Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
The garden at Eichstatt was the subject of a very special book called “Hortus Eystettensis.” The English edition is “The Garden at Eichstatt.” This book includes a number of cacti and succulent paintings.
Taschen released an English edition of the book entitled “Garden at Eichstatt-The Book of Plants.”
This was the garden of the bishop of the diocese of Eichstatt. Johann Conrad von Gemmingen, who was elected Prince-Bishop in 1595. Under his tenure, Basilius Besler (1561-1629), was in charge of the gardens.
Gemmingen also gave Besler responsibility for writing and completing the book, including the paintings. Besler was a Nuremburg apothecary.
For the paintings, Besler used fresh flowers and plants from the garden. The book had 367 copperplate engravings, which were organized according to the four seasons. Begun in the mid-1600’s, the book was released in 1613. The garden reportedly had around a thousand species of plants.
Each plate depicted a number of plants. One featured a prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica). To give an idea of the size of the plant, Besler included a scale in the drawing. This drawing shows an enormous mature plant with a very thick trunk. The pads have lots of ripening fruits, some of which have fallen onto the ground. No flowers are in view.
Around the base of the plant there is either an edging or the rim of a terra cotta pot. This might indicate the pot has been buried in the ground. Surrounding the prickly pear is a trellis-like frame. In the painting, this is bright red. Accompanying this painting is another plate showing one of the prickly pear pads with developing fruits and small flowers that are partly open.
Besler also did a painting of the common aloe. The drawing showed the stem with leaves curling up at the ends. There were very short flower spikes at the top of the plant. It also showed the plant’s roots.
Besler also included an illustration of the century plant. The sketch showed a rosette of leaves with toothed margins. This specimen also has a short flower stalk with blooms and roots.
This book featured a painting of aeonium (Aeonium arboretum). Taller than most aeoniums, this species can be several feet in height. The sketch shows a tall stem with foliage at the top forming rosettes. This painting also shows the plant’s roots.
Besler also did paintings of several stonecrops. These include Sedum sexangulare. This groundcover was shown with small yellow flowers.
Besler also did a painting of the wall pepper or moss stonecrop. This species was taller than the other stonecrop, and had yellow flowers. Both of these species were shown with very tiny leaves.
There is also a painting of the common houseleek. The succulent looking flower stalk has tiny, succulent scale-like leaves up and down its length. This had a cluster of flowers at the top.
Another of Besler’s paintings was of the Alpine houseleek. The painting depicted an uprooted plant with numerous stems and crowns running every which way. This also had rather tall leafy flower stalks with several daisy-like blooms at the top.
Besler included the common purslane in the same section as the herbs. This illustration shows a tall stem with very little foliage. There are little branches off the top with leaves and flower buds.
The Turk’s cap cactus from the West Indies was included in Besler’s book. This ribbed plant was shown with a white cephalium and clusters of barbed brown spines. No blooms or roots were shown for this species.