Karlamuiza Country Hotel

Hidden in Noble Silence

The history of the apple garden

Count Alexander von Ziverss spent his youth with his parents in St. Petersburg, where he received primary education and studied gardening. His skills could be successfully used in practice at Kārļi Manor, where the previous generations had already developed a beautiful landscape park. The manor's pomological garden was established in 1870. At the end of the 19th century, he had already created a large nursery, with park plantations, fruit trees, berries and so on, the plants were not only delegated to farms in the Baltics, but they were also grown for export abroad. In an area slightly larger than 22 hectares, about 30,000 plants were grown for sale each year. The nursery was one of the largest in the Baltic States and offered a very wide assortment of fruit trees, decorative trees and shrubs, as well as flowering plants.

Assortment of fruit trees

In the annual 1911/1912 catalogue, more than 1450 varieties are mentioned. The main speciality of Kārļi Manor was fruit trees and shrubs. It was possible to buy 243 apple varieties and sub-varieties, 23 of which were marked as available in large quantities and as especially recommended. In 1940, after three years of work and observations in Kārļi, agronomist Paulis Gailitis highlighted and described several varieties as the most valuable. ‘Kārļu white renete’- one of the oldest varieties of winter apples in the Kārļi pomological garden, which had already been acquired in 1878. The name 'White Winter Renete' was given by Count Alexander von Ziverss. “It is a real sugar apple, without the slightest hint of acidity or bitterness. The taste is pleasant and juicy, with a great resemblance to ‘’Korobovka’’, but this is a winter variety. The tree is safe against the cold and survived the harsh winters of 1928 and 1929 in all regions of Latvia. '' American Red Sugar apple’’ - a variety of a pomological tree that has lost its name but is very durable. It was received in 1909 from a Kiev school through a partnership with an American school. The name of the variety had not been identified by the Count, as many garden plans and notes perished during the war. ‘Vidzeme large onion’- a first-class table fruit, ready-to-use apples stained in yellow, with a light, flowing rosiness.

In 1928, Count Alexander von Ziverss sampled the grafts from an old apple tree in the garden of Cesis Castle; this variety was identified by the count as local and he proceeded to name it. The Kārļi Plant Nursery distributed it in large quantities throughout Latvia. 'Russian Rosemary' - a variety with a pronounced aromatic flavour, resembling a taste of banana or herbs. The 'Kursk Gold Renete' or 'Gold Renete', the grafts of which were received by Kārļi in 1898, the ready fruit was an orange-yellow tone, with bright red-coloured accents. During Christmas, the colour is especially beautiful, resembling red oranges. The taste is sweet, with mild acidity and a lovely aroma. Special attention was also paid to the apple varieties of the Siberian and Chinese hybrids- "Paradise Apples"; these are especially suitable for making jams and preserves, as well as apple wine.

Before World War I, the nursery offered 91 pear varieties, seven of which could be purchased in large quantities, such as '’Bauska Butter’'. Here you could order 34 sour cherry, 30 sweet cherry, 57 plum, 20 apricot and peach varieties, 20 hazel, 1 barberry, 21 red currant, 18 white currant, 9 black currant varieties, as well as 86 gooseberry, 43 garden raspberry, 18 garden blackberry, 79 strawberries and 4 asparagus varieties.

First gardeners' school

A gardening school was also established in the nursery. In 1890, the Russian Ministry of Agriculture approved the Kārļi Manor's two-year horticultural school program and accepted the right for graduates to be issued a degree in horticulture. Annual grants were allocated to promote the operation of the school. The students had to earn the money for their studies, by working in the manor garden; they were also expected to ensure their own food and clothing. Job skills were mainly acquired through practical work. During the winter months, herbal biology and theoretical skills in land treatment and fertilization were taught in classes. Each year, 15 new pupils were admitted to the school, while 30-40 pupils attended school simultaneously. Gardening required a great deal of physical effort, which not everyone was capable of, thus many pupils dropped out of the course. However, there was enough of those willing to learn, as a recommendation and a degree from this institution ensured a well-paid job, working in manors. In 1940, agronomist Paulis Gailitis wrote: “Our young generation of gardeners has heard little about the old Kārļi pomological garden and the tree nursery. The old gardeners, on the other hand, remember it well, because almost everybody has done some dealings with Kārļi, and with the then well-known gardener Ziverss - a democratic and Latvian-friendly Russian Count (..). Early gardeners call Kārļi the first Latvian gardening school.” Count Alexander von Ziverss, prior to World War I promoted his horticultural experience in Russian Caesarean Gardening Society editions, in various magazines, and reported to farmer meetings both in Russia and abroad.

In 1892, after finishing church school, the well-known artist Rūdolfs Pērle, the most prominent representative of symbolism in Latvian art, decided to get a position of a gardener at Kārļi Manor. Here the artist's first flower paintings in watercolour technique came to life. He was also able to get acquainted with the paintings in Count Emanuel von Ziverss’ collection. As noted by the Doctor of Arts Dace Lamberga: “During his years of gardening, the artist's love for flowers blossomed. In this time, he created a series of still life paintings, and it appears that in the early 20th century Latvian art, we will not find any other painter with his unimaginably fantastic forms of flowers, gentle colours and changing transformations.”

Read about the manor's history and gardening school in the book
‘’KĀRĻU MUIŽA. Laiki un likteņi’’

Publisher: SIA Kārļa muiža
© SIA Kārļa muiža, 2019
© Pārsla Pētersone, Jānis Stepiņš, text, 2019
© Inese Hofmane, design, 2019
Printed in Jelgavas Tipogrāfija

ISBN 978-9934-19-762-8