Balchik Palace and Gardens – A Beachside Residence!
- By Richard Walters
- 2 Sep 2018
- Show Gardens
As a garden designer, whenever I travel to different parts of the world, whether Norfolk, UK or worldwide, I always love to visit new and different gardens to gain inspiration relating to planting schemes, water features, sculptures etc. Whilst in foreign countries its also very interesting to see how local conditions affect plants that we normally only see growing in a UK climate. This year I decided to write up blogs about these gardens to provide ideas and guidance for anyone with a similar love of beautiful gardens.
Balchik Palace and Gardens, Bulgaria
So it was that whilst on holiday in Bulgaria recently, I couldn’t resist visiting the Balchik Palace and Gardens on the Black Sea coast (rated in the top 10 Things to Do in Bulgaria). The Palace was built between 1921 and 1926 (when Balchik was still part of Romania) by King Ferdinand of Romania for his English wife, Queen Marie. The accompanying gardens, covering 65 acres, were designed and built by the Swiss Botanist, Jules Jani. In 1940, after the reincorporation of the Balchik region into Bulgaria, the University Botanical Gardens were established.
The Nursery Garden
The view immediately on entering the gardens is lovely, showing a lily pond, herb garden, small rose covered pavilion and a long vista of the biggest and brightest Hibiscus moscheutos I’ve seen for a long while. This takes you through to the large and geometrically arranged bedding area with every bedding plant you could possibly wish for, with a mesmerizing chaos of reds, yellows, oranges, purples and everything else in between.
Cactus and Succulent Exposition
The Cactus and Succulents in Balchik Palace and Gardens are very well represented, in one of only two such collections in Europe, containing over 600 species. The recently renovated glasshouse contains an impressive selection of tender varieties, including huge arborescent and columnar types more usually seen on a Texas highway or Cowboy film. There is also a very interesting voucher collection displaying the smaller types.
The Bridge of Sighs
We then followed the long rills down towards the sea (Balchik Gardens has numerous waterways running its length and breadth), over the ‘Bridge of Sighs’ looking back at a spectacular 10m waterfall – fairly unusual in a garden! Even more unusual is finding a wonderfully cool sea at the bottom of the garden, a natural place for lunch and a swim.
English Rose Garden
After lunch we continued through the English Rose Garden with roses of every colour naturally irrigated via the ubiquitous rills. The ivy covered Nympheum or Temple of Water forms a grand structure overlooking the rose garden and the sea below. This was an understandable favourite area for Queen Marie to celebrate her Birthday and Name Day (an important Bulgarian tradition of celebrating the day associated with one’s own name).
The leafy and green Gethsemane Garden, presumably named after the garden on the Mount of Olives, has splendid examples of Gingko, Dyospirus kaki (Persimmon fruit), Platanus acerifolia (Plane tree), Tilia tomentosa (Silver Lime) and the wonderfully named Ziziphus jujube (Jujube berries).
The Weeping Garden
Heading back up from the sea, the Weeping Garden was tranquil and relaxing, covered with climbers hanging from arches, trellis and pergolas. Best amongst these was a picturesque and stylish example of Styphnolobium japonicum (Japanese Pagoda tree – although actually originating from China – also known as Chinese Scholar Tree or Dragon Claw Tree). Large specimen trees included Broussonetia papyrifera (Paper Mulberry) – the species name emanating from it’s important role as a fibre crop in the history of paper making.
The Memorial Garden
Heading back up towards the exit/ entrance, we came across a final gem in the form of the Memorial Garden. This was a large expanse of Cleomies and Cannas, with a showy border of purple Amaranth.
This was one of the largest and most beautiful gardens I have seen, with a wonderful diversity of garden types, from bedding schemes, cactus gardens, grass beds, rose gardens, historical landscaping, weeping gardens, arboretum and an extensive design of waterways, some natural and some manmade. I would recommend visiting Balchik Palace and Gardens to anyone looking to combine a beach holiday with some horticulture beauty. We stayed nearby and visited a couple of times, as one visit wasn’t nearly enough to take it all in. I took so many lovely photos, so here are a few more below to give a bit more of an insight into what you can expect if you are lucky enough to visit…
And a mix of artful display and unashamed colour…
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