THE PARKS OF THE PETER I'S ENSEMBLE IN STRELNA
Peter's ensemble in Strelna is located between the Lower and Upper Peterhof roads. At the west it borders with the Port Canal; and in the east, adjoins the valley of the Strelka River. The ensemble includes: the Palace of Peter the Great, the Vertugarten (green garden) with two fountains and the Fruit Garden.
On the north side of the Strelna Palace of Peter the Great is a garden with two fountains laid out on the green slope of a hill. It was created in the middle of the eighteenth century to Rastrelli's design. In the centre of dodecahedral stone pools tufa knolls were made out of which three water jets spurted out to the height of about three metres. The pipes which supplied water flowing from the Large Pond by gravity were made of wood. They were not repaired for a long time. So when Peter III came to stay at Strelna with his suite to have a rest in May 1762, on his way from St Petersburg to Oranienbaum, and they supplied water to the fountains, the worn-out pipes "had a great leak" and the fountains "shamed" the grandson of Peter the Great.
The Fruit Garden was also called the Upper or Berry Garden. It is known that during the age of Peter the Great a number of greenhouses were built on the estate in which fig-, peach- and apricot-trees, wild oranges, laurels, various kinds of flowers and herbs were grown. According to the Inventory of 1736, vines, cherries and pears, gooseberries as well as jasmines, roses and other flowers were grown in the gardens. In the 1740s, to cater for the Imperial court, Jerusalem artichokes, German, Russian and Turkish cucumbers, dill, radish, sorrel, strawberries, raspberries, currants, watermelons, melons and potatoes were grown. Legend has it that potatoes brought from West Europe were first cultivated in Strelna and only later spread throughout Russia.
In the nineteenth century the collections of the Strelna greenhouses were largely enriched thanks to the efforts of master gardeners. New and rare plants which were cultivated in the royal gardens of Europe, various kinds of tree-ferns and palms began to be grown.
Nowadays visitors can see in the Fruit Garden pear- and apple-trees, various fruit bushes and decorative shrubs. On the beds are Jerusalem artichokes first cultivated there as early as the age of Peter the Great. Three kinds of potatoes are also grown. It is known that Peter the Great himself brought from the West rare kinds of trees, bushes, pot plants, seeds of flowers and vegetables and also entrusted his associates to buy them abroad. In keeping with this tradition, various vegetables planted there now have been grown from the seeds brought from the oldest gardens of the sixteenth-century castle Villandry located in the valley of the Loire River.
Peter the Great created gardens not only to feast his eyes and please his taste, but for smell too. The Fruit Garden also has beds with honey plants and aromatic herbs - mint, basil, marjoram, etc. - a tribute to the tradition of Russian gardens of the seventeenth century.
Nearby is the Aviary with wooden, glass and straw bee-hives. Tradition has it that Peter the Great founded the Aviary to prove that bees can live not far from the sea. The first bee-hives are told to have been brought from Dorpat, and the Tsar himself looked after the bees.
Peter's estate included the wooden Church of the Transfiguration adjoined on the south side by the chapel consecrated to St Nicholas the Miracle Worker. Next to it soared the three-tiered bell-tower about 16.5 metres high on which hung a trophy bell dating from the late seventeenth century. The site of the church which burnt during World War II is marked with a memorial cross.
North façade of the Palace of Peter the Great
The Fruit Garden
The Fruit Garden. The Apiary
The Fruit Garden. Flower-bed