Classic and Contemporary Garden Designs

2Sep, 2018

Balchik Palace and Gardens – A Beachside Residence!

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.

Agave americana in bedding plants
Agave Americana rising out of a sea of yellow Celosia like the mythical Kraken, tentacles flailing.
Photo of the rockery garden in Balchik showing phormium and berberis
A beautiful range of colours, form and foliage around a large variety of alpines within the rockery.
A rainbow of bedding plants with palm trees in the background
The largest and most colourful bedding scheme, with a wonderful backdrop of palms and conifers of all shapes and sizes.

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.

Cylindropuntia tunicata, the sheathed cholla, in the glass house
Cylindropuntia tunicata, the sheathed cholla, in the glass house
A collection of small cacti in the glasshouse
Extraordinary collection of cacti of every conceivable shape and size.
Daslyrion wheeleri, Agave striata and other cacti
Daslyrion wheeleri, Agave striata and other cacti
Large cactus in the enormous glasshouse
An impressive collection of large cactus in the enormous glasshouse
Austrocylindropuntia subulata
The virtually impregnable Austrocylindropuntia subulata (Eve's needle cactus) with an impressive display of spikes.

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.

Bridge of Sighs
The view of the 10m high waterfall from the Bridge of Sighs, surrounded by verdant greenery.
View of the Black Sea coast.
View of the beautiful Black Sea coast.
View up the cliff face to the Balchik gardens
View up the cliff face to the Balchik gardens

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).

Long rill running through the large rose garden heading towards the Temple of Water.
Irrigation rill running through the large rose garden heading towards the Temple of Water.
The Temple of Water in the rose garden
The ivy covered Temple of Water set within the fragrant rose garden

Gethsemane Garden

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.

Pednulous evergreen conifers in the Weeping Garden
The relaxing and luxuriantly green Weeping Garden with a huge array of pendulous evergreens.
Cedrus deodora f. pendula overhanging bedding
Cedrus deodora f. pendula overhanging bedding within the park’s vast network of stone paved paths.

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.

A field of Cleomies, Salvias and Cannas
An extraordinary field of Cleomies, Salvias and Cannas

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…

Temple of Water with the Black Sea in the background
Looking out from within the Temple of Water overlooking the Black Sea
Formal clipped hedge
The formal clipped hedges reflect the geometric lines of the Royal Palace

And a mix of artful display and unashamed colour…

Aloe arborescens set into the stone paving
Aloe arborescens set into the stone paving, an interesting and quirky twist in this wonderful garden
Purple and pink Zinnias
Colourful zinnias (not dahlias!) exuberant in the hot sun, informally tumbling over the clipped box hedge

©Richard Walters 2018
Should your require assistance with your own grand design, or just a garden revamp or new mixed border, feel free to email or ring me (07801 252 972) for more information or an informal discussion about your requirements.

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Thoughts about this blog (or leave a comment)

  1. Lovely article, the flowers in the last pic are zinnia ( not dahlias), but a nice read, I really enjoyed it. I will add it to my list of visits, it looks wonderful.

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