Park Nells Laendchen

A visit to Nell's Park on the northern edge of the city can become a rich experience. Evidence of days gone by can open our eyes for particular oddities from the past: an historical park in the English-Dutch style of the early Romantic period, a park with all its naturalness that still fulfils aesthetic expectations but also demonstrates the changing sense of the art of landscape gardening at the beginning of the 18th century. It was a time when landscape gardening was being freed of the centuries-old bond of geometrical design. It was the era of a relaxed, uninhibited unfolding of grand, original nature.

Geometrical basins and cascades have been replaced by winding brooks flowing into still pools where white water lilies sway on the silvery surface and whose waters glide lightly around islets covered with lovely shaped trees and rhododendron shrubs. Gondolas glide on the water in which people flee to seek coolness on hot days. Instead of straight walkways, winding paths lead over bridges with gracefully decorated handrails, past romantic garden pavilions and painted garden sculpture looking down from raised pedestals. Of course, a small hermitage could not be left out, so typical of the era when such idyllic parks began; it is preserved as the mill house nowadays. Besides its aesthetic aspect, the park contained a garden for food as well. With green houses, vines and peach trees, in fact, all forms of fruit and espalier trees, Nell's Park was a model estate for gardening and agriculture. Some farm buildings and stables remain standing. Historically, the park, as mentioned above, belongs to the early Romantic, sentimental style. The classic English landscape gardens developed only later to a complete expression of prevailing taste.

The park was finished in 1801. We have the Paris State archivist Armand Gaston Camus to thank for the extensive authentic description of the park's attractions. He had visited the Province, which at that time was annexed to France, and duly praised not only the beauty of the park but also its creator von Nell as a man possessed by his passion for landscape gardening. Napoleon's visit to the park probably belongs in the realm of legend along with his allegedly having a French table service sent to the gardener Gotthard in recognition of the latter's achievement. Despite certain changes in the last 200 years, Nell's Park has preserved much of its naturalness and originality.

From the heyday of the park, the estate stable is preserved, which was built with material from the demolished St. Paulin's College and decorated with two church windows and a Gothic portal as a romantic park motif. The re-use of such material is in no way unusual, as in England genuine and artificial ruins were among the most popular decorative accessories of landscape gardening at the time. Nowadays the structure is used as winter quarters for the outdoor potted plants and serves as well as a hall for exhibitions. A singular rarity is the historical stone seating group from the Louis Seize period, one of remarkable French artistry in furniture making, corresponding approximately to neo-classicism in Germany. Up until a few years ago, this 200-year-old original work of art invited many a park visitor to rest under one of the Gothic windows. Because of its great value, it has been removed to safety in the city landscaping office.

If you takes the time to wander through the entire park, will arrive at the mill house, somewhat hidden sleepily under trees and behind shrubs. Not just decoration, but of practical use, it still served as the estate's grain mill as late as 1918 with its overshot wheel. A millstone of basalt, now used as a stone table, harks back to this past era. The stone is burdened apparently by the curse of never being able to enjoy the deserved peace of old age. When moved from its regular place by adolescents testing their courage and muscles, it is always brought back to where it belongs by strong, order-loving gardeners. The most essential characteristic of the park, however, is its mighty trees. Unfortunately, the old stock of trees was severely damaged in WWII. But the gardeners do not become impatient so quickly, knowing that plants grow slowly and that it takes years or decades before it becomes clear what new plantings can achieve. It is thus that, over the last almost 50 years, cedars and swamp cypresses, Emperor paulownias and ginkos show evidence of hopeful, stately growth.

By 1982, an extensive rose garden had grown from the base of a small rose bed in the 1960's. From the developmental years up to the present, 6000 rose bushes have created a fairy-tale rosescape based on 400 original varieties. The landscape on the park's edge glides in softly moulded hills into the flat park area and is bordered by the classic manor house and park trees in the background. The beds of roses end at the manor house and colour a deep rose-red the patio of the park café further up. From there, the magnificent view displays the well-tended lawn, down to the pond, from whose centre a great water spout sends its pearls of spray as a contrast to the dark green background and startled wild ducks draw their ephemeral trails in the water.