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A „porcelain palace“ to rival any in Europe

Rastatt Favorite Palace

Rastatt Favorite Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Rastatt local administration
All in one spot

Orangeries for exotic plants

What to do with exotic plants when winter arrives in Germany? Get them out of the cold, water and warm them a little. In order to protect the precious plants and care for them in the winter months, orangeries were constructed at Favorite in Rastatt, as well as in Weikersheim and Schwetzingen.

Orangery, Weikersheim Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Monika Menth

A wing of the Weikersheim orangery.

A warm house in the pleasure garden

Pomegranates, oleander, myrtle, laurel, lemons and oranges: winters were challenging for Mediterranean plants. At first, the potted plants were simply covered with wooden crates where they stood. However, these were too small, dark and cold, and the plants did not survive. Therefore, in the middle 17th century, permanent structures were built, which were soon found in every Baroque pleasure garden. In the summer, these structures were used as ceremonial halls for court society, then in the fall, plants moved in.

Stove alcove in the orangery, Rastatt Favorite Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Alcove for a cast-iron stove in the orangery, Favorite Palace.

Housing and propagation

The first Favorite Palace orangery was actually built before the palace was completed. In 1718, an iron stove was installed here, “because Gardener Rubbert is propagating many nice young oranges.” In the winter months, the open arcades in the orangery could be closed off with wooden boarding with inserted glass. Later, a second orangery was added. Both low, elongated buildings seem to frame the palace.

Stove, Schwetzingen Palace.

Original stove in Schwetzingen, decorated with the prince-elector's initials, CT.

Heating required

The new orangery at Schwetzingen, at 171 meters long, became operational in the winter of 1762. The large windows to the south could be shuttered against the cold. There were also 14 cast-iron stoves. However, the stoves used a great deal of firewood and were labor-intensive to operate, especially in extreme cold. The heat distribution was also less than optimal. Therefore, other heating options were developed, such as a duct heating system, similar to the hypocaust heating system used by the Romans.

Presented in luxury

As a result of the fixed nature of the orangeries, the valuable plants had to become mobile. They were no longer planted in the garden ground, but rather were brought out in planters in the summer months. The planters themselves were part of the presentation and became increasingly lavish. At Rastatt Favorite Palace, various magnificent planters of painted terracotta and blue and white Delft glazed earthenware have survived. Paintings of plants also frequently depict planters, from simple wooden ones at Favorite Palace, to splendid glazed earthenware ones in the knights’ hall at Weikersheim Palace.

Planter. Image: Adi Bachinger
Planter. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
Planter, wainscot in the knights’ hall, Weikersheim Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Planters of every kind: terracotta and wood from the Favorite Palace orangery, or glazed earthenware painted in Weikersheim.