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In Europe during the 17th and 18th century, monarchs and royal families commissioned the creation of stunning and elaborate private gardens. With the right patron, landscape designers could become celebrities that were paid princely sums for their work.

By the late 19th monarchies were giving way to constitutional monarchies, republics, and in some cases, dictatorships. It was the closing era of grand personal gardens.

The Czars Garden

One of the last of these was Tsarke Selo Akexander Park near St. Petersburg, Russia. Construction of the park with artificial lakes and islands, and hundreds of acres of whimsical forests commenced in the late 18th century under the rule of Catherine the Great. She presented it as a gift to her grandson, Alexander I, on his wedding day.

The park also included a palace similar to the one where Voltaire lived in France. It was designed by the architect Giacomo Quarenghi. The Alexander Palace was an architectural masterpiece framed by the stunning garden.

The Alexander Palace and its private park was merely the summer residence of the Russian imperial family. Nicholas II, the last czar of Russia, and his wife Alexandra Fiodorovna so loved the property it served as their primary home for the last 13 years of their reign.

A Landscaping Marvel

The garden was a cornucopia of various designs that mirrored the reach of the empire. It was a rich blending of classic English, Chinese, Japanese and classic Roman gardens. Water features figured prominently in its design.

There were thirty ponds and lakes, fountains and cascades connected by canals and ornate bridges. The water system was designed to mimic natural springs and streams.

To accomplish this architects and engineers ingeniously used gravity, pumps, pipes, valves, and reservoirs to create a complex network of water supply and drainage. One of the most impressive examples of this engineering marvel is the Grand Cascade, located in front of the Catherine Palace.

This cascade consists of 64 fountains, 37 gilded statues, 142 water jets, and an artificial grotto nearly 30 feet in height. The cascade was designed by Bartolomeo Rastrelli and Mikhail Zemtsov in the 1750s. As a testimony to his genius, the cascade operates without pumps and uses only the natural pressure of water from a nearby reservoir.

Another remarkable feature of the park is the colonnade of the Cameron Gallery that connects the Catherine Palace with the Hanging Garden. The gallery was designed by Charles Cameron in the 1780s. It too has a hidden water system.

Water flows through the hollow columns to create a cooling effect in the summer. There is also a fountain that sprays water over unsuspecting visitors who step on a certain stone on the floor.

The Pyramid Fountain, the Marble Bridge, the Concert Hall Fountain, and the Chesme Column have unique histories and design elements. They showcase the creativity and skill of the landscapers who worked on this park, and illustrate the wealth of the czars.

The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Millions of visitors every year who come to admire its beauty and elegance, and innovative engineering.

You may not have the wealth of a czar. Still you can transform your home in the deserts of the Colorado River Valley into a private oasis. The first step is a call to the professionals at Baron Services, the premiere landscaping company in Bullhead City, Arizona.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America