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Cyriaksburg, egapark Erfurt

Christian Hill, F: Christian Hill

Garden journeys – 'Green, green, green is all that I've got'.

'That's why I love everything that is so green [...]' – the lines of the old folk song create a merry atmosphere and prepare you for the subject. The ginkgo is an exciting green plant and fascinated Goethe as a 'living fossil'. Let's trace the myth through time and space in the region of dynamism and drive, prying open some secrets and garden gates.

Jena roots

In the Jena Botanical Gardens, founded in 1586, the landmarked 4.5 hectare ensemble has a giant ginkgo nestled right along the fence. The diverse open-air grounds and greenhouses are home to about 10,000 plant species from all over the world. Privy Councillor Goethe shaped the academic garden for some time and supposedly planted this ginkgo around 1800. The male specimen grew into a stately tree with the protection of the historic inspector's house and got a female branch grafted on. The tree is impressive when it wraps itself in its golden autumnal dress and bears fruit. One of these seeds is the origin of that plant – now four years old – which is going on a garden trip in search of its final home. The seedling under our arm, we run to the neighbouring Griesbach Community Garden and discover more ginkgo trees. Former students planted them in memory of their time studying. From the freshly restored country house of Professor Johann Jakob Griesbach, who received fruit trees for this retreat thanks to Shiller's intervention, you can enjoy a view of the city and the distant Jena Heights (Jena Höhen). Next door, the reconstructed Poplar Hall (Pappelsaal) welcomes you in its historical form.

Now we pass the Goethe monument (1821), ornamental plants and flower beds, as the paths in the former landscaped park wind their way to the next destination, the venerable St. John's Cemetery, mentioned for the first time in 1307. In the large park-like two hectare area, you will enjoy a rendezvous with every shade of green in the grass, romantic braids of ivy and old trees. The play of the sun with mysterious shadows between old graves and walls is fascinating. Primroses, wild tulips or roses decorate the graves of personalities defining the city's history. Here Carl Zeiss is resting, there is Griesbach's grave, and on the wall is the family grave of the bookseller dynasty Frommann. Goethe came and went there, enjoyed talks and meals with Johanna Frommann, and exchanged seeds with her. On the way to the 'Botanic Prince of Poets', we have two more dreamy locations to enjoy.

Country paths

Hiding in Hohlstedt is Eulensteinsche Dreiseithof from the 16th century and its wonderful gardens. The strict geometry of the hedge beds is oriented on old monastery gardens. A beautiful rose tree competes with the splendour of colourful beds at the crossroads. The three hard-working club gardeners change the planting each year according to their mood. An old stone bench, above which a great wooden owl keeps watch, invites you to linger in the rural setting. Apropos wood: Grand things are happening at the former Manor of Holzdorf. The former owner, Dr Otto Krebs, had the manor grounds elaborately redesigned in the 1920s. Romantic paths, a brick-paved water lily pool or arranged garden rooms let you repose like sleeping beauty, only awakening occasionally to the sound of children's laughter from the Protestant forest kindergarten. The major monument was once home to outstanding art from Degas and Rodin to Meunier, but it was unfortunately lost in the turbulent history of the place. This is barely 15 minutes from Weimar by car or train.

Weimar classics

It is not necessarily one of the typical tourist destinations in Weimar and is therefore an insider tip. The ornamental garden around the Kirms-Krackow House exudes the charm of the 19th century. Once a centre for middle-class society, its garden door was open to many intellectual giants. The Danish fairy tale writer Andersen was a welcome guest and praised in his diary: 'Here is a majestic flower garden!' It was a piece of luck that the archaeological excavations made it possible to reconstruct the history of the paths and recreate the route to the middle of the grounds, the Baroque Garden House. The owner, Franz Kirms, shared the enthusiasm of his contemporaries for plant studies and was highly appreciated as a carnation grower. Even the Grand Duke instructed his court gardener, Sckell, to donate plants: 'If it doesn't flourish here, maybe it will at Kirms' grounds'. The ruler, Carl August of Saxe-Weimar, was a lover of botany anyway and therefore a member of the prestigious British Royal Horticultural Society. Therefore, he sent Sckell to England and supported the first efforts to propagate the ginkgo at the Belvedere Orangery after his return. Around 1800, you could purchase young trees for a Taler. It was also the Sckell gardener dynasty that planted a copy at the prince's house in about 1815. Today, it is the oldest in Weimar. If you go looking for ginkgo trees, you will often find them in the garden universe of Weimar. You may find the one planted in 1979 at Goethe's house on Frauenplan or the hundred year old one at the Goethe and Schiller Archives or the one in the park on the Ilm river or the double tree in Tierfurt. On a visit to Weimar, it is worth dropping in to see the Ginkgo Museum. Located right on Market square (Marktplatz), it has even attracted the curiosity of Arab sheiks. Attractive new species, cosmetics and souvenirs are all available so you can take the world of ginkgoes back home.

