Planetary Garden

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A Universe in a Garden

The separate garden in the northern corner of Eggenberg Park has undergone many alterations: it has been a Baroque kitchen garden, a show garden for the Herberstein market garden, a vegetable garden and a tree nursery. Finally, after the Second World War it became completely overgrown. Since none of its many manifestations were sufficiently well documented to permit a reconstruction, this part of the Park has been entirely redesigned.

In 1999, the designer, Helga Maria Tornquist took on the difficult task of creating a garden that would reflect the high quality of the historic ensemble, and yet, at the same time, be able to stand alone as an independent artwork in its own right. The design solution chosen by Tornquist establishes a connection to the Palace’s historical context and simultaneously lends the new garden an unmistakeable character of its own. In a playful way, it draws on the age-old planetary doctrine of signatures, the iconography of which has great significance for Schloss Eggenberg.

Since ancient times, people have believed in an astrologically determined, hierarchical cosmos, divided into above and below, Heaven and Earth, forming seven different, interconnected chains of being. This magical notion has strongly influenced the intellectual history of the Western world, and, over the course of centuries, it has led to the development of an extensive iconographical system associated with the planets. This iconography, in its turn, powerfully informed the programme for the Planetary Room. Thus every planet not only has its own ‘children’ amongst the peoples of earth, who give expression to its characteristics, but its signature is also borne by plants, animals, minerals, places, activities, colours and forms.

Using this vocabulary, Helga Tornquist has created a series of wonderfully lyrical garden spaces, standing respectively under the sign of each of the seven major planets. This is no astronomical universe; rather, it is a philosophical, literary realm, and as such, it offers continuity with the Palace’s humanistic iconographical programme.

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A multifaceted universe

Thorny barricades consisting of red barberry hedges create the world of warlike Mars, and they guard two gardens of Venus, themselves edged with rose hedges, creating a playful reference to Classical gardens of love. Strawberries and lilies of the valley, salvia and lemon thyme are planted in the spaces within an ornate knot-garden parterre, made up of intertwining hearts.

Old Alba, Bourbon and Damask rose varieties are combined to produce gorgeous ensemble planting. Trellis-lined pathways, covered in laburnum, create rays of sunshine and are edged with flaming herbaceous borders, which flow from bright yellow into the glowing red of the setting sun. In the shadow of a yew hedge lies the white garden of the Moon set around a pond of water lilies. Shade-loving plants create a refuge and give wings to the visitor’s fantasy. As the seasons of the year progress, so visitors are able to wander through an ever-changing garden universe.