Alleys, woods and gardens of the nature park

Obviously, Valaam if the only place in our country, where a unique combination of native and foreign wood species is created. The plantations of foreign wood species are the integral characteristic of Valaam’s landscape, which make its unique look. The originality is that foreign wood species can be met on a vast territory and they make a single whole with native plantations. Secondly, the plantations of foreign species are rather old. Thirdly, foreign wood species are various in family and character. Finally, the combination of the landscape elements and architectural monuments makes it even more attractive. At the same time it is important to remember that this is a region with severe climatic and soil conditions.

The bringing of the first foreign wood species to the island is connected with the name of its superior Father Superior Damaskin, who managed the cloister since 1839 till 1881. However, at that time there already were “few huge oaks and lindens, which were brought to the island by people”.

One of the monastery books says: “This induced Father Damaskin to grow not only oaks, but other wood species on the island”. The nurture was organized in a big way, taking into consideration forest and agricultural demands. This may be judged by the following record: “A nursery forest of coniferous and deciduous trees: cedar, larch, poplar, chestnut, silver fir and so on was organized between the mountains. Then young trees were planted in the different parts of the island. Sometimes the cloister sent the trees to Petersburg, Finland and other places”. A. Andreev also confirms this: “Cedar, chestnut, larch, silver firoak, elm, maple and other species are growing at the nursery forest…” So all the microclimatic conditions were given proper weigh.

«Alleys and woods of foreign wood species were planted on Valaam for a long time untill the 30-ies of the XX century. The main function of these plantations was a decorative one. In the 30-ies the planting were made for industrial purpose. This is confirmed by the presence of mixed plantations or, as forestry specialists say, specimen of larch and silver fir with the native species (pine, fir-tree, birch). The first information about Valaam’s foreign wood species is in the article “Gardening and truck farming on the island of Valaam”, which was published in 1870. The article included “the list of native and foreign trees and bushes of Valaam”. By that time, 50 species of foreign woods had been planted on Valaam, 30 of them were trees. Not all of them were kept till today.

The registration showed that there are 40 foreign wood species on Valaam. Most of them (68%) are decorative bushes, which are located on the farmland of the monastery and on the abbot’s cemetery. The majority of trees also grow here. There are five species of foreign coniferous woods: Siberian larch, Cedar Siberian pine, Siberian silver fir, Murrey’s pine and West thuja. Three of these species are of the most scientific and economic interest. They are wide spread on the territory of Valaam and grow in different soil and climatic conditions. Self-sown planting of these species can be often met in the plantations of native wood species. That is the evidence that they have successfully acclimatized on the islands.

Larch is one of the most spread on Valaam foreign wood species. It can be met in 23 places on six islands of the archipelago and it forms 9 woods and 6 alleys. Sometimes single trees or groups of 3-10 trees can also be seen. The age of the majority of larch plantations is 100-130 years. There are six zones of this specimen at the age of 45-50 years. Nowadays on Valaam larch belongs to one of the largest trees, its plantations are characterized with high productivity. Its forest yield is 1.5-2 times more than the yield of the most productive pineries and fir-woods. The trunks of larch are slender and easy to peel of rind. Their height is 30-32 meters 80-100 cm in diameter.

A splendid larch wood of 60 trees (1984) is growing in the narrow near Konevskie lakes. One of the largest trees on Valaam is situated here. It is 33 meters high and 99 cm in diameter. Its age is 120 years. A wood of 120 trees near Winter hotel is also impressive. However, at that place the conditions for growing are worse, so the trees are 20-25 meters high. As many large trees are in the wood on the abbot’s cemetery. However, many of them were uprooted during the storm of 1985. Still, larch is a sure-footed tree and is rarely uprooted by wind.

An imposing larch alley of 237 trees sets off the road to the abbot’s cemetery. Tracery crowns of the trees close in high above the ground and form a wonderful vault. Other larch alleys are much shorter and consist of 15-30 trees. However, they are also impressive because of their beauty and monumentality.

