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Time-Traveling at the Schloss Branitz Garden Festival

Every year, thousands of people from around the world descend upon the humble German railway town of Cottbus to attend the Schloss Branitz Garden Festival. The celebration is held on the grounds of Branitz Castle, which formerly belonged to Hermann von Pückler Muskau (1785–1871), a renowned womanizer, prolific author, and ice cream namesake.

In his later years, Muskau, an avid gardener, redesigned his family estate in the style of the English garden. Today, the land is regarded as a paragon of European landscaping, and every year gardeners pay homage to Musakau’s legacy by adopting the dress, culture, and mannerisms of the period, and by parading their finest plants.

Prior to Muskau’s intervention, the estate at Branitz Park was flat and austere– barren farming grounds that no longer served a purpose. Work on the gardens began in 1846 as Muskau slowly transformed the land into a lavishly bucolic paradise. Greenhouses contained pineapples and other exotic plants, while a baumuniversität grew trees that were used to immediately replace any others that might die on the grounds. Though Branitz Park is designed in the style of the English garden, Muskau’s other travels had a profound influence on his garden design. The grounds contain two pyramids made from earth– an homage to Muskau’s visits to Egypt– one of which is the burial site for Muskau and his wife.

Having written and read extensively on the subject of landscaping, Muskau believed the gardens directly surrounding the castle should act as extensions of the rooms within. The gardens radiate out from the castle, moving from an inner to outer park. It is here where the annual festival is held. Closer to the castle are the flower beds, sculptures, and ornamental trees, while further out on the property one finds a mixture of meadows, fields, and woods.

After the second World War, the family made the castle and grounds public property. In 1995, having reverted to private ownership in the intervening years, the lands became the property of Cottbus, the neighboring town, and in 2004 they became a UNESCO World Heritage monument.

Jörg Ackermann, current head of the Schloss Branitz Garden Festival, has created a beautiful garden festival along with his team. This year, more than ten thousand visitors came to see the spectacle, including Garden Collage, who was on site to document the proceedings, below.

Make sure to mark you calendar for next year’s Schloss Branitz Garden Festival, which takes place May 21-22, 2016. The event feels like a moment preserved in time, with an enduring emphasis on people, plants, and the gardens that bring them together.

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