided into a German section to the west of the Lusatian Neisse, which marks the border between the two countries, and a Polish section to the south. Since 2004, Europe's largest English-style landscape park has formed the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site Muskauer Park Mużakowski and is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

  • Babelsberg Palace, the summer residence of German Emperor William I, in Potsdam, Germany.

    Potsdam

    Potsdam is the capital of Brandenburg and the former residence of the kings of Prussia. The city is rich in parks and castles and the cultural landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Babelsberg film park is one of Europe most modern film studios, in 1926 “Metropolis” by Fritz Lang was produced here.

    From 1833 to 1849, a new summer residence, Babelsberg Palace, was built in several stages for Emperor Wilhelm I, then still a prince. Prince Pückler and Empress Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, the Prince's wife, were well acquainted from Weimar and the Prince had just published his book “Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei (Hints on Landscape Gardening)”. When it came to continuing Peter Joseph Lenné's work on the park around the new Babelsberg Palace built for Emperor Wilhelm I, the prince played on his good connections and obtained the position of garden planner on very good terms, for a free hand in all decisions was his motto.

    Pückler was responsible for the extensive Pleasureground with its “pancake beds”, terraces running around the palace, the planting of the Rose Staircase with white and red roses, artificial water features, fountains and lakes and, above all, the visual axes to the surrounding lakes. The prince realised many of his ideas for creating a harmonious, not designed, but naturally grown park, which had previously only been known from English gardens.

    Since 1990, Park Babelsberg has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site as part of Potsdam's cultural landscape Palaces and Parks of Potsdam and Berlin. Since 2016, the park has been restored to its former glory and is well worth an extended visit.

  • Branitz Palace in Hermann Prince of Pückler’s Branitz Park in Cottbus, Brandenburg.

    Cottbus

    Cottbus is the second-largest city in Brandenburg and is considered the cultural centre of the Sorbs in Lower Lusatia. It is known for the State Theater, the Branitzer Park around Branitz Castle built by Hermann von Pückler-Muskau and the Olympic Training Centre, which is very successful in the field of cycling.

    In 1845, the heavily indebted Pückler had to sell his beloved Muskau. But he did not have to live on the street, instead he simply moved into his second home, the Branitz manor, which had been in the Pückler family since 1696. With the money he had gained from the sale of Muskau, he paid off his heavy debt burden. And what was left he invested in the same year, at the age of 60, in the landscaping of his new residence, near the town of Cottbus.

    The prince himself described Branitz as his masterpiece, which he created out of nothing, because before Branitz was literally a desert. He created several lakes and canals and used the excavated earth to build various hills and plant them with trees and shrubs. He divided the park into two zones; the “inner park” with the nursery and the castle and the “outer park”, which surrounded the inner park.

    The prince died at Branitz Palace on 4 February 1871. A walk through the park reveals two earth pyramids, the larger of the two, called the Tumulus, is located in the Pyramid Lake. Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau is buried in this pyramid together with his (temporary) wife Lucie.

    The park is considered a garden monument of international standing and the Stiftung Fürst-Pückler-Museum Park und Schloss Branitz (Prince Pückler Museum Foundation Park and Branitz Castle) is also striving for this work of the prince to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The late Baroque palace, which the prince naturally had remodelled during his lifetime, houses an extensive exhibition with faithfully recreated rooms that give an insight into the life of the worldly prince.

Whoever wants to get to know me completely
must know my garden,
for my garden
is my heart.
Prince Hermann von Pückler-Muskau

All three of the large landscape parks that the Prince designed during his lifetime can be experienced again today in their original splendour and can be visited free of charge.

  • The exhibition in Schloss Muskau is very interactive and attractively designed. This includes a play, the opportunity to write a love letter and a family tree as a video. Our highlight was the unique journey through Pückler's book “Andeutungen über Landschaftsgärtnerei (Hints on Landscape Gardening)”.
  • The exhibition in Branitz Palace impresses with its faithfully recreated rooms and gives a deeper insight into the life of the prince and the times of that time. The visitor centre offers, among other things, the opportunity to dive into the Thames in London, to take a balloon ride over the park and to design your own park with building blocks.
  • Unfortunately, Babelsberg Palace can currently only be visited during special events.

A map showing the three gardens created by Fürst Pückler. Bad Muskau in Saxony, as well as Branitz (Cottbus) and Babelsberg (Potsdam), both in Brandenburg.