Silver fir is as spread on Valaam as larch. It is planted in small groups near buildings or in the form of alleys. It is often used for protecting fields and gardens from northern winds. It yields to larch in the size of trunk and forest yield. But it also forms a good growing energy. Its trunks are slender, straight. The height of silver fir is usually 20-25 meters. Silver fir plantings are also of different age. Trees of 110-130 years old prevail, some trees are 70-100 years old. Six zones are planted with finnish specimen, which are 45 years old. Silver fir is a slender beautiful tree with a thick crown, dark-green needles and gray rind. It is able to live till 200-250 years, but at the age of 60-70 is often affected by rot. It often happens because of truck injuries, which are common on Valaam. They are often made by elks, which feed with the rind of silver fir. Silver fir also suffers from wind. Finally, old plantations of silver fir on Valaam are now twice smaller and need renovation.

Silver fir is often called a monastery tree. It is difficult to say if monks liked this specimen more than other trees, but they surely appreciated it for its beauty and wide use for the decorative purposes. This is confirmed by silver fir plantations along the roads and hermitages. A silver fir alley, which decorates the road to the abbot’s cemetery, is well known. Unfortunately, it had been damaged by winds and people and now looks worse than before. A so-called “alley of a lonely monk”, which is near the upper garden, is also popular. The two rows of trees are planted so close to each other that only one man can walk between them. This was made in order not to give monks an opportunity to look aside spiritual life. However, it is more likely that this alley was made for protective purposes. A similar alley was made along the northeast edge of the church hill. Thick uniserial alleys of silver fir protected fields and gardens near the White hermitage and on Nikolskiy and Saint islands.

On Valaam silver fir gives many seeds (cones bear up on the peaks of the crowns), which are thrown 150-200 meters around the tree. It reproduces itself by cloning: its lower branches, which touch the ground, can strike roots. Silver fir can grow under the curtain of fir-woods. However, its young individuals can be rarely meet on Valaam for elks eat them. A cedar Siberian pine, which grows in six places of the archipelago, is of a great interest. On Valaam Siberian cedar does no form woods or alleys. It can be met in the form of small groups or separate trees. Unfortunately, its number is not large: in 1984 there were 123 cedars, 800 silver firs and 1300 larches on the archipelago. More than 80% of cedars grow near the White hermitage.The height of Valaam cedars is 20-25 meters and 54 cm in diameter. Cedars have dark-green crown, long conifers of 5 needles.

Valaam cedars are no more than 130 years old, their lifetime is 300-350 years. The majority of cedars on Valaam grow with the other foreign wood species, sometimes with pines and fir-trees. This is not good for cedar because it grows rather slow and easily gets under the curtain of other trees. As the result two a third of cedars is weak. One-two trees perish every year. At the same time there is no alternative to them for young trees are eaten by elks and also perish.

Cedars bear fruit satisfactorily, but their cones are carried away by woodpeckers. People also harm the tree. In this situation it is necessary to renovate the plantations of cedar on Valaam and to protect the remaining trees. One more foreign wood species on Valaam is west thuja. It is an original tree with scale-shaped needles. It was born in the North America, where rather short (till 20 m), but thick (70 cm) trees can be met. It grows very slow. The specimen was planted on Valaam twice: in the beginning of the century and in the post-war years. Only 6 trees, five of them on the abbot’s cemetery, remain from the monastery times. The best trees are 21 and 24 cm in diameter and 11 meters high. The second planting was made near Winter hotel. The height of the trees is 3-4 meters. The planting looks decorative. The last foreign wood species is Murrey’s pine, which appeared on the siland in late 30-ies. It was born in the North America.

Nowadays about 100 Mureey’s pines grows there. They are surrounded by 40 native pines. The height and diameter of both specimen is common: they are 20 meters and 18 cm correspondingly. The distinctions of Murrey’s pine are dark trunk, covers with scales and curly needles. The first place among deciduous foreign wood species belongs to petiolate oak. It forms rather large woods, beautiful alleys and can also be seen in the form of small groups and separate trees. Altogether there are about 790 oaks, which are more than 100 years old, and 30-40 young trees on Valaam. More than half of all oaks grows on Skitsky island, others – on Valaam and only 4 trees, which are 50 years old, grow on Zelenyi island.

