Who are the gardeners of Lviv and why the city needs them

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«It’s even allowed to lie on the lawns here. I really like when people are resting. This is a park – a place for rest, relaxation for body and soul, fueling with energy. We strive for that».

In 2019, «Tvoe Misto» («Your City») media hub launched the project «Trees of Your City» and called on Lviv residents to join the counting of trees in the city. In addition, our journalist Serhiy Smirnov in his column suggested creating a position of Gardener of Lviv.

«I am convinced that a person who could shape the vision and principles of «green Lviv» – the whole Lviv, not just a part of the street or park – is necessary for the city. So that the right hand, which cuts down trees, and the left hand, which plants them, also have a head that knows and understands why it’s all being done and what should come as a result», – he wrote.

This winter, the Department of Ecology and Natural Resources of Lviv City Council announced a competition for a new position of gardener for each of the six city districts. Sixty-two candidates applied for the competition, but among them, only 19 people completed all three given tasks. They were interviewed and in early April, the people who will be responsible for greenery in Lviv were finally announced. 

One of those gardeners, in charge of Ivan Franko park, is Yolanta Klyusovska. 

This is mine

We’re meeting Yolanta Klyusovska at noon near the rotunda in Franko Park. Today, the weather in Lviv is good: the April snow has stopped, and from time to time, the sun even peeks out from behind the clouds. The gardener of the park, from whose backpack the red handles of a large secateur, or pruning shears, are peeking out, leads us to an alpine slide, where she works these days. Fragile blonde with curly hair and a smiling look she moves smoothly but quickly.

The first Lviv city garden was built on this land that in the 16th century belonged to the Scholz-Wolfowicz family of patricians and the Venetian consul Antonio Massari. After them, the estate became the property of the Jesuits. And at the end of the 18th century, Emperor Joseph II presented this «Jesuit Garden» to the townspeople of Lviv for the creation of a municipal park. In 1855, it was redesigned by Carl Bauer.

«I surveyed the park in the winter. Right here, on an alpine hill in the bushes, there was a lot of snow, so I shook it housewifely. I felt that it was just mine. I will create here», – says Yolanta Klyusovska and looks at the yellow-green thuja with love.

She says that she started pruning shrubs and hedges at the age of 14, but consciously took up the business only last year – with the beginning of a spring quarantine. Prior to that, she worked on creative projects, took photos, raised three children, and even became the first vice-miss of the contest «Mrs. Eastern Europe» in 2019.

«Basically, my profile is a topiary haircut. Throughout my life, I’ve done many different things. But the pruning of bushes fascinated me so much that I felt – that’s it. It’s mine, it’s something that really inspires me, gives me strength, despite the fact that it’s physical and quite difficult work. For eight or even 10 hours a day I work with an electric brushcutter, which is not easy for a woman. But I work in nature, I hear the chirping of birds, the noise of leaves, the aroma of thuja and juniper I’m pruning. It feels like a resort. This gives me a resource, as psychologists say. This is my source of energy», – the woman says enthusiastically.

During the quarantine, Yolanta Klyusovska collected photos of her works and began to recommend herself to friends, and they shared it with their friends. That’s how the first customers and the first money from this business appeared. The woman also cut the bushes in Lviv’s movie-set-like Armenian courtyard, so the city authorities heard about her as well.

«It happened so that the Department of Ecology came up with the project «Gardeners of Lviv», I applied for it and now I have such a wonderful park. I was invited to work in this very location», – says the gardener.

Yolanta Klyusovska is working her first week. When the April Lviv weather allows, she comes to the park in the morning and inspects her property. She has already drawn up a plan, which she will follow in her work, and is also waiting for assistants from the Department of Ecology.

«In April, I planned to take care of what was planted last year. There is a lot of work there – some bushes did not survive the winter, they suffered from heavy snow. Dry ones should be picked up, trimmed to the same level, and be given the opportunity to wake up and let the buds in», – says Yolanta Klyusovska.

This month, she’ll also be working on the park’s alpine hill – pruning thuja bushes to encourage them to develop new shoots faster and grow.

I look at the trees, still tall and grey. Some of them have been meeting spring here for several decades. Between the branches a rarely cloudless blue sky is seen. But in many places it is obscured by mistletoe, which is a problem for Lviv as a whole.

«It’s a parasite and we have to fight it. We are currently consulting on how to do this. Besides, we can’t work right now because it’s the silence season, when the birds are nesting. We’ll take it as the next step in the fall», – explains the gardener.

