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Tomson’s Garden is a natural and historical monument in Irkutsk. Located in the Leninsky district, in the Novo-Lenino microdistrict (Tomson street, 3 – “Roscha” stop). Founded in 1914 by an employee of the depot of the Innokentyevskaya station, August Thomson.
Dream of a garden
August Karlovich Thomson, a Latvian by birth, came to Irkutsk in 1908. He worked as a painter at a railway station. The son of a forester, he did not abandon his dream of a garden even in Siberia: he subscribed to literature, studied the Siberian flora. Since childhood, working with trees, he understood that heat-loving seedlings would die in a new place. Now, if only to combine the yield of cultivated varieties and the frost resistance of local wild plants!
It took a long time to get a plot of land for an experimental plot, so the first seedlings were grown in tubs in an apartment. Finally, Thomson managed to buy a small plot, where by grafting cultivars on local apple trees, by 1912 he achieved fruiting in two plants.
In 1914, the peasants of the Podgorodno-Zhilkinsky village leased to August Karlovich 10 hectares of inconvenience at the Novo-Innokentievsky settlement for 12 years. The garden of dreams was laid there. By 1916, Thomson managed to acclimatize and achieve fruiting for several varieties of apple trees.
In 1921, August Karlovich retired from the depot and devoted himself entirely to his beloved work. The seedlings of poplars and acacias from his garden were used for landscaping the Avangard stadium (in its place is now the Trud sports complex), and a branch of the Tulun experimental station was organized in the garden itself. There were enthusiastic gardeners in the railway school number 38 (now number 67). Teacher P.I. Malinovsky, I.P. Alexandrov, M.P. Cherepanov organized a cooperative “Prosveschenets” on a vacant lot next to Thomson’s garden, where students worked together with teachers. In 10 years it was a small state farm that supplied the railway OPC with products.
On August 21, 1927, more than fifty Irkutsk experimenters gathered under the shade of apple trees strewn with fruits in Thomson’s garden. The reports on the results and prospects of Siberian gardening were heard, and the first society of amateur gardeners was organized. The dream of August Karlovich, realized by many years of tireless, selfless work, was coming true. His garden has become a unique botanical and breeding center.
In 1938, the main part of A.K. Thomson handed over the Agricultural Institute to the state as a nursery and experimental farm. According to the act, about 230 varieties of apple trees, 77 varieties and species of fruit and berry plants, 47 species of decorative and other trees (in particular, elm, oak, maple, linden, silver poplar, hazel and others) grew in it. Most of them were home to North America, China, Korea, Japan, Europe and even the Balkans. All of them were in excellent condition, blossoming and bearing fruit, despite the Siberian frosts. Some varieties of raspberries and gooseberries were personally bred by Thomson. At the age of 70, August Karlovich continued his experimental work in his nursery and greenhouse, where he grew various subtropical plants.
On January 28, 1951, the nursery was transferred to the Academic Institute of Plant Physiology and Biochemistry. From that time on, the death of Thomson’s Garden began. The farm, which back in the 1960s brought rich harvests to Raneta, could not withstand economic competition with imported fruits; saplings, which required painstaking care, ceased to be engaged. In the late 1980s, despite the protests of nature protection and monument protection authorities, local residents and public organizations, the city executive committee began to allocate the neglected territory littered with landfills for the construction of housing and production facilities. The garden cooperative organized to provide the population with seedlings did not save the day.
Attempts to revive
Scientific surveys of botanists in 1992, despite the horrifying picture of devastation, recorded the preserved unique rarities of plants. The proposals worked out by scientists would make it possible to create an interesting natural museum of undoubted scientific value.
In 1996, Sovetsky Lane was renamed Thomson Street.
Thanks to the wife of August Thomson’s grandson, Alexandra Efimovna, on July 31, 2009, a memorial plaque appeared in the garden. And just a year later, the garden almost fell prey to scammers. A certain citizen M. was going to illegally acquire a land plot of the Thomson Garden with an area of 132,908 sq. m. worth 5, 554 million rubles. In the course of the prosecutor’s check, it was established that since 1991, a land plot with a garden has been allotted for restoration to the regional council of the All-Russian Society for the Conservation of Nature. Meanwhile, the Leninsky District Court of Irkutsk received a statement of claim against the society for state registration of the transfer of ownership of a land plot with cadastral number 38: 36: 000002: 2207 (Thomson’s garden). The lawsuit was based on a fake land purchase and sale agreement, according to which the company sells the land to citizen M. To make the agreement more authentic, a falsified receipt was attached to the cash receipt, according to which the buyer paid the company one million rubles. In addition, a notarized power of attorney was obtained from the head of VOOP LLC in Moscow by deception to represent the interests of VOOP in the Irkutsk region, including in court. However, the attempted fraud was promptly suppressed by the West Baikal Environmental Prosecutor’s Office.
In 2011, it was decided to assign the Thomson garden the status of a specially protected area of municipal significance. Participants of the environmental council at the West Baikal Prosecutor’s Office came to the conclusion that it is necessary to restore the Thomson Garden within its historical boundaries. The need to preserve it and give it the status of a special territory is dictated, first of all, by the uniqueness of plants and trees, as well as by the city’s need for garden and park places, which are not enough in Irkutsk.
Today, there are more than 150 species of relict plants on the territory of the garden. This includes Manchu walnut, oak, linden, and even cork. All plants bear fruit, tolerate winter well.
Despite the fact that it is economically more profitable to import fruits from abroad, enthusiasts from the Federal State Institution Rosselkhoztsentr, the Thomson Experienced Gardeners’ Club and Thomson’s own relatives are trying to revive the garden. This would be the most modest tribute to the memory of the indefatigable August Karlovich, whose labors Irkutsk is still turning green to this day.
In August 2014, Thomson’s Garden celebrates its 100th anniversary. But where is this most ghostly hero of the day, not every Irkutsk citizen will answer. The once luxurious and blooming park meets a big holiday in bitter despondency: garbage, stray dogs and complete loneliness
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