The oldest Valaam oaks (250 years old) grow in a form of alley along the road to the Winter hotel. There are 12 oaks in the alley, but a half of them is about 120 years old and have been planted instead of the laid-down ones. The trunk of the largest oak is 140-160 cm in diameter. Its height is 23 meters, the size of the crown - 14x24 m.

Oak woods are of the most silviculture interest. Two of them - Abbot’s and Beloskitskaya – are the plantations of one species. In the first wood the trees are planted densely. At present time the trees are close, their trunks are straight and thin. About 140 oaks grows here, their forest yield per a hectare is 377 meters.

In the second wood the trees are planted seldom. There are 183 oaks here. The oaks have thick trunks (1.5 times larger than the oaks in the first wood) and branchy crowns. But the productivity of this wood is 1.5 lower. But it is very difficult to define which wood is more beautiful. Oaks on Valaam are more impressive than any other foreign wood species. When one enters the oak wood, it may seem that one is not in the north, but in the midlatitudes.

Mixed oak woods are also very beautiful. There are 7 oak alleys on Valaam. The most beautiful one is an alley of 33 stocky oaks along the road to Belyi hermitage. It was planted in 1855. The trees are planted seldom in 10 meters and grow freely. The trunks of most trees are more than 50 cm in diameter. Their height is between 22 and 25 meters. The condition of the trees is good. Another alley, which connects Konevskoe lake and Moskovsky bay, holds out worse. Some of the trees were planted at the low shores and they suffer underflooding. Other trees are growing in shade of the forest. There are about 00 oaks in this alley, but a third of them is dry and about 30 trees are dead. However, oaks still are very impressive. An alley of 58 trees on the terrace near a 3-meter high mountain looks very pleasant. Still the impression is worsened because of young pines and fir-trees, which close the oaks. The alley needs protection, still the condition of the trees is normal. Other oak trees also are in satisfactory condition. Oaks on Valaam bear lots of acorns. Of course not of them come up, but still the trees reproduce very well. The young oaks can be seen even 200-250 meters away from the oak woods and alleys. The acorns can be moved by jays and squirrels, which eat them in autumn. Thus, oak can spread all over the island. Still there are some factors that prevent it. So it is good fortune if one sees a young oak of 2-3 meters high on Valaam. The acorns of Valaam can be seeds for spreading oaks far to the north. The test plantings of oaks in the Kivach reserve, made by K. Andreev in 1959 are demonstrative. He used acorns from four regions of the country, including Leningradskaya region and Valaam. After long observations he concluded that the oaks from Valaam acorns have more growing energy and are not hurt by frosts. At the age of 10 years Valaam oaks were 2.3 meters high, while oaks from Leningradskaja region were only 1.4 meters. At the border of its natural habitat, which covers the European part of the country, oak has a long lifetime. Some trees live up to athousand years and even more. The condition of Valaam oaks, which are 250 years old, as already have been said, is satisfactory. The main danger comes from people. On the farmland of the monastery, where people’s impact is the largest, the portion of good oaks is only 5%, which is 8-15 times lower than at the other places. Nowadays there are 48 large oaks on the farmland.

Ash-tree can be seen in the different parts of Valaam. It is a high slender tree with tracery leaves. Ash is considered to be a companion of oak. Its natural habitat covers a sizeable territory of the European part of the country. Ash grows on rich soils and lives till 150-300 years. It is usually about 40 meters high. On Valaam ash grows in a form of separate trees near hermitages. Only on the farmland of the monastery there are 30 trees. Their height is 20-25 meters and trunks are 60 cm in diameter. Ash blossoms before the leaves appeared. At this time one may take ash for a dry tree. The fruits ripen in late autumn and stay on trees even in winter. The ash-fruit is a yellow samara. There are ash-trees of three generations on Valaam: they are 100, 50 and 15 years old. The youngest trees were planted after the forestry was organized in 1964. There are about 40 trees of that time, but almost all of them are damaged by elks.

