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Ecology of an Urban Greenspace

Construction of the Summer Garden entailed grandiose drainage projects and the importation of large amounts of fertile soil. Thousands of trees and shrubs surrounded the new tsar’s residence. Lime or linden (Tilia cordata, Tilia platyphyllos and Tilia x vulgaris) was the most favored tree for bosquets and alleys, where it could be trimmed into a variety of geometrical forms. Peter also loved European oak (Quercus robur) and spruce (Picea abies). The tsar personally intitiated the oak grove adjacent to the palace. Broad-leaved trees from Novgorod and Pskov, Moscow and even Holland were transported to the Summer Garden in enormous numbers.

The Summer Garden was the first place where many new species were introduced into the foggy and cold St. Petersburg climate. For example, Caragana arborescens, native to Siberia, was the main species used for hedges. One could find in the garden Berberis vulgaris and roses from Danzig, Carpinus betulus from Kiev, Pinus sibirica from Solicamsk, and tulips, daffodils and hyacinths from Moscow. Another part of Summer Garden, known as the “red garden,” had apple and cherry trees.

After the flood of 1777 tree pruning was discontinued, which changed the composition and character of the Summer Garden. With its canopy of old trees it came to resemble a romantic public garden in the English manner. After all the floods and the Great Patriotic War (WWII), a major new planting of young trees (primarily linden) was undertaken. Currently, the vegetation of Summer Garden is represented by a system of bosquet-groves with mature trees. The dominant tree species in the garden is linden (Tilia cordata). There are also maple (Acer platanoides), ash (Fraxinus excelsior), Elm (Ulmus glabra, Ulmus laevis) and Oak (Quercus robur). Sixty percent of the trees are 50-100 years old. 23% are younger and 17% are older than that range. There are also about 63 trees that are more than 200 years old.


The presence of broad leaved trees that have been growing here for many years has changed the natural environment. The ground cover in the groves consists mostly of nemoral plants (native to broad-leaved forests). In the spring for at least one month a carpet of ephemeral bulbs (Gagea lutea and Gagea minima) beautifies the Summer Garden. In summer, Aegopodium podograria, a typical native plant for broadleaved forests, dominates in almost all bosquets.

ephemeral carpet of Gagea lutea in one of the bosquets

The drainage of the Summer Garden soils is a good example of the way the transformation of St. Petersburg's landscape into a pleasant urban forested garden has altered its natural wetland conditions. After the area was drained soil was transported to the site for infilling. After every flood more soil was added to replace that which had washed away. The depth of added soils in some places in the Summer Garden is about two meters. A century of broad-leaved tree dominance on the fertile soils has transformed the natural acid podsol wetland soil into a more southern gray forest soil type. Now soils of the Summer Garden are similar to the soils of the forest-steppe zone of Russia.

The Summer Garden is situated in a dense built environment (residential, business and educational) and surrounded by busy city roads. Together with the nearby Mikhailovsky Garden, Mars Field and Square of the Arts (Ploshchad' iskusstv), it forms the "green heart of St. Petersburg” and a green oasis in an area that is otherwise almost completely covered with roads, buildings, and canals.


Further topics and interdisciplinary essays
History and Design of the Garden

Garden and River

Ecology of an Urban Greenspace

The Summer Garden in Poetry

Nostalgia as a Cultural Force

References and links

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