Even in accounts of Laxenburg from the Middle Ages, Duke Albert III was praised as a gardening enthusiast. He was said to have worked on the garden with his own hands and cultivated plants by following the instructions in books. He ordered the construction of zoos, fish ponds and other features. This tradition of parkland immediately surrounding the castle and its moat were continued in the following centuries as well. Thanks to the special preference for falconry, the entire area basically remained an open space in which only small individual zones were enclosed as a special zoo.
It wasn’t until the 18th century that a Baroque garden of geometric design was planned, in accordance with the prevailing fashion of the time. The first definitely recorded work of this type was presumably carried out by Count Sinzendorf on the expanded garden behind his house. The ‘Waderlgarten’ was created here, whose fan-shaped layout was preserved into the imperial era (the term Waderl is Old Viennese for ‘fan’, likely derived from the French word éventail).
Oriented along the central axis of the oval dining room, this small but richly designed Baroque garden with its embroidery-style parterre and fountain constituted one of the first landscaped areas in the castle park, and its design has been quite accurately preserved up to the present day. Another plan can also be traced back to empress Maria Theresa: a geometrically designed garden was begun to the south of the old castle. This garden encompassed the first part of the Forstmeister canal, the Alleestern and the Waldstern with the Diana temple, also known as the Grünes Lusthaus. Even at this time, emperor Joseph II converted large portions of the current expanse of the castle park into a landscape garden. The Waderlgarten was altered to become the ‘small landscape garden’ behind the Blue Court, while the park to the south of the Forstmeister canal was likewise expanded on a grand scale to form a landscape park. The ambitions of his successor, Francis II (I) embraced this style even further. He was a great garden design enthusiast and gave Laxenburg castle park the appearance it still has today. The park itself was vastly expanded in the style of an English landscape garden and the large castle pond was constructed. In keeping with the concept of romantic historicism prevalent at the time, many additional park features were created, including the tournament ground, the Rittergruft (knights’ tomb), the Rittersäule (knights’ pillar) and – the highpoint – the Franzensburg, a ‘garden fortress in the Gothic style’. Despite these activities, the Waldstern with the Diana temple and the Forstmeister canal were preserved as Baroque design elements – all of which makes the castle park a unique and one-of-a-kind place.
With its 280 hectares of land, Laxenburg castle park is one of the most important landscape gardens in Europe. It is a valuable document, not only of Austrian garden design but also as one of Europe’s most important historic landscape gardens – rich in precious woodland, groves and manmade bodies of water (also see no. 51). Details about the castle park and its wide range of recreational offerings are available at www.schloss-laxenburg.at.