A long time ago and far beyond the borders of the Caucasus, the decorative park of the Tsinandal grape farm in Georgia is famous. A lot of interesting things can be seen in this unique corner, created at the end of the last century by the outstanding master of landscape gardening art A.E. Regel. But all the exotic plants collected here from more than 25 countries, the exquisite architecture of the park and even the vivarium with deer and roe deer, peacocks and countless other animals and birds fade into the background when you find yourself in the green laboratory of I.G. Khmaladze.
© Frank Vincentz
About a quarter of a century ago, a student of the Academy of Arts Irakli Khmaladze came here. He had a lot of worries to restore and improve the composition of the park, to enrich the plantings with overseas immigrants. But in his spare time, the tireless enthusiast was still growing his “botanical menagerie”. Here the giant crocodile lazily stretched out on the lawn, with a wide open toothy mouth, a wary tiger froze a little further away, a mutt dog and a teddy bear frolic nearby, in a word, a real zoological garden. But the thing is that these animals are formed from various plants by the hands of a talented master. Truly inhuman patience is necessary to care for all these exquisite works of garden art: some plants need to slow down growth, others call for enhanced tillering, others require curly haircuts or special shaping with a variety of tricks. Every year, the number of works in the green laboratory of Khmaladze increases, and the fame of their creator expands.
Of course, everyone will be interested in what material the master creates these wonderful living sculptures from. The author does not make this secret, but always generously shares his knowledge and rich experience acquired in the process of raising his pets.
“I use several types of plants in my work: hornbeam and privet, viburnum and cypress. However, boxwood and yew showed themselves to be the best in this kind of sculpting, says I. Khmaladze. True, this is not my discovery, yew and boxwood were widely used to shape animal figures in another of the seven wonders of the world - in the hanging gardens of Babylon. Nowadays, these trees are used in their work as Soviet gardeners, decorators, and masters of India, Egypt and other countries. Abroad, the Hanging Garden of Bombay on the Malabar Hills Peninsula is especially famous for its green sculptures. Masterfully broken on the roof of a huge water reservoir, from where water is supplied to the entire peninsula, it contains a huge number of green sculptures: elephants, giraffes, camels, dogs, horses. ”
These suppliers of plant material for green sculptures can also be found in natural forests, and, of course, they are valuable not only for green architecture. In the wild, yew is found in the Far East, the Caucasus, occasionally in the Crimea, in the Carpathians and even in the Baltic states. Much wider are yew and boxwood grown artificially: almost everywhere in Ukraine, the Kuban, and the North Caucasus.
In Lviv, Rostov, Uzhgorod, Odessa, Volgograd, Kiev, you can always, even in winter, see green borders and various geometric shapes created from yew and boxwood. Kamyanets-Podilsky craftsmen make even original living furniture from them. One wants to sit on an evergreen boxwood sofa in the Kamenetz-Podolsky Botanical Garden. Next to the sofa are other details of the green headset: children's tables, chairs, rocking chairs, large and small balls and cubes.
Botanists know eight species of yew, of which only one is found in the wild in Europe, three grow in East Asia and four in North America, however, they all do not differ so much from each other. In the Soviet Union, two species grow wildly - yew berry, or European, and spiky yew, or Far Eastern. A sufficient idea of this woody plant can be obtained by visiting the Caucasus. It is best to visit the Khostinsky reserved grove near Sochi, here, by the way, you can also see boxwood.
Just cross the openwork bridge over the rugged mountain river Khosta and pass the arch with the inscription "Caucasian State Reserve; yew-boxwood grove ”, as the coolness is unusual for these warm places. We owe the mighty dark coniferous often this coolness in the hot summer. The grove will surprise us not only with this. At the entrance to it stands a huge 350-year-old beech, age-appropriate as a great-grandson of a small yew tree, modestly standing aside and dating back 2000 years. True, it cannot be considered very old: after all, the maximum age of the yew in natural conditions usually exceeds 4000 years. By the way, yew is considered the most ancient representative of the plant world of the tertiary flora, which existed millions of years ago.
Yew is a low plant, even at the age of 2000 its height is not more than several meters, but only 5-6 people can grasp the trunk of this ancient tree of the Caucasus.
Most of the yew neighbors are deciduous trees, while it itself belongs to evergreen conifers. Its trunks are knotty: it seems as if made up of many thick shoots that are tightly fused together. The reddish color of the trunk and branches of the yew just seems to justify the name that was popularly fixed to it - mahogany. In addition to unusual coloring, yew wood is characterized by durability and rare strength. Sometimes the yew tree is also called a mongrel tree, which also confirms the exceptional resistance of its wood, this time against rotting. Living yew wood, in contrast to chopped wood, is severely damaged by a microscopic parasite fungus; it, like, however, its bark and leaves, is very poisonous.
Yew blooms in early spring, its dark green branches are covered with delicate small flowers. In the yew forest, one can find male trees with golden earrings and female trees with small flowers in the form of cones. The red matte yew seed ripens only in mid-autumn. Yew cannot itself disperse its seeds. But he has active, but not disinterested helpers. Blackbirds and martens easily find bright yew seeds. Together with the pulp, they swallow the yew seed itself, which is then discarded undigested and sprouts.
An unforgettable impression leaves a visit to yew-boxwood thickets. First of all, their absolute silence amazes: neither bird singing nor the rustle of an animal is heard. Even the rays of the southern sun rarely break through the dense tent of tree crowns. People here do not interfere in the life of plants, and therefore they retain a pristine, pristine appearance. Gigantic shaggy manes hang from their boxwood trunks their peers - ancient mosses and lichens. They are diverse in appearance and in systematic affiliation: several dozen species of them are botanists. At any time of the year, the fantastic decoration of the yew-boxwood grove resembles the underwater world of dense algae.
Most often found here are small, b-9-meter tall, boxwood trees with branches, completely overgrown with small shiny oval-shaped green leaves. Their trunks are 15–20 centimeters in diameter, and sometimes the circumference of the thickest trees reaches 1.5 meters. Boxwood trunks thicken by only one millimeter per year. The owner of the most powerful trunk in the reserve is about 500 years old.
Nature seems to cement boxwood, which is considered heavier and harder than any kind of our trees. The local population calls it the Caucasian palm or ivory. The specific gravity of wood is 1.06, and it sinks in stone with water. The high mechanical properties of boxwood allow it to be made of bearings, fonts, weaving shuttles, and elegant souvenirs.
Ancient Greeks and Romans considered boxwood a precious tree. Homer mentions him in the 24th song of the Iliad, which describes the laying of yoke from a smooth boxwood on Priam’s bulls, and the Roman poet Ovid in one of his works tells how Minerva made the first flute from boxwood.
A peculiar sight is the flowering of boxwood. With the first breath of spring, back in early March, small golden flowers appear entirely from the sinuses of each leaflet, completely covering the crown. Boxwood flowers, unlike the flowers of other plants, do not emit nectar at all, while greenish, already ripened fruits are full of transparent sweet juice. The fruits, ripening, with a force echo cracking and scatter in all directions, not very far, but, as a rule, are outside the crown.
Boxwood thickets are mainly concentrated here on the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus and in the Far East. But no country in the world can boast of such a unique forest as the yew-boxwood evergreen museum near Khosta, although it occupies a relatively small area - about 300 hectares. It is also noteworthy in this reserve that yew and boxwood, not being closely related, grow together without oppressing or crowding each other.
© Zanchetta Fabio
Links to materials:
- S. I. Ivchenko - Book about trees