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Grand Garden Design: The Peterhof Gardens

September 28th, 2016

 Often called the Russian Versailles, The Peterhof Gardens near St Petersburg are the very definition of a grand garden design. With 500 acres, 200+ statues, 144 fountains, 7 palaces, and 23 museums, it is the most visited site in Russia hosting over 4.2 million visitors annually.

Inspired by a visit to Versailles castle and grand garden design in France, Tsar Peter the Great built Peterhof as a summer residence and he managed to make it even bigger and more spectacular than his inspiration.

The Fountains Inspire Garden Design

The Tsar insisted on the use of an Italian gravity based water flow system that enables the fountains, an integral feature in the garden design, to flow on their own, never running dry. The fountains circulate 30 million liters of water daily, the equivalent of 12 Olympic swimming pools, 1 thousand liters per second.

What really makes the gardens and palaces so exciting is the grandeur and volume of the space they inhabit.  Grand spaces are a rare thing in our increasingly crowded world, grand garden design is even rarer.  The Peterhof Gardens are the finest I have ever visited, and I have visited many.

Grand Space Delivers Grand Gardens

These gardens are grand with space, moving water, plantings, and the sea light.  I loved that everyone was so happy in this garden.  It's as if they felt Tsar Peter's inspiration personally and were transformed by the true magic of his grand garden design.

Russia is like another planet, not just another country, culture, and customs.  The light is very different, whether the day is cloudy or sunny.

The plants were all familiar to me and I was surprised to learn that.  I think I was expecting Siberian winters.  The original landscape and garden designers used carefully selected native plants that could withstand the harsh winter weather and provide that blanket of green in the spring and summer.

Peterhof Restored and Garden Design Today

Peterhof has undergone restoration and fresh plantings significantly following the great flood of 1777 and again after the decimation of World War II.

The groundwater in St. Petersburg is so polluted from earlier heavy industry that it cannot be drunk by anyone.  It is an irony that the city is surrounded by water and it is water that inspired Tsar Peter the Great, yet it is undrinkable.   Humans can make and destroy grandeur.

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