How (not) to Build a Chateau Garden
Our journey at Zámek Nemilkov began with setting up a couple resolutions to guide our work. Nevertheless, we were not so successful in following them. One of the resolutions was not to plant any flowers, trees, or vegetables, since it does not make sense to do so during reconstruction. I made that decision even though gardening is my favorite hobby.
While living in an apartment house at Prague 3 (Žižkov), I had flowers in every window, balcony and all over the courtyard. One time, when we went for a holiday I asked my brother-in-law to water the plants for me…poor guy! When we returned he told me: “This was the first time and last time I will agree to do this.” While watering, he counted over 400 flowers!
Here at the chateau I did not even want to bother to cut the grass at first, or even grow grass on bare places. we plan to do some landscaping in the future, so all will be different. But as they say, “forbidden fruit tastes the best and rules are meant to be broken”. So, everything is different now!
It began in September, not even a month away from our very first visit to Nemilkov. A kind neighbor brought us a basket full of tulip bulbs and said that I should plant them somewhere, that they will make us happy in the spring. So, we dug a flower bed along the front of the chateau.
It looked like an easy job at first, but the soil consisted not only of many rocks, but also foreign objects one would not expect to find…like bricks, plastics, glass, shattered floor tiling, pieces of different dishes, pieces of metal objects, and even an old shoe. This complication during the tulip planting only supported my resolution of not planting anything and concentrating on moving furniture, cleaning up, and securing the buildings before the upcoming winter.
Then Spring came, the sun started shining again, everything started turning green and even violets and snowdrops bloomed despite many years of neglect on the property. Seeing all of this, I simply could not resist and gave in.
It started with trees. We decided to try a couple trees, and because it takes a while for a tree to grow, why wait? We ordered 10 small spruces but somehow ended up with 10 packages with 10 spruces each! This surprise came with a note: “Do not wait to plant, otherwise the trees will dry up.” When we were planting the 90th tree, I really did not know if it could even fit on the property.
Additional planting quickly followed, because as we all know, “the appetite grows with eating”, no? From other neighbors, I received many more seeds and young plants of beautiful flowers. On more than one occasion, I even visited “Paradise”- my personal name for the gardening shop in the nearby town of Sušice. I also brought some plants from our cottage.
Today, we have small trees everywhere, alongside pretty bushes, herbs and even onions and zucchini. We have dahlias, garden cresses, asters, coppertips, Mexican marigold, zinnias, geraniums, muscats, blooming cactuses and many more plants with names unknown to me!
I bought rhododendrons and azaleas in “Paradise”, and I am trying to multiply them. After the 100 spruces, we also planted alder trees, honeysuckles, buxuses and thujas. However, our big mentor and historian does not like the quick growing conifer trees. Apparently, they do not belong in a chateau’s garden, so I will have to exchange them with old fruit trees and other rare trees in the future.
Any gardener can imagine how much time it takes just watering these pants during hot summer days (especially the ones we are have had this year!). On top of that, we are often dealing with a lack of water too! We were naïve to think that villages near mountains will be rich with rain. As it turns out, the opposite is true! The nearby town is called Sušice (dry land) and that is no accident.
There is even more rain in Prague than here. One day we hope to store water in large water reservoirs and artificial lakes, but for now, we pump all the water from the basements. We also try our best to fill any barrels and buckets we have with rain water. What will we do when we run out of this water? We will probably go with barrels on wheelbarrows and beg the neighbors. But our unplanned chateau’s garden is worth it, right?