Erfurt – the metropolitan city of flowers

The state capital, Erfurt, is the 'City of Flowers and Gardens' according to its title. And it's perfect! This is where the broad bean became a mascot, the woad plant helped to achieve prosperity in the Middle Ages, and landscape gardening competitions attracted worldwide attention in the 19th century – as gardening is simultaneously tradition and passion in Erfurt. The poster child – the largest green area and also a showcase of colour – is egapark. Let us enter the grounds of the park with our ginkgo under our arm and stay to the left, even if we must miss the many other attractions on the right. The path will lead us along a project organised by the Federal Horticultural Show 2021. The children's paradise with a strawberry cactus slide and bean railway, to name just two of the playground attractions, will excite the young gardeners' hearts. Two ginkgo trees follow just after, still young, but pertly stretching towards the sky, before the far eastern world of the Japanese garden spreads out before us. The realm of rocks, water and bridges invites you to enjoy a contemplative tour. The combination of natural and artistic elements offers its own unique charm. Japanese garden culture also fascinated the German physician Engelbert Kaempfer when he was on an island off Nagasaki on behalf of the Dutch United East India Company from 1690 on. In his luggage, he smuggled ginkgo seeds to Europe and sparked interest in the exotic tree. The annual colourful hustle and bustle at the Japanese Garden Festival in egapark would probably have pleased him. You can immerse yourself in a very unique garden world with 'WirGarten Erfurt' (WeGarden Erfurt) or the 'Lagune' (Lagoon) – two urban gardener communities. Green for everyone! From the jungle of the big city to the middle of the oasis, which may have been urban wasteland at one time. But the 'Lagoon' is also a learning community: Children and adults take care of their fruits and vegetables together, learn that it takes time and patience sometimes, learn from and with each other, and sometimes from failure. But the success of their project has proved them right. The garden gates are always open for guests during garden parties, concerts and meetings.

The Zenith of Apolda

When the 4th Thuringian State Horticultural Show in Apolda opens its gates on the 29th of April for locals and guests, it will mark the beginning of nearly 150 days of fun for lovers of culture and gardens thanks to hundreds of colourful events. There will be plants galore – from the train station to the historical Herressen Promenade (15 ha.) It is no coincidence that the four annual themes of KulturImpulse 2017 will culminate right here.

1. Green

Interesting show gardens, impressive floral show halls and changing beds on an area of 2,500 m² – it invites you to come again.

2. Blue

The waters of Loh pond with its large fountain will become Gondola pond, and Peace pond close to nature – with a bridge and lily balcony – will entice you to stroll.

3. Red-white

The Luther path leads right through the middle! A good place to take a rest, sit next to Luther or perhaps pray and remember in 'God's Garden House' on idyllic Peace pond.

4. Quite colourful

There are two great playgrounds for children large and small – with a special apple blossom, funny twirling pole characteristic of the city colours and diverse opportunities for climbing. And for fun and games there are educational ideas in the 'green classroom'.

Exactly the right place to give a future to our ginkgo with its historical roots, especially as a donated tree near Peace pond has been growing since 1993. And by the way: A board named the ginkgo the Tree of Millennium. The reason: 'Its incredible past and great prospects for the future make the ginkgo an outstanding symbol for our world today: the symbol of a world tree, the symbol of strength and hope'. – Let the ginkgo and Apolda grow and thrive!

Ginkgo biloba

Dieses Baumes Blatt, der von Osten
Meinem Garten anvertraut,
Gibt geheimen Sinn zu kosten,
Wie‘s den Wissenden erbaut.
Ist es ein lebendig Wesen,
Das sich in sich selbst getrennt?
Sind es zwei, die sich erlesen,
Daß man sie als eines kennt?
Solche Fragen zu erwidern
Fand ich wohl den rechten Sinn.
Fühlst du nicht an meinen Liedern,
Daß ich eins und doppelt bin?

This leaf from a tree in the East,
Has been given to my garden.
It reveals a certain secret,
Which pleases me and thoughtful people.
Is it one living being,
Which has separated in itself?
Or are these two, who chose
To be recognized as one?
Answering this kind of question
Haven't I found the proper meaning.
Don't you feel in my songs,
That I'm one and double?

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1815)

Goethe-Gedenkstätte im Botanischen Garten, Jena

JenaKultur, F: A. Hub

Eulensteinscher Hof, Hohlstedt

Christian Hill, F: Christian Hill

Orangerie Schloss Belvedere, Weimar

weimar GmbH, F: Maik Schuck Foto: Maik Schuck

egapark Erfurt

Erfurt Tourismus und Marketing GmbH, F: Barbara Neumann

egapark Erfurt

Erfurt Tourismus und Marketing GmbH, F: Barbara Neumann

Landesgartenschau Apolda

Landesgartenschau Apolda 2017 GmbH, F: Nancy Hampel

Knowledge to go

Tree giant

The oldest ginkgo is supposed to be roughly 4,000 years old. It stands in the Chinese province of Guizhou, rises 50 meters high and has a canopy of 2,000 square meters.

Various names

The various names for the living fossil are imaginative: Silver Apricot, Grandfather-Grandson tree or Duck's Foot.

Object of exchange

In ancient China, leaves and seeds were considered so valuable that they were used as means of payment.

Connecting piece

The structure of the leaves with their overgrown leaf veins are the connection between deciduous and coniferous trees.

Translation error

It was probably a mistake that the Japanese ginkyo (gin = silver / kyo = apricot) became ginkgo. A subsequent correction is not possible on account of the set rules for botanical nomenclature.

Green Bonus Tipps

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Weimar

Orangery Belvedere

Erfurt

Lights festival at the ega 11–12 August 2017

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Kurpark Bad Berka with "Parkgeflüster",a unique light-sound experience
May–October 2017

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