In the postwar years, the notion “vegetable garden” familiar to Russians was associated with those two or four hundred square meters, which were fixed for the maintenance of a home garden in order to feed themselves with a meager assortment of those years. Now, when almost everything can be bought in stores, many gardeners have reduced the garden part of the plot, occupying it with flower beds.
If we talk about the historical aspect of the concept of "vegetable garden", then with the information flow that exists now, we are more familiar with the famous gardens and vegetable gardens of Europe, primarily France, the trendsetter. The famous "king's vegetable garden" in Versailles and the garden-vegetable garden in Villandry are better known to Russians than the historical imperial vegetable garden in Strelna, which has almost three hundred years of history. I will try to open one of these pages, but first - a few lines about the history of the emergence of such a thing as a vegetable garden.
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The first popularizers of vegetable growing are considered to be Greek preachers from Byzantium, and then monks, who established obligatory fasts that exclude the use of meat food. Churches and monasteries, receiving land plots, part of the area was fenced off and sown with vegetables, hence the name - vegetable garden. Gradually their experience was adopted by appanage princes. With the formation of the Muscovite state, tsarist gardens appeared.
The first peculiar agricultural complex of the 18th century was the village of Izmailovo. During the reign of Alexei Mikhailovich, this place was conceived as an example of farming in order to spread the experience to the entire Russian state. So for the first time the royal gardens appear. One of them was called "Grape", although cabbage was grown on it, and the other - "Millet", from which cucumbers and melons were delivered to the tsar's table, the latter were grown in hotbeds and greenhouses. In these gardens, spicy crops were cultivated in small quantities - savory and dill.
A new impetus to the development of gardening was given by the reign of Emperor Peter I. While traveling, he carefully studied the best European experience in creating garden and park ensembles. Especially his attention was attracted by the palace and park ensembles of Holland, the natural and climatic conditions of which are similar to those in St. Petersburg, as well as the best examples of French gardens - Fontainebleau, Versailles. Therefore, everything he saw inspired Peter to the idea of arranging gardens in Russia.
Among the first royal summer residences, a special place is occupied by the Strelna palace and park ensemble. He combined the architecture of a Russian estate of the 18th century and the principles of the organization of regular gardens in Europe, giving Strelninskaya manor its unique charm.
The manor complex includes the Wooden Palace of Peter I, built in the 1710s by an unknown architect, and the Transfiguration Church. The frequent stay of the emperor in Strelna contributed to the construction and development of economic services, which included flour and saw mills, greenhouses, hotbeds, an apiary, a fruit and berry garden, a Dutch-style vegetable garden, and cellars.
Thanks to the efforts of Peter I, the beekeeper was equipped. The first hives were brought from Dorpat. The emperor did this to prove that it was possible to breed bees in the north and close to the sea.
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During the construction of the palace, Russian gardening art receives a powerful stimulus for development thanks to the activities of Emperor Peter I. The motto of Russian gardens has always been the phrase: "Beauty is inseparable from use." This meant that all buildings and services in the estates bore not only aesthetic, but also economic functions, which was reflected in the Strelna estate. S. B. Gorbatenko in his book "The Architecture of Strelna" mentions that the palace was surrounded by a garden, where in 1719 the gardener Denis Brockett arranged flower beds. At the same time, there was a round pool - a fish pond.
Planting material for garden construction was primarily purchased in Holland and, as the most valuable cargo, was delivered to St. Petersburg and its suburbs by ships accompanied by an escort. Thanks to the efforts of Peter I, for the first time in Russia, such crops as potatoes, lettuce, radishes and artichokes appeared, planted at one time in the Aptekarsky garden in St. Petersburg and in the garden in Strelna.
After the death of Emperor Peter I, such European vegetable crops as lettuce and radish disappear from the Russian table. The gardens of the royal estates, including those in Strelna, are falling into decay.
