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Gardens

It was Marko Bombelles that created the Opeka gardens, and no park seems to have existed before him. Since the manor was built in the eighteenth century there was most probably some arrangement of the surroundings. The natural forests which stretched down to the manor and meadows were most likely considered to possess enough natural beauty to serve as a frame for the house. The garden as we know it today dates from the fifties of the nineteenth century, perhaps immediately after 1852 when Count Marko Bombelles came to Opeka on the death of his father-in-law, Franjo Drašković. It may have been later than 1852 but was certainly begun before 1860 for it was then entered in the cadastral map. At that time it covered an area of about twenty acres. It was later extended northwards where orchards and vegetable gardens had been, and also southwards. Today's preservation area covers 120 acres. This increase in area and change of use is mainly dated to 1884, 1902 and 1910.
The second half of the nineteenth century, from which the garden dates, was a period when there was a romantic approach to garden layout. Many romantic gardens already existed in Austria and Europe while in Zagreb Maksimir Park was just coming into its full glory. The approach to Opeka was bound to be romantic but of its kind it is original and not a copy of any other. It is this that raises it to the European level. It is a landscape park with fine views and glades. The use of space and the colour effects are on an exceptional and individual level. Large numbers of plants are found in very varied forms, varieties and cultivars.
Opeka is 20 km north-west of Varaždin in the Vinica area known for the large number of castle, manors and country curia. It is on the last slopes of Mt Maceljska on the very edge of the Drava valley. Taking into account landscape and relief Opeka may be considered in two sections: the lower part gently descending to the plains; and the upper, hilly part with partially or completely preserved forest vegetation.
Opeka arboretum has three forest communities. The largest community is of oak and hornbeam (Querco petraeae-Carpinetum illyricum). In the upper part, especially on steep slopes, we find the trees that like an acid soil, oak and chestnut (Querco - Castanetum illyricum), partly rooted out and replanted with conifers: Douglas fir, Canadian čug, borovac and larch. Only small stands of Genisto elatae and Quercetum roboris are found. Around the lake there are a large number of varied communities of marsh and water plants.
But the park also contains trees and shrubs from Japan, China, Tibet, the Caucasus, North America and many European countries. The 1963 plant Fensus records: 4,927 deciduous trees, 8,651 conifers, 13 deciduous conifers, 299 deciduous shrubs, 86 evergreen shrubs,10 shrub conifers, 14