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Historicism (1850 - 1914)

From about 1850, viticulture (grape growing) in Europe experienced a period of decline and became limited to regions with a favourable climate. This was mostly the result of phylloxera (a vine pest) and new fungal diseases affecting espalier trees. On facades, grapevine was gradually replaced by purely ornamental plants. From England came the fashion for lush greenings primarily for ornamental value, both for country and town houses. Roses and clematis have become indispensable ever since! The arbours/pergolas of the growing number of small gardens were greened. In industrial architecture, as well as in the multi-storey residential construction of the "Gründerzeit" in 1871 onwards, however, building greening played hardly any role. At about the same time, though, the garden city movement arose, around 1900. This will be described separately.

Castle greened with silver lace vine in Tudor style (neo-Gothic), Püchau / Saxony
Castle greened with silver lace vine in Tudor style (neo-Gothic), Püchau / Saxony

Facade Greening as a Decorative Element

In the second half of the 19th century, buildings were decorated with greenery when the emperor or king came to a town or village. This was based on the old practice of not throwing anything away and using everything at hand, including the cuttings from evergreen plants (ivy, boxwood, holly). The shoots were braided into garlands and attached to the facades, as the leathery, waxy leaves lasted a long time. But, after so many new climbing plants were becoming available, attempts were made in many places to replace these green garlands with permanent greenery on wires for plants to climb. From time to time, treillages -- ornamental trellises without any plants were placed on facades.

Ornamental greening based on an old tradition, braided garlands
Green garlands from Boxwood clippings

New Climbing Plants

The new climbing plants which broadened the design pallet usually came from Asia, often via England: akebia (1845), bittersweet (1860), Boston ivy (1862), kiwi (1874) and silver lace vine (1899). In 1858 came the still famous "clematis jackmannii" from English breeding. Soon hundreds of rose and clematis cultivars from England and France followed, and around 1900, virtually all of the climbing plants that we use today were established.

Akebia on a "Gründerzeit" building

Photo Gallery

Here you can see examples of greened facades from the Historicism period. Some of the plants date back to the time of the building's construction. Please click on the pictures!

Silver lace vine on castle Püchau / Saxony, planted around 1995; see title photo at top.
Berlin city-library in Neo-Baroque style (ca. 1910). The Virginia creeper was planted during construction.
A villa in the 'spa architecture' style, Binz / Rügen / Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, with two old grapevines
Two ancient Wisteria on an apartment building in Potsdam / Brandenburg... probably from the time of construction
Villa greened with wisteria
Trumpet vine on an historic gable, likely Neo-
Wild vine on an outbuilding, Quedlinburg / Saxony-Anhalt
Silver lace vine on a building from the time of industrial expansion, Berlin
Ancient garden arbour with grapevines in an overgrown garden plot
Grape espalier on a city villa from 1892, greater Dresden area / Saxony
Stable converted into apartments built in industrial architecture style, from ca. 1890, wisteria, precinct Halle a.d. Saale / Saxony-Anhalt
Neo-Renaissance town hall from 1885 greened with wisteria, Lützen / Saxony-Anhalt
A small wisteria spindle later added to an art nouveau building, Wittenberg / Saxony-Anhalt
A small firethorn (front) and a lush firethorn (back). Neo-Gothic building in Babelsberg Park / Potsdam / Brandenburg
Small rose espalier analogous to our wire rope system 4020 on a "Gründerzeit" building, Leipzig / Saxony
Three and five-lobed wild vine on a Neo-Gothic church ruin, Wachau near Leipzig / Saxony