Schwetzingen: Beautiful Romantic Castle Gardens!
Carl Theodor had a dream: To make Schwetzingen gardens the most beautiful castle gardens in the world. And he did it: the castle gardens are certainly worth seeing!
By 1541 the castle had been enlarged and new parts had been added to it. Then, between 1635 (during the Thirty Years' War) and 1689 (Palatine succession war), Schwetzingen castle was destroyed and rebuilt many times, principally by the Prince Elector Carl Ludwig.
But the main work, on Schwetzingen castle and the surrounding gardens, was made by the Prince Elector Carl Theodor between 1743 and 1778. And this is what he did:
The first thing Petri did was to draw up plans for the gardens around the palace and to integrate the two quarter-circle buildings at the side of the castle into his plan. He created a strikingly different shape of parterre than what was the norm at the time, i.e. he made a circular parterre. The parterre in a French garden is comprised of flower beds and borders and broderies (see picture - ornamental lines and curves of low boxwood in coloured gravel) placed in a geometrical arrangement with squares, rectangles, triangular and diamond shapes. As the senior court gardener, he was responsible for directing and implementing his own plans until 1758 when he asked to be released from services.
After Petri, the Prince Elector Carl Theodor appointed the French architect and gardener Nicolas de Pigage. De Pigage had studied at the Académie Royale d’Achitecture de Paris and was thus, well versed in the creation of French gardens. He worked for a time in France, England, Netherlands and Italy before being appointed as the administrator of the gardens and waterworks at Schwetzingen.
He used most of the plans that Petri had designed but did not finish, with a few additions of his own, and in doing so made a remarkable palace garden. Under his supervision, a new orangery and its garden were built, as were the temple of Apollo, the open-air theatre, the temple of Minerva and the
and its garden.
Also, because of the many fountains and ponds, the first waterworks that has been built around 1718 was no longer sufficient. A new waterworks, called the lower waterworks, had to be built and integrated with the old one. It is incredible to think that, although they do use electric pumps now, these waterworks still work perfectly fine today. Just think about it, in the 18th century they had no electricity for their pumps, everything had to be run by the power of water alone. All the water goes from one fountain to the next and on to the many ponds, then back to the small Leimbach stream, using no other energy than the power of the water itself.
So, when de Pigage and von Sckell came back to Schwetzingen, they started working together on the design of an English part of the castle gardens. Together they created and built the Arborium Theodoricum, the temple of botany, the Roman water fort, the layout of the Turkish garden, the mosque and the temple of Mercury.
As a botanist, he created a collection of forest trees and shrubs and he is particularly well known for the multitude of alpine plants that he included in his arboretum. It is believed that at one point the collection had more than 800 species of plants from around the world. Zeyher is also responsible for changing the rectangular shape pool at the western end of the gardens to a more natural looking pond.
We will start with the castle honor courtyard. The first thing that you might notice is that the time showed on the castle tour’s clock is not the good one. Ah! But it is! You see the Prince Elector loved to hunt in his garden but he fund that he could never see correctly the small hand to tell the time. So, he asked that the long hand be used for the hours and the small one for the minutes! Quite clever!
On both side of the castle, surrounding half the parterre, are two quarter-circle pavilions. The south one was used to entertain guests and was left as two big open ornate halls where nobles could talk and dance, while the north one, less ornate, was first used as an orangery and then as a place for storing theatrical scenery. Nowadays, the North wing contains a small gallery, a café and the passageway to the theatre which is attached to it.
The café at the end of the north quarter-circle wing is a very nice place to get a light meal and a drink while waiting for a concert in the Rokoko theatre.