Průhonice park
National Heritage Site and UNESCO Protected Area

The Průhonice Park with its extensive gene pool collection of domestic and introduced species is part of the Institute of Botany. Průhonice Park Maintenance, a separate department of the Institute, takes care of the park’s collection.
 
Průhonice, which lies southeast of the Prague suburbs close the D1 highway, has made a name for itself in the gardening world over the years. It is known for its traditionally excellent scientific research and gardening work, with the prominent Průhonice Park being one of the most distinct works of garden landscape architecture in the world. In 1885 in the places where the natural beauty of the rugged Botič Stream valley intermingles with the diversity of the forest, meadow and rocky biotopes, Count Arnošt Emanuel Silva-Tarouca established an English natural landscape park, today known as the Průhonice Park. These were the peak times for natural landscape style in park design. A. E. Silva-Tarouca tried to extend the work of the previous owners, e.g., the Desfours who in the 18th century planted an orchard and ornamental garden with an orangery. Of all the owners, however, Count Silva-Tarouca reaps most of the acclaim for the current appearance of the Průhonice Park because of all of his efforts. The Park became a living piece of art for the Count, who sacrificed not only intellectual and physical effort to accomplish his goals for the Park, but also quite a large amount of his finances. In 1927 because of financial difficulties the Count sold the entire Průhonice estate to the Czechoslovak government. The Count, however, worked on the creation of the 250-ha Průhonice Park practically until his death in 1936.  
 
Count Arnošt Emanuel Silva-Tarouca wrote extensive papers on the park accompanied by a whole range of pictorial material. These papers were published in a special 6-part work “Parks of Austro-Hungary in words and pictures” published by the Dendrological Society to gain support for dendrology and landscape design in Austro-Hungary from 1909 to 1914. The original text and its Czech translation “Průhonice Park” was published by the Institute of Botany of the Czech Republic, Průhonice on the occasion of the expert seminar “Historical gardens and parks 2005”, held in June 2005 to commemorate the anniversary of Count A. E. Silva Tarouca’s arrival in Průhonice. The life and works of the Count are addressed in a permanent exhibit “Průhonice Castle and Park – a work of nature and the human soul”, installed in the Count Arnošt Emanuel Silva-Tarouca Memorial Hall. Many historical documents, castle plans, drawings and period photographs can be seen here. A separate publication and CD of the same name were published as supplemental material to the permanent exhibit (both publications can be purchased from the Institute of Botany).
 
Count Silva-Tarouca used the stream valley and even the original stands of domestic woody species that created a backdrop for new plantings. In this way, several natural parts of the park remained the same, sometimes with the original trees serving as shade or protection for the newly planted items. The original stands became the marginal backdrops thickened with plantings of new species, especially spruce and Douglas fir, which function also as protection against the wind. Interesting young trees in the stands were given more space so that they could become valuable solitaires in the park. Freely arranged park spaces are characteristic of this natural park, where woods and groups of trees and bushes alternate with meadows, pond, streams and dead meanders. An extensive Alpinum, an alpine rock garden was created on the rocky parts above the Botič Stream. The keystone to the park’s composition is the masterfully selected vistas that usually focus on a dominant element, i.e, the castle or on the opposite side, a stand of trees.
 
The Botič Stream became the axis of the entire area. The park’s founder regulated the flow of the stream to make it as he said, “be forced into the task of being a bubbling mountain stream”. Dams, weirs and blind stream branches were created on the Botič stream and its tributaries, the Zdiměřická and Dobřejovická streams. These alterations along with the building of the Podzámecký, Labeška and Bořín ponds changed the face of the landscape and improved even the local climate conditions.
 
A total of 23 kms of paths are interwoven throughout the park. These paths curve naturally to follow the shape of the terrain and enable access to areas and vistas resolved with refined taste and skill. The trees are grouped so as to leave an unforgettable impression on their observers. Many types of trees are used in a gradual step-like formation to provide a view of all. The way that the trees change throughout the seasons has also been used well, especially if we consider color when sprouting, in flower or when the trees have their autumn leaves. No regular geometric shapes are found here, except in the Large Courtyard. The Průhonice Park is one of the top landscape works of Europe. The way in which the original tree stands have been combined with the introduced species is unique. For many of these species Průhonice has been the gateway to the Czech Republic and even to Europe.
 
Today over 1702 botanical species and their cultivars (336 taxa of evergreen trees and 1161 taxa of deciduous trees and 205 taxa of perennials) are registered in the Index plantarum of the Arboretum of the Průhonice Park. This list with a total of 2136 items stems from a summary of the previous inventories and written reports of the occurrence of individual species in the park. For such a large number of taxa to occur in a park of this size (250 ha; latitude: N 49° 58' 43" – 50° 00' 06"; longitude: E 14° 32' 16" – 14° 34' 26"; altitude: 281–342 m), means that every natural site and even some altered existing sites were used. From a phytogeographical point of view, the Průhonice Park with its annual rainfall of around 610 mm and average annual temperature of 8.6°C is mesophytic, i.e., lying outside but adjacent to the area of thermophilic plants. Therefore, in the Park some spots with suitable microclimate (southerly exposed) can be used to grown even some more thermophilic plant species. In less warmer spots in the park (valleys, ravines, and northern-exposed and shaded sites) species from colder and moister areas of uplands and submontaneous levels can be grown. Because of the significant regulation of the Botič Stream and its tributaries the moisture content of the air has increased, which has favorably influenced the growth of evergreens and rhododendrons.
 
Rhododendrons, the most well known of the species growing in Průhonice, have more or less become the symbol of the park. In the past about 160 botanical species and many times more hybrids of rhododendron were planted here. The collection of the Institute of Botany includes 80 species and 80 hybrids of rhododendron. It is estimated that there are about 8000 rhododendron plants in the park today. A well-known center for the research and breeding of rhododendrons is also in Průhonice. Průhonice hybrids: 'Arnošt Silva-Tarouca', 'Ideal', 'Marka', 'Motýl', 'Panenka', 'Saba', 'Violeta', 'Humoreska' and the new hybrid Rhododenron pruhonicianum from R. Cunningham´s White and R. forrestii var. repens).
 
The Průhonice Park and castle are a place where in rare accord nature and humans have created an entire beautiful natural landscape work. Currently, when the surroundings of the Průhonice Park are being utilized and built up, the park serves as an educational and relaxation spot for people and even as an essential refuge for many endangered plant and animal species. Along with the castle, the park is the most significant landscape element southeast of Prague.
 
“Even when my name will have been forgotten, let the park continue to live, develop and receive acclaims so that it becomes a part of our country’s cultural heritage.”
 
                                                            Conclusions of the a lecture on the Průhonice Park given by Arnošt Emanuel given at the general meeting of the Dendrological Society in Prague on 27th February 1926.
 
The park is currently open year-round. Guided tours with a qualified guide can be arranged with advanced notice. Visitors can visit the permanent exhibit on the founders of the park in the Memorial Hall. Occasional exhibits and lectures are given in the Visitors’ Center of the Institute of Botany. Musical concerts, theater performances and programs for children (e.g., fairytale woods) regularly take place in the park. Weddings are also held here and outdoor areas and conference rooms in the castle can be rented.