The park in the old days
In the old days, the spa chief physicians found it very important that the park be a recreational and aesthetically pleasing area in which to move around and dwell. It was a part of the holistic way of thinking that was predominant at the facility.
Donations to the spa
Generous support from various sides provided the opportunity of decorating the facility both inside and outside. Sculptor Nanna Johansen donated, among other things, the statues entitled "Nøkken" (The Water Spirit) and "Venus og Amor" (Venus and Cupid). The New Carlsberg Foundation contributed copies of Kai Nielsen's "Århuspigen" (The Aarhus Girl) and the Hellenistic "Sandalbinderen" (The Sandalbinder). Three Italian jars were also placed in the park.
The establishment of the trout pond and the spring lake with masonry was paid for by spa guests. Guests were also behind sculptor Siegfred Wagner's memorial to the first chief physician, Frederik Emil Klee.
Experiments with the Garden of Eden
To enable very weak patients to get out into the fresh air, the spa leased an additional 2.5-acre plot of land in 1925. It was used for an outdoor sanatorium, dubbed The Garden of Eden. The area was divided into separate sections for ladies and gentlemen and was, among other things, used for outdoor gymnastics under the direction of the masseuses. Very sensitive patients were hardened here by allowing them to wear increasingly less clothes outside, so the sun and the wind could act on their skin. Later, a gymnastics building was erected on the plot. The park also had a tennis court, and croquet, lawn bowling as well as boccia we played in the park.
The forest and the trees
The trees in the park reflect the composite history of the location. The Silkeborg Vandkuranstalt (Water Spa Facility) was established in 1883 on a parcel of land taken from the Silkeborg Vesterskov (Western Forest). Many of the naturally occurring threes have been preserved from back then. Among these are the large beeches, singular old oaks, and the alder-swamp along the Ørnsø lake. Additionally, there are several accompanying trees in between, e.g. holly and wild cherry that are indigenous to the forests.
The park that was subsequently established around the spa facility received a number of park trees such as the magnificent Tilia near the entrance and various conifers that were regarded as exotic. The Japanese lark was planted in the park in 1932. Some species appeared as wildlings as conditions changed. These are, among others, goat willow, hazel, and silver birch.
170 year-old trees
Forest seed grocer Johs. Rafn from Copenhagen was a regular at the Silkeborg Spa from about 1920 until his death in 1935. As a professional, he took a great interest in the trees. Rafn points out that the foreign conifers must have originated from the Linå Vesterskov plant nursery. Based on his data, the large fir across from the old main building must be approximately 115 years old today and some of the Norway spruces even 170 years old. It has been attempted to establish special arboreta in the area. It was an excellent idea, but the arboreta were not maintained. When the spa facility was used as a headquarter by the German occupational forces during 1943-45, a great number of trees were cut down.
The history of an arboretum
After the war, a new guest arrived with an interest in dendrology, namely director Falbe-Hansen from the town of Randers. In 1952, he donated an arboretum to the facility. Over 200 species of plants and bushes were planted, mostly only a few of each species. The planting process was realised and is well documented, but there is no maintenance plan. When the donator passed away, everything seemed left to its own devices, and with the exception of singular bushes, most of the newly established arboretum disappeared in grass and shrubbery.
In the following, some quotes tell of the correspondence up to the establishment of the arboretum, and that different professionals had their own ideas about the purpose of the future arboretum:
Quote from a letter from Kolding nursery owner, Aksel Olsen, with a suggestion for a planting plan:
"Thus far, the park has been kept mainly as a forest. This puzzles me. Could there be a development ban on the area? In such a forest with a large lake to the West, there will always be a cold under draught, even by the slightest wind. If trees can be cut down as shown in the drawings, this under draught will disappear almost completely. At any rate, there will be enough warm locations that one will never have to search very long for shelter. In case of difficulties in realising these light spaces and corridors, I am willing to seek alternative options in order to introduce the light and warmth that I very much wish for patients and staff at the Silkeborg Spa, and that I originally thought would be required for such a facility."
Quote from a letter from Silkeborg Spa chief physician, Arne Portman, to forester Schoubye:
"I too believe that the new, rare, and exotic trees and bushes will make a considerable improvement to the visually very unappealing section between the main entrance and the Forest Villa, particularly since the undergrowth here is not very pretty. But: would it not be possible to preserve some of the old trees in this area? When viewed from the road, they form a kind of barrier between the road and the terrain, and they do, to some extent, protect the quests resting on the balconies of the Spa Building from curious eyes; finally, they do, when viewed from the main building, make a significant and grand impression, and I do recall how wonderfully both the old firs and the birches presented themselves against the glow of the setting sun, which could be experienced on walks on the road during the autumn. The large, old trees provide the park with the very air of grandeur that other spa facilities do not have, and I know that no one other than you would be more sympathetic to the notion of preserving the Park as a forest to the widest extent possible."