Gardens of the World Mainau Island Garden

About the island garden of Mainau, history and geography of the garden, its flowers and trees.


An Island Garden

The island of Mainau is an ideal site for a garden. Washed by the temperate waters of Lake Constance, sheltered from the heavy snows of the Swiss Alps, Mainau enjoys an uncharacteristically mild climate for central Europe. Consequently the island has been planted with every imaginable tree and flower, and zealously tended by professional gardeners for over two centuries. Today the island garden is accessible by footbridge from Switzerland or by ferry from Meersburg, site of the oldest castle in Germany.

Mainau once belonged to the Grand Duke Frederick of Baden, who put in a stuffy, formal garden and planted hundreds of exotic trees. Some of the great attractions of the grounds--cedars of Lebanon, paulownias from Japan, and giant pines from the Himalayas--are today over 200 years old. Mainau's present owner, Count Lennart Bernadotte, covered the whole island with flowers. Tulips and hyacinths, 600,000 bulbs in all, carpet the ground in May. The 25,000 rosebushes erupt into a sea of color in June, and 18,000 dahlias blossom in September. A collapsible hothouse protects the tropical bamboo, fig, banana, and orange trees.

A giant floral map of Lake Constance orients the visitor geographically; the lakefront towns of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland being marked by the cities' flowers. Mainau takes its name from the wild mayflower.

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