The accession to the throne of Anna Ioannovna gave a new impetus to the development of the Strelna economy. The gardens and greenhouses of the estate in the 1730s actively supplied fresh vegetables and fruits to the imperial court, and therefore considerable attention was paid to their development. New garden complexes are beginning to form on the territory of the manor. In addition to a purely economic function, they were also of a representative character, creating pleasant views from key elevated points on the estate. One of these dominants was a natural slide carved into the relief by the bend of the Strelka River.
Traditionally (since the 17th century, and possibly even earlier), on the hill was the residential house of the owner of the local coastal lands. Peter continued this tradition by building a palace for his residence in Strelna right here. From the palace terrace to the north, a beautiful view of the sea opened up, while from the south, virgin forests were preserved, against which the river, which gave the name to the estate, twisted.
Peter just started transforming the landscape in the southern part of the manor. They began to create a radial-beam system of clearings inside the forest, dug the first pond, which was supposed to accumulate water for the fountains supposed in Strelninsky garden, connecting it with a canal to the bay. But the logical completion of the work was not received due to the transfer of the construction of the ceremonial residence from Strelna to Peterhof in 1721.
Under Anna Ioannovna, the transformations affected the Strelka river valley south of the hill with the Peter's palace. The construction of the Strelna ceremonial ensemble in this period stopped, but the manor's economy received a new development. And first of all, the spaces adjacent to the wooden palace of Peter I are used. The palace is visited at this time by the empress and her guests. Therefore, the aesthetic principle was of no less importance than the actual economic one. The gardening complex on the southern terrace, on the banks of the Strelka River, was supposed to have an exemplary character. It was distinguished by a strict and clear layout and thoughtfulness in the arrangement of various elements.
This place was called in the 18th century the Upper Garden (which it was in relation to the already mentioned Podlipsky), or the berry garden, but gradually the name of the Orchard becomes more and more common, which was finally assigned to it at the beginning of the 19th century. A significant part of the territory was actually originally occupied by a garden with fruit trees. In the eastern part there was a greenhouse for vegetable crops, the house of the garden master Schultz and a number of outbuildings forming a square in plan. The facades of the houses overlooked the Peterhof road, hiding the garden and greenhouses proper.
In the second half of the 1730s, in the channel of the Strelka River, behind the dam of the Big Pond, opposite the Peter's Palace and the Transfiguration Church, the Karpiev Pond was created, and the Orchard gradually filled the entire space between the base of the hill and the shore of the pond. A document from the mid-1730s about this complex says: "… From the dam to the road, a large garden has been planted with various fertile trees, and there is a wooden greenhouse in that garden for all kinds of vegetables." The garden becomes the main household yard where vegetables and fruit crops were grown in the open field. The hill was the natural protection of the Orchard from the cold northern winds. Greenhouses were located at its foot.
IG Georgi briefly mentions the assortment of crops grown in the garden in his work: "Near the magnificent garden there is a large Imperial vegetable garden on the Peterhof side, in which mainly peaches, apricots, plums, cherries and other fruits and vegetables are grown in greenhouses."
The vegetable garden in the middle and second half of the 18th century had a clear layout of rectangular sections, separated by rather wide paths. The vegetable ridges were located in the western part of the garden, opposite the Peter's palace, and began on the upper terrace, going down the slope. At the same time, the garden was not visible from the palace, since it was hidden by a trellis of sheared bush. Only after going around the split parterre, broken at the southern facade of the palace, and walking along the sheared trellis, the guests found themselves on the territory of a vegetable garden, bounded from the west by the palace kitchen, built in the middle of the 18th century.
Having passed the first section with vegetable crops, the visitor found himself on an alley that went down and cut through the entire Orchard from west to east, walking along which the guest got an idea of all the plants, berries, bushes and fruit trees growing in the garden. Routine planting of trees and bushes prevailed. The vegetable ridges were oriented both in the north-south direction and in the west-east direction.
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