The St Petersburg University Botanical Garden welcomes summer

A temporary lecture hall has been opened at the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden. The visitors were invited to attend a garden exhibition "University Seasons — 2022", showcasing theme gardens designed by students from universities and colleges in St Petersburg for the 2022 summer season opening. Also, the visitors could attend landscape design master classes by leading experts in the field.

The history of the Botanical Garden of St Petersburg University started in the 1840s when the renowned master gardener Peter Ludwig Buek planted the first trees in front of the Twelve Collegia building. In 1864, on the initiative of a prominent Russian botanist Andrey Beketov, Head of the Department of Botany, the University acquired the land for the Botanical Garden. From that moment, the Botanical Garden started building its collection of plants. For a century and a half, the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden has had both high times and hard times. Since 2018, St Petersburg University has been making tremendous efforts to revive the garden, said Elena Chernova, Acting Rector of St Petersburg University.

In 2024, St Petersburg University will celebrate its 300th anniversary. As with all universities of this age, there are legends, mysteries and time-honoured traditions. Every year, we try to unravel some of these mysteries and celebrate the legends and traditions handed down by our ancestors and predecessors. I hope that today we will start a new tradition of summer season opening in the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden.

Elena Chernova, Acting Rector of St Petersburg University

The Botanical Garden has a total area of 1.75 hectares. Its collection contains over 1,000 trees, shrubs and flowers, including both typical and rare for the Northwestern region. The rarest of them are: Juglans mandshurica, also known as Manchurian walnut; Faidherbia albida; and Phellodendron amurense, commonly called the Amur cork tree. These plants are included in the Red List of Threatened Species. Some of them survived the Siege of Leningrad and, as living witnesses to the history of the city and the University, can be considered emblems of the Botanical Garden.

"The Garden must be open": difficult choices for the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden

Aleksandra Alekseeva, Chief Curator of the Gardens of the Russian Museum, spoke about the hard work and dedication of her colleagues from museums and botanical gardens who devoted themselves to protecting botanical collections. ‘During World War II, there was a number of notable cases of: people following their collections into evacuation; people staying in occupied territories despite bombing and shelling; people dying of starvation while guarding seed collections; or people preserving the palm tree greenhouse funds in the Leningrad Botanical Garden,’ she said. ‘They dedicated their life to maintaining and preserving their treasured gardens. However, all these day-by-day efforts and heroic deeds would have been insignificant unless there had been another important component in this framework: the keeper is the connoisseur.’

Both museums and universities are doing something extremely important. Museums generously and widely sow the seeds of wonder and delight, whereas educational institutions provide the nutrient-rich soil for the seeds to grow and pollinate crops with assistance of libraries. Then a real connoisseur is born, who will enjoy coming to our Museum and the Botanical Garden, who will see an undervalued treasure and preserve it for future generations.

Aleksandra Alekseeva, Chief Curator of the Gardens of the Russian Museum

The St Petersburg University Botanical Garden is being renovated with the support of the University partners. In the spring of 2021, Nikolay Kropachev, Rector of St Petersburg University, and Herman Gref, Sberbank PJSC Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Management Board, signed a cooperation agreement and planted three Serbian spruces in the University’s Botanical Garden. Indeed, there is much work that needs to be done before the anniversary of the Botanical Garden. Natalia Gordeeva is a strategic partner in the implementation of projects of the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden and Advisor to the CEO of Sberbank PJSC. According to Ms Gordeeva, commitments were made by the bank to contribute to the renovation project.

Artem Parshin is the landscape architect of the Lomonosov Moscow State University Botanical Garden and a laureate of the 11th Russian National Landscape Architecture Award. He developed a conceptual design of the restoration and a strategy for the development of the territory of the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden. ‘So far, the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden has been a little-known landmark in the city. To describe it, I would use a metaphor of a forgotten gem — the green heart of the University. Hence, one of the key points of our concept is to open the garden for visitors and make it more accessible and penetrable from within St Petersburg University,’ shared Artem Parshin. ‘We noticed that students come here to read and relax between classes. This function of the garden needs to be enhanced. This is not just a collection of plants for botanists, but a garden for the entire University. This will give to all members of the University community a sense of belonging.’

We feel honoured to be consulted and are proud to give assistance to our colleagues in the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden. I hope that our renovation project will be successfully implemented and the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden will be twinned with the Botanical Garden of Lomonosov Moscow State University. We are willing to support you along your path as you reach your full potential. It is a wonderful garden, and we will do everything in our power to make it spectacular.

Aleksei Reteium, Director of the Moscow State University Botanical Garden

On the season opening day, the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden held a presentation of the students’ theme gardens "University Seasons — 2022". For a week, students from: St Petersburg University; Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University; and the St Petersburg College of Garden Architecture worked on creating garden projects in three different styles: Japanese; Alpine; and Scandinavian. The work of each team was coordinated by a curator from the landscape architecture and garden design communities of St Petersburg and Moscow. The chairman of the Expert Jury was Artem Parshin.

Olga Cherdantseva is Head of the Centre for Development of a Comfortable Urban Environment at St Petersburg Improvement Committee and a former chief curator of the Gardens of the Russian Museum. For ten years, she headed the working group of the project ‘Imperial Gardens of Russia’ — an international festival of landscape and garden design. In her address to the contestants, Olga Cherdantseva noted that designing a show garden is a challenging but interesting task. ‘Six universities in St Petersburg offer academic programmes in environmental design; yet, only 3-4% of the graduates remain in the profession. This is inadequate for our needs. Indeed, we need more environmental design specialists because we all want our city to become a comfortable urban environment in the fullest sense of the term for everyone of you and your children and then your children’s children.’ Olga Cherdantseva invited the contestants to take part in the Landscape Hackathon organised by the Centre for Development of a Comfortable Urban Environment, stressing that participation in such events enables future environmental designers and landscape architects to try themselves in the profession. She added that the upcoming anniversary would give the St Petersburg University Botanical Garden an additional impetus for intensive development and transformation.

For almost a whole week, the University’s Botanical Garden held tours, lectures and master classes on: nature in the city; plants selection; landscape sketching; modern flower beds; and floral arrangements to name but a few. Also, the Botanical Garden hosted the opening ceremony of the Environmental Clinic of St Petersburg University.