The Hanging Gardens of Moscow
London has the Chelsea Flower Show, and now Moscow, not to
be outdone, has just had it's annual Garden Week, an exhibition
dedicated to the art of landscape design and of creating a garden.
There are no other similar events in Russia, and this is the
first Russian exhibition which presents gardens as finished
projects. Not very many gardens were being presented, but each one
of them was very different, and they were all of a very high
The theme for this year's Garden Week was "Classics and
Avant-Garde." The organisers do not mention it, but the site of the
exhibition itself is rich with gardening history. The building that
now houses the All-Russia Museum of Decorative, Applied and Folk
Arts was formerly the estate of the Counts Ostermann.
The Streshnev family were the first owners of this estate, dating
back to the 1660s, and the house used to be called "The Streshnevs
Vegetable Garden". By 1739 the estate had passed to Vasily I.
Streshnev (1707-1782) and the first stone buildings were added,
transforming the manor-house into one of the best in Moscow, with a
typical Russian estate layout.
Ivan A. Ostermann (1725-1811), Vasily Streshnev's nephew,
and the first Count Ostermann, who inherited the estate in 1782,
immediately started its reconstruction. It resulted in the present
appearance of the house. The courtyard was embellished with two
decorative ponds, and a beautiful garden laid out in the Romantic
English style on the other side of the palace was very popular with
guests of Count Ostermann.
The decorative ponds have disappeared and all that remains today
of the garden and park are the trees; but they added their own
historical canopy to the show gardens, which were laid out in only
ten days before the opening of the exhibition. More by coincidence
we think than by design, the centerpieces of the two central gardens
were two ornamental ponds.
We visited first The Haven, created by Robin Templar-Williams.
What we liked most about this garden was the way in which it worked
both as a garden for a townhouse and for a dacha. Also, it was a
garden with a surprise around every corner. This was deliberate, as
Robin himself explained: "A garden has to work inside and outside.
The Haven is one garden, but with three spaces, two static, one
dynamic. There is always something to lead you on. I designed the
final section of the garden specifically for the kinetic sculpture
designed by the young English sculptor Ivan Black. The circular
wall, with its gaps, allows people to see into and out of the space,
and also to draw them into it." It was the talking point of the
garden, and Black had many enquiries.
Next door was a garden designed by Julia Sizyuk and Julia
Ovchinikova. It was similar in style to that of The Haven, in that
there were very few flowers, and green was the predominant colour.
What gave this garden its distinctive look were the glass globes
bobbing in the pond, an idea which was taken perhaps too far with
the addition of a machine blowing bubbles. But it was also a very
static garden: you walked into it, looked around, and then walked
Almost every visitor to the exhibition, with a camera, was
photographing "Semiramis' Heritage", a very dramatic garden designed
by Elena Sidina. The idea here was clearly to reincarnate the legend
of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and there was a wonderful lush
quality to this corner space. There was a bright palette of flowers
- irises, weigela, astilba, lonicera - and even the shrubs were
chosen for their luminous colours.
And so to the Malevich garden, with its trees wrapped in coloured
bandages, and its Suprematist Performances. This is not a garden
about plants and flowers as such - which species look best and where
- but about the "dynamics of colour perception." The four creators
of the garden told us that it "has nothing to do with nature";
which, if you think about it, fits well in Moscow.
The exhibition ran for only a very short time, and has now ended;
but if you are in the market for a garden, here are the details of
the landscape gardening companies we liked best:
- Harpak (responsible for The
Haven), 25 Timiryazevskaya,
Moscow. Tel. (095) 977 5100
- Ivan Black (creator of the kinetic sculpture
in The Haven):
- Europark (responsible for the garden created
by Julia Sizyuk
and Julia Ovchinikova), tel. (095) 777 4855,
- Plant World (responsible for "Semiramis
10 Letinkovskaya Street, Building 4, Moscow.
Tel. (095) 235 7639, website: http://www.rastmir.ru/
- OOO Kvadrat-M (responsible for the Malevich
4a Chertanavo-Severnoe, Moscow. Tel. (095) 318