There is one more oak’s companion on Valaam – linden. Its birthplace is West Ukraine and Moldavia. The difference between the two species of linden is small. First of all, they differ by the size of a leaf, though this can be seen only by an experienced man. The other difference is in the color of the lower side of a leaf. Linden with yellow leaves can be seen on the farmland of the monastery and in four more places on the territory of the island. It grows freely and forms a low branchy crown. Its height is no more than 15-20 meters. Sometimes it grows separately or in small groups. It is most beautiful while blossoming. Three species of poplar grows on Valaam: white poplar, balmy poplar and fragrant poplar. The balmy one is the most prevalent. It was born in the North America, but is planted everywhere in Russia. It grows fast and forms a tree of 20 meters with dark-gray rind and resinous buds. It stands separately or in small groups on the farmland of the monastery, on the abbot’s cemetery and on Svjatoy island.

The most large and beautiful is white or silver poplar. It naturally grows in the south and midlatitudes. On Valaam it belongs to large trees with the trunk of 100-200 cm in diameter. It is 25 meters high. Because of its branchy crown covered with silver leave sit can’t be confused with any other tree. This polar is a real decoration of any landscape. However, there are few poplars of this kind on Valaam because at the age of 100-120 this tree is easily uprooted by wind.

Fragrant popler is from east Siberia and Far East. It is similar to a balmy one. It grows on the farmland of the monastery. Its young leaves have pleasant smell. Two species of elm can be met on Valaam – smooth and shaggy. Both of them naturally grow in the European part of Russia, the northern border of the first one is at the latitude of Petrozavodsk, of the second – at the latitude of Saint-Petersburg. On Valaam both species grow only in plantings. They differ by their leaves. The smooth elm has unequal-sided leaf, the second elm has a larger leaf with a sharp top. Elms grow fast and form a wide branchy crown with dark-green leaves. Both of the species have a short lifetime. The typical example is that of the alley along Vladimirskiy bridge. This 300-meters long alley if made of an oak from one side and of an elm on the other side. The dropout of oak is 28%, of elm – 64%. A natural reproduction of elm happens rarely. Two species of willow – brittle willow and Shverin’s willow also belong to foreign wood species of Valaam. Both specimen grow only on the farmland of the monastery (they were planted in late 30-ies). Nowadays this are beautiful trees 10-15 meters high.

More than a half of all foreign wood species on Valaam are bushes. The first place among them belongs to lilac. It is represented by two species: Hungarian and ordinary willow. Both of them are planted in different places of the archipelago. Most of them grow on the farmland of the monastery and near hermitages. There is no lilac on the abbot’s cemetery. A grievous atmosphere is needed here and lilac is no good for this. (Nowadays, two-three bushes of lilac still appeared on the cemetery). Ordinary lilac is of different colors: white, violet and red. During blossoming some places of Valaam look like lilac gardens. At that time the air is saturated with the pleasant odor of lilac and visitor dazzle of the beautiful flowers. This view one will remember for good.

Chubushnik is also a beautiful bush (sometimes it is incorrectly called jasmine). Chubushnik blossoms with large white flowers, which exhale a tender but strong odour. The bushes are large, up to 3 meters high. They can be found on the farmland of the monastery and on the abbot’s cemetery. Honeysuckle also grows here. Its flowers are rose or red. They are set in pairs. The berries are red or yellow. They are eaten by birds, but poisonous for people. The bushes are 2-3 meters high.

One more beautiful bush – barberry also grows on Valaam. Its beauty is not in its flowers, because they are barely noticeable and small. The bush is beautiful with its thorny shoots and green leaves, which turn yellow and red in autumn. By that time clusters of small red berries are already mature. The berries are eatable. A plantation of barberry near the White hermitage is very nice, it also can be seen on the farmland, on the cemetery and near the former forestry.

Two species of shadberry are planted on Valaam. They form bushes about 3-5 meters high. Their flowers are small, white and easily noticeable. It blossoms and bears fruit annually. The fruits are dark-violet with the original taste. With the Christian perseverance, the monks of Valaam have created a fertile layer of soil on rocks and planted there strange trees and bushes. Suffice it to say that on Valaam melons grew in the in the ground half a century ago.

There are lots of rose-bushes on Valaam. One can see three species of them: thorny, wrinkled and dove-colored. The first got its name for its numerous small thorns, the second – for its wrinkled leaves and the last one – for the color of its rind and leaves. The beauty of the rose-bushes is in its flowers. The thorny rose blossoms with large white flowers. The other roses are dark-red, but fragrant. The dove colored rose adapted to the conditions of Valaam best of all: its bushes can be seen far from the plantation and even in the woods.

