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Portraits

Springtime Returns to Mirabell Gardens

Every year at the beginning of April, Mirabell Gardens awakens from its winter sleep. It is now that the first harbingers of spring are planted out, and the last remnants of a frigid winter swept away. We decided to take a short walk, chat with the head gardener and welcome in the springtime together.

As we step into Mirabell Gardens, workers from the Salzburg Parks & Grounds Department are busily scurrying about. Here they are weeding, while over there they are planting forget-me-nots and daisies. The Pegasus Fountain is being scrubbed down and liberated from a season of leaves and dirt. Only recently has Peter Ebner’s 15-person team removed the winter barriers and set out the park benches. During the winter months, the so-called “Schönbrunn Benches”, which invite visitors to Mirabell Gardens to “take the weight off” and pause to enjoy the beauty around them, have in some cases been refinished and repainted. So that sun-starved visitors can sit down on them right on time for the first warm days of April. “Now, as it slowly gets warmer, many people start showing up at Mirabell Gardens”, says Peter Ebner. “We have also already opened the Rose Garden. On sunny days, by lunchtime all of the benches are full”, chuckles the head gardener. “You can’t imagine how beautiful it is, when you hear the birds chirping everywhere, gradually everything begins to bloom, and the fragrance of the flowers and springtime is well and truly in the air.”

“Mirabell Gardens is my second home”

In his role as head gardener at Mirabell, Peter Ebner is also responsible for other parks and grounds in central Salzburg. Other than Mirabell Gardens, this includes the Kurgarten and even taking care of the flowerbeds on the traffic islands in the Andräviertel district. A master gardener by profession, for the last 27 years he has been contributing his skills to the city, and has been head gardener at Mirabell for around 10 years. “It is a beautiful profession”, says Peter Ebner, as his eyes roam across the flower-strewn grounds. “Being focused on nature, I mean, and the changing seasons. Of course, it isn’t always fun, especially when it’s pouring down or icy cold. But even then”, laughs Ebner, “there are other things to focus on – such as our work in the Orangery. For me, Mirabell Gardens really has become a second home.” And how about his own garden? Does the head gardener have any interest at all in taking care of his own garden? “Absolutely”, Peter Ebner assures us with a grin. “When I get home, I just keep on going. For me, puttering around in the garden is completely relaxing.” Gardening is simply his passion, says Ebner.

Getting Mirabell Gardens in shape for springtime

For the gardeners at Mirabell, those spring days every year also bring lots of work. The tree-lined alley needs to be trimmed by hand, the Pegasus Fountain undergoes a complete cleaning before the water pump goes into action at around Eastertime. Aside from those park benches, the litter bins have to be serviced, too, and the water-bound surface of the footpaths has to be maintained. “Those are the kinds of things that visitors don’t necessarily pay attention to. But especially when it comes to the footpaths, we have to really be careful that no potholes develop or, if they do, make sure we refill them as quickly as possible. And of course, the paths all have to be regularly resurfaced completely.”

Around 30,000 harbingers of springtime every year

But let us now move on to the visual stars of the show: the flowers. The seedlings, which are currently being planted by the grounds staff so expertly, were first grown from seeds in a greenhouse at the city nursery. On the one hand, Peter Ebner explains, this ensures the quality of the plants. And on the other, it guarantees that the plants will be flowering beautifully right on time for the start of spring. “In spring, in Mirabell Gardens we mainly plant forget-me-nots, pansies, wallflowers and bellis sylvestris, which is basically a daisy”, says Peter Ebner. Also, even this early in the year you can see patches of crocuses here and there, extending out their delicate calyxes to bask in the sun. In total, we’re talking about around 30,000 plants that, visually at least, welcome in the warmer season at the beginning of meteorological springtime. These harbingers of springtime will stay in the soil until around the end of May, after which everything is rotated, explains Peter Ebner. “Between mid- and late May, all of the flowers are switched out, at which point we plant between 35,000 and 37,000 summer flowers in total. In this case, they are mainly begonias, geraniums, marigolds and zinnias.”

Floral Artistry and Plays of Color

Until approximately the end of October, these colorful flowers do their part to ensure that Mirabell Gardens is photographed by millions of visitors, shared with friends and family around the world. Talking of those colorful flowers: Peter Ebner is actually personally responsible for the constellation of these famous, painstakingly laid-out flowerbeds and the unique designs which change from one year to the next. “Each time around, we first precisely measure out the various shapes, but then use our personal judgment to trim them to perfection and maintain their beautiful form”, explains Peter Ebner. “I have to carefully consider what color combinations I’m going to use, so that the overall look is really harmonious.”
We finally ask Peter what he loves most about his profession. The head gardener doesn’t have to think for long: “When I get the color scheme just right and I am praised for it by one of the people here in town”, says the head gardener, gazing out on the flowerbeds and smiling, “that really pleases me no end.”

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