Restaurant and cinema

Ivan Franko Park was created in the English style. This means, says the woman with a red secateur, that there should be plenty of free space and lawns, loose planting.

«The vase at the beginning of the alley earlier used to stand where the monument to Ivan Franko was, there was a completely different composition – with thuja. Since then, there is a gazebo – a rotunda, a gardener’s house, and the honorary consulate of Bulgaria, which once was a building of a restaurant. And on the other side, where the toilets are, there was a cinema. That is, it was a real recreation zone here», – says Yolanta Klyusovska.

She adds that the park will no longer be the same as in the beginning. But it’s possible to give it back a respectable look and a relaxing atmosphere.

Who lives here

The park is not very diverse in botanical sense, says the gardener, but there still remain trees planted during the planning of the park. Of course, there are also several exotic trees planted at different times. These are black walnut, Japanese crimson, red oak, magnolia, Japanese sophora, European larch, etc. Ash and maples grow here too.

It seems that the park contains many species of birds, as well as graceful squirrels that shimmer their bellies. However, says Yolanta Klyusovska, the fauna here is poor compared to European parks. Maybe there are still field mice that we don’t see, and that’s it. But this, says the gardener, can be fixed.

«To have something more, you need food. There should be cereals and berries for birds. But our lawns are being mowed very often. In general, it’s recommended not to mow the grass so fervently in Lviv, because cereals in the city are important, they support sound insulation and are a source of food for animals. Moreover, the insects emerge there and a closed-loop ecosystem is being built. Therefore, we need more such plants», explains a ranger of Franko park.

However, currently the lawns in the park will only be «patched up», full renovation will not start yet.

I ask the gardener how she feels about the signs «Don’t walk on lawns.» Yolanta Klyusovska laughs.

«It’s even allowed to lie on the lawns here. I really like when people are resting. This is a park – a place for rest, relaxation for body and soul, fueling with energy. We strive for that» – she said.

The gardener adds that the rules of behaviour in the park are very common. That is, visiting it in a human way and nothing else: cleanness and respect for each other.

Freedom for lilac!

Yolanta Klyusovska is responsible for two more green locations in the city – the square Na Valakh and Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred Square. In the first one, she already had time to work at the beginning of the week: pruned dry branches, removed two trees in critical condition, as well as put lilac bushes in order.

«I have the feeling that they have been asking for a long time, even shouting for someone to take care of them. Someone wrapped two lilacs with threads that had already cut into the bark. It’s very unpleasant for the tree. We released them», – says the gardener.

The following works are being planned in the park.

«We have just started and there’s enough work. Can you imagine, the parks haven’t been properly maintained for decades», – the woman adds.

Today, the gardener inspected the Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred square. He says that the space is new, so it is important to simply maintain it in good condition and plan its development. She adds that in Franko Park alone, there are 11 hectares of land that need to be explored. Approximately the same amount is occupied by the other two locations entrusted to her. So there is really a lot of work.

Just love

«Here you see a plant. We assess the situation – what it needs. It’s like having a child – you have to meet her needs. To feed, to water, to sort and pick up the old, to dry, to clean, to treat from pests, to trim if the plant needs it and is appropriate for this. You need to see if there are any dry branches on the trees needing to be removed, so that they don’t swell at some unpleasant moment. There are a lot of such things», – tells Yolanta Klyusovska warmly and truly, as about children, of working with green residents of Lviv.

Meanwhile, a tall elegant man approaches us, greets us and asks when everyone will gather. This is Olexandr Horbatyuk, who works as a gardener in Vienna, Austria. Now, he has come on vacation to Lviv and was invited to share his knowledge and experience with the newly appointed gardeners of Lviv.

«It’s difficult to compare the parks of Lviv and Vienna. In Austria, the park economy is at a fairly high level. We have to adopt this experience and apply it in Lviv, in Ukraine», – says the gardener, looking into the space of Franko Park.

Oleksandr Horbatyuk says that, in addition to finding people who will take care of Lviv’s parks and teaching them, it’s also necessary to determine the functionality of each park, because they are located in different areas, each has its own characteristics and needs an individual approach.

When asked why he became a gardener, Alexander Gorbatyuk answers briefly:

«Because I love it and I want to do it.»

Olexandra Bodniak

Translated by Vitalii Holich

Photo by Nadiya Marchenko

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