Sometimes one can see streamside maple, elder and dogwood on Valaam. The maple is especially beautiful in autumn, when its leaves are bright red. The elder is intersting for its small orange fruits, which are eaten by birds. Dogwood has nice red shoots. There are five species of hawthorn on the farmland of the monastery. These are hish and thorny bushes or short trees. Its flowers are white and rather large. In the autumn its leaves become yellow, brown or red. Hawthorn are good for making a protective fence. In the conclusion, it is important to mention that now there is a necessity to organize an arboretum on the island. Seedling from the nursery can be used for renovation of woods and alleys and for settling the most valuable foreign wood species on the mainland. A special attention should be paid to the gardens of Valaam. They are planted not only on the farmland of the monastery, but near all of the hermitages. Monks were very serious about them and have achieved remarkable results. At the exhibitions of gardening in Saint-Petersburg, Moscow and abroad they’ve won lots of awards. The efforts on making gardens started with choosing a place for it. The monks took into consideration not only the fertility of soils, but the protectability from winds and the microclimatic characteristics of the area. Monks learned to make soil artificially. They did not bring it from the mainland, but used the soil from the island. One monastery book says: “the soil on Valaam is rough and stony and if you want to make it suitable for trees, you should take trash and wood chips from the island and intermingle it with soil. After rotting through it forms a good mellow soil, which is nourishing for trees. The layer of the created soil was about a meter thick. This was a troublesome activity. It is known, for example, that it took 20 years to make a garden on the place of a stone breaking. If a garden was placed on a slope, then terraces were created. It was necessary to think over the protection of the garden against winds. If a garden was far from forests, then a special protective line of silver firs or fir-trees was made. In summer the trees and bushes were to be watered. For this purpose a water-pipe was made to the gardens on the farmland of the monastery.

The beginning of the gardening on Valaam belongs to the time when the monastery was managed by Father Superior Nazary. That was in 1782-1801. That is mentioned in the article “Gardening and truck farming on Valaam”. The author of the article is unknown, but it was brought to the editorial office by Father Damaskin. The time of the prosperity of the monastery on Valaam is connected with the name of this man, who had administered the cloister for 42 years (1839-1881). The golden age of the gardening on Valaam also belongs to this period. The article says: “ The first apples were planted under the Father Superior Nazary. Still it is unknown what were the first apples on Valaam and how did they get to the island”. Later the main supplier of the seedlings to the island was a famous Gegel’s arboretum in Petersburg. In 1852 a huge consignment of seedlings of 23 species was brought two the island. Four years later 45 more species got to Valaam. Altogether there are 60 species of apples in the gardens of Valaam. Besides apples, the monks planted pears, cherries, plums, and three species of currant, gooseberry and raspberry. The harvests were not constant. As the monastery books tell “in the good harvest there were about 50 tons of apples, in bad years there were no apples at all. Pears, plums and cherries on Valaam are also productive, but the fruits of these trees rarely grew ripe in the open air”. Bushes beared fruits more regularly. Monks and pilgrims gathered about 5 poods of fresh berries for the dinner.

The largest gardens laid out on the farmland. There are 3 of them here. They are located on different heights and are called the upper (Apothecaries’), middle and lower gardens. Their areas are 2,5; 1,1 and 1,5 hectares correspondingly. There were about 530 fruit trees in the gardens in 1885. After the monastery stopped its work the gardens fell into decay. Their productivity decreased many of the treed dried up. By 1984 the gardens were transferred to the balance of the forestry. Unfortunately, there was no gardener there, so there was still no one to take care of them. A year later Institution of Gardening started renovating the gardens. By that time there were 377 apple-trees, 2 pear-trees, 108 currant bushes, 610 gooseberry bushes, 20 raspberry canes and some cherries. The age of some apple-trees was 100-150 years old, but they still beared fruits.

The institution worked out special measures to renovate the gardens. In 1987 an arboretum was created. New species were brought to the island from the mainland. The fame must be returned to the gardens. But that’s not the point. Valaam can and should be a center of sapling growing in order to spread them to the north.

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