Albert Schöchle's idea of Blühendes Barock (Baroque in Bloom)
After the principal place of residence was moved from Ludwigsburg to Stuttgart under Wilhelm I, the gardens were opened to the public in 1828. Wilhelm had the southern parterre planted with fruit trees, the canal filled in and maintenance work reduced to a minimum. He himself lived in the new Schloss Rosenstein palace. The South Garden was even used to grow potatoes. The gardens fell into a deep Sleeping Beauty-like sleep.
In 1947, the gardens were put under the charge of Albert Schöchle, Director of State Parks and Gardens.
The palace gardens had been needing urgent attention for years. The lower palace park no longer had a visible pathway, but simply trails beaten through an impenetrable thicket. The situation in the upper palace park was slightly better.
When visiting the federal horticultural show in Hanover in 1951, Schöchle became convinced that Ludwigsburg could host a considerably better horticultural show and could thus be put in order in one go. It had to work. Schöchle was almost certain of this because he had already found a suitable occasion, or rather two. In 1954, Schloss Ludwigsburg was to celebrate its 250-year anniversary and the Württembergischer Gärtnereiverband (Württemberg Gardening Association) its 50-year anniversary. While still in Hanover, Schöchle mentioned his idea to the president of the Württembergischer Gärtnereiverband, who was delighted by it.
When he returned from Hanover, Schöchle began making plans for the horticultural show. In spring 1952, he had both plans and a model ready to submit to the Ministry of Finance. As Ludwigsburg was the Minister's own constituency, the Minister took a personal interest in the plans. Although sceptical about funding the show, he did not want to turn down the scheme – partly owing to his constituency. He therefore passed the responsibility on to the town of Ludwigsburg, demanding that the town share in the financing of the horticultural show.
Schöchle had already expected that and forewarned the town's mayor. The mayor, Dr. Elmar Doch, was extremely surprised, but saw it as an opportunity for his town. The local council also agreed to Schöchle's project. After that, the Ministry of Finance had no choice but to approve the horticultural show.
On 23 March 1953, Minister of Finance Dr. Karl Frank approved the start of the planting and levelling works in preparation for the horticultural show. 13 months remained before the show was set to open. There was not much time to carry out the huge number of tasks: 100,000 cubic metres of earth needed moving in the southern palace garden alone. This had to be completed before any paths could be built, hedges planted, flowerbeds laid out or grass seed sown for the lawns. Similar situations applied in the rest of the palace gardens. New paths had to be created and a marquee, milk bar, café and several kiosks had to be erected to provide refreshments for visitors.
Schöchle improvised where possible and soon had a core of efficient hard workers. The American troops supplied them with two large bulldozers, which were used to move earth in the palace gardens. In return, the bulldozer drivers were given cola and roast meat. Schöchle did not even have to pay for the fuel as the task was seen as a welcome military exercise.
By autumn 1953, most of the area had been levelled out and the flowerbeds were ready for planting. Tens of thousands of trees and hundreds of metres of hedges had to be planted. 22,000 rose plants were supplied from various tree and rose nurseries. 400,000 wallflowers, forget-me-nots, pansies and other spring flowers were also acquired. Half a million flower bulbs and several hundred thousand shrubs had to be planted too.
On 18 February 1954, the horticultural show was entered in the German Register of Companies as "Jubiläumsgartenschau Ludwigsburg 1954 GmbH". There was still plenty to do in the gardens, despite the terrible weather, with workers having to brave flurries of snow at Easter, for example. As most of the grass seed for the lawns could not be sown until spring, the grass was only just visible eight days before the opening. All of the preparations were completed and Schöchle was able to push through the name "Blühendes Barock" (Baroque in Bloom) after a long wrangle with various committees.
The morning of 23 April 1954 dawned bright and sunny after weeks of heavy rain, just in time for the Minister President of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg to open the horticultural show.
Some 70 percent of Ludwigsburg's residents over the age of 8 purchased season tickets – a new phenomenon for a German horticultural show. In May, a celebration was held to mark the 500,000th visitor.
The real high point of the anniversary year of 1954 and one of the greatest proofs of recognition for Albert Schöchle and "his" Baroque in Bloom was a visit from the German Federal President, Theodor Heuss, who was given a guided tour by Schöchle. That beautiful sunny day saw around 80,000 visitors. Baroque in Bloom was bursting at the seams, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many.
When the horticultural show closed in autumn 1954, the proceeds covered the entire cost of the exhibition, as well as the majority of the redesign project. A deficit of DM 150,000 remained, but that was more than covered by material assets. Schöchle could rightly claim to have organised the first ever self-financing large-scale horticultural show.
Baroque in Bloom had become a real favourite with the town and its residents. The local council therefore decided unanimously to petition the federal state to keep the limited company (GmbH) and to run Baroque in Bloom as a permanent horticultural show.
Instead of the planned six-month anniversary show, Baroque in Bloom became a permanent horticultural show, which has survived for over 60 years. However, many people who knew Albert Schöchle well are convinced that he did not really mean the show to last for just six months – he was a wily character.