EXCURSION IN ARBARETUM

THE UPPER PARK

     The parterre, created in 1935, is decorated with trees, shrubs and flowers. The slender cypresses, the columnar English yews and the spherical crowns of evergreen shrubs form a monumental group at the entrance to the Gardens’ office building. The stairway leading to the balcony is entwined with creeping roses and Crimean ivy and the outdoor theatre’s colonnade – with Japanese wisteria. Late in April and early in May, the plain-looking densely intertwined branches of wisteria change beyond recognition. First, they put forth a few clusters of fragrant pale-violet flowers at the top; their number is growing from day to day until they form what looks like a cascading waterfall of flowers. The central composition of the parterre is an Italian stone pine with a luxurious umbrella-shaped crown and deodar cedars with slightly drooping tops. Bushes, eye-appealing in any seasons, are planted under the trees in a dense semicircle.
     The Chinese fan palms which stand South Crimean winters well, impart exotic beauty to the parterre. The first two palms were planted in the Nikitsky Gardens in 1860, and one of them has survived to this day. On the Southern Coast of the Crimea these palms grow up to 10 meters tall. Their furry brown trunks are crowned with 20-30 fan-like long-stemmed leaves.
     Left of the entrance to the office  building there stretches an alley of holly oaks, evergreen trees coming from the Mediterranean area. These valuable exotic widely spread on the Southern Coast of the Crimea and in the Caucasus, are distinguished for their drought resistance, rapid growth and hard wood.
     The holly-oak alley leads to the thickets of bluish-green bamboo originally coming from northern China. Some bamboo species live more than 100 years. Bamboo has been playing a great role in the life of Oriental peoples since times immemorial. It was sung by ancient Japanese and Chinese poets as a symbol of staunchness and courage. Its branches and ornamental stalks often appear on Japanese engravings, silk embroideries and earthenware. A typical old Japanese courtyard is inconceivable without living bamboo plants, and bamboo furniture is to be found in every traditional Japanese home. Young bamboo stalks and their pulp make the best sorts of paper, and many bamboo species provide excellent raw material for the textile industry.
     Next to the bamboo thickets there stands a 500-year-old English yew. The life span of this relic tree is from 1000 to 4000 years. Since ancient times it was rapaciously hewed out for its high-quality and beautiful wood.
     Behind the office building there is a rock garden. This form of ornamental gardening is used in awkward places like stony slopes, hillsides, natural rock outcrops. Represented in the small rock garden of the Nikitsky Botanical Gardens are about 100 plants species, mostly rare and disappearing ones of the Crimean flora.
     One of the Upper Park’s sights is an alley of pyramidal cypresses planted in 1886 in a smooth curve creating the impression of infinity.
The cypresses are dominated by two majestic coniferous trees with cone-shaped crowns. These are big trees or mammoth trees. In North America, their home country, individual mammoth trees are preserved in national parks; they are up to 4000 years old, 100 meters tall and about 30 meters in circumference (at the trunk base). These fantastic giants of the plant kingdom stagger imagination.
     Next to the mammoth trees there towers a Numidian, or Algerian fir – a large tree of the pine family with a cone-shaped crown, dark green needles and large cones.
     Almost right opposite the Numidian fir, an Atlas cedar spreads its bluish branches wide. This tree comes from the Atlas Mountains, North Africa. In the mountainous  Crimea, Atlas cedars are used not only for ornamental purpose, but as forest cultures too.
     In front of the rose garden, there grows another giant tree – a Californian redwood from the Pacific subtropics. Its reddish wood is easily workable, rot-resistant and fireproof and takes good polish. Trees of 2000 years old are as well tall as 110 meters, and up to nine meters in circumference.
     Visitors admire the magnificent collection of the rose garden from early spring to late autumn. The best varieties of Soviet and foreign-bred roses are to be seen there. A pride of the Gardens are the varieties obtained by the breeders of the Nikitsky Botanical Gardens.
     In the rose garden one can relax under a large horse chestnut. Its luxuriant crown and its palmate leaves are beautiful; the tree looks its best in May when the white “candelabra” of its flowers clusters “light up”.
     Further down, there are a deodar cedar grove, 100 years old, and a group of coniferous plants varying in shape and colour. The Atlas cedar with a pendent crown – a unique form of this species – is a magnificent sight.
     At present, deodar cedars, cypresses, Aleppo and Italian stone pines, Alas cedars and cedars-of-Lebanon and some other landscape-forming trees species are planted in the woods and parks on a wide scale. They impart a Mediterranean colour to our subtropics.
     A vast observation platform at the top of the stair-way leading down to the Lower Park commands a magnificent view of the Southern Coast: Mt. Ai-Petri in the West, the tall forest-grown Mogabi hill, Ai-Todor cape jutting out far into the sea forming the western arc of the Yalta bay, the Yalta bay proper, the city climbing up mountain slopes in an amphitheatre and, in the foreground, the terraced orchards of the Nikitsky Botanical Gardens and the vast expanses of the sea.
     An Aleppo pine spreads its large openwork “fan” above the low patterned barrier of the observation platform. Planted along-side the edge of the sea, these trees often bend in, forming a natural green shed over the park alleys. This pine got its name from the Syrian city Aleppo in whose environs it still occurs in small groves.
     On its northern and western sides the platform is adorned by two mighty pubescent oaks, aborigines of the Crimea, 300-500 years dumb witnesses of plant successions and historical events over the centuries. These thickset giants have weathered all the storms that hit them. Young specimens of the pubescent oak, known for its high drought-resistance, hardiness and ability to grow on any soil, are used as seedling stock in grafting more moisture-loving oaks – scarlet and cork, and Q. S. var. occidentalis – coming from North America and the Mediterranean. These grafts have been living and bearing fruits in the Nikitsky Botanical Gardens for more than 100 years old.

   

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