Czechia - Lu & Tiree Chmelar Herb Garden

By Yvonne Michie Horn
This item appears on page 48 of the December 2019 issue.

Entrance courtyard of the Valtice château. Photos by Yvonne Michie Horn

Two magnificent châteaux bookend what is known today as the Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape in the South Moravian Region of the Czech Republic.

From 1249 until events surrounding World War II resulted in its confiscation, the Cultural Landscape’s 100-plus square miles belonged to Liechtenstein, the tiny, 62-square-mile principality now sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland.

Between the 17th and 20th centuries, the Dukes of Liechtenstein set about transforming the land between their two châteaux into a traditional, English-style park, with sweeps of gently rolling lawns, groves of trees and small lakes, punctuated along the way with artful interpretations of classical temples. All were tied together via a château-to-château, tree-lined allée.

Today, the entire complex is owned by the Czech Republic, and a large portion of it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From Lednice to Valtice

Both of the châteaux are worth a “Garden Path” visit, the Lednice château for its attached, 1845-completed, 302-foot greenhouse.

The herb garden at Valtice, as viewed over the château’s wall.

In its glass-enclosed interior, some 250 tropical plants flourish, progeny of seeds brought back by plant-hunting horticulturists deployed with a special requirement in mind: No matter what time of year, a representative number of plants in the greenhouse must be in flower, as was so on my May 2018 visit.

The over-the-top greenhouse and the tranquil, surrounding landscape between the châteaux were expected delights.

Not expected was a garden at Valtice, the lesser grand of the two châteaux that was nevertheless favored by the Liechtensteiners as a home away from home.

At Valtice, I peered over the château’s wall to see what might be beyond. Not beyond but directly below was a charmer of a garden featuring an orderly array of boxed beds. Walking down to see what they might contain, I entered the Lu & Tiree Chmelar Herb Garden.

The boxed beds contained herbs organized as to their beneficial uses: medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, dye herbs, herbal aphrodisiacs, herbs that lure butterflies and bees, symbolic herbs of myths and legends….

Dozens of different herbs, nearly 300, were represented. For example, under the medicinal heading, I wandered through boxes devoted to skin and wound healing, with 10 different species planted. Ailments of the digestive system offered 23, as did beds containing herbs used in aromatherapy.

In centuries past, such plantings were essential to monastery life. In the 17th century, an herb garden was tended in Valtice by the Order of Merciful Brothers.

Herb garden’s history

The enormous greenhouse on the grounds of the Lednice château.

Today’s garden at Valtice was the brainstorm of the now-deceased Tiree Chmelar. Tiree and her Czech-born husband, Lubomir, in retirement divided their time between residences in New York and South Moravia. In 1990, the two spearheaded the Prague-Vienna Greenways — a 250-mile hiking and biking trail through some of Europe’s most picturesque countryside — and opened an office in Valtice.

A goal of the Greenways project was sustainable tourism. With that successfully underway, Tiree turned her attention to enticing more tourists to visit the lesser grand of the Cultural Landscape bookends.

A garden came to mind, one with historical roots yet enjoying growing relevance today: an herb garden.

In 2005, a competition for the garden’s design was held at Mendel University’s Horticultural School in nearby Brno. Three winners were chosen, and their ideas combined into a single entity. As the garden progressed, students were involved in the construction.

More than a dozen years later, I walked through a mature garden edged in a fruit tree orchard and eye-catching flower beds. Children played in a sandbox with watering cans placed nearby in case one wished to give a plant a drink of water or create a sand castle.

Drop in on the herb garden

On the first Saturday of every month, courses are given on the use of herbs in everyday life, recipes included. Private guided tours can be arranged. The garden shop displays an irresistible array of plants, toys with garden themes, books, herbal products (from vinegars to facial creams) and more.

Tiree Chmelar did not live to see the opening of the garden dedicated to her memory. In 2016, the garden’s name was officially changed to include that of both Chmelars: the Lu & Tiree Chmelar Herb Garden (Valtice, Czechia; phone +420 736 673 318, bylinkovazahradavaltice.cz/herb-garden-valtice).

The garden is open mid-May through October, with seasonally changing hours, generally 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and 2 to 6 Monday through Friday.

The garden entrance is at the junction of Zámecká and Sklepní streets in Valtice, directly adjacent to the Valtice Château.

Email Yvonne Michie Horn at yhorn@sonic.net. Also visit www.thetravelinggardener.com.


Watering cans near the children’s sandbox.

Nearly 300 different herbs are represented in the herb garden of the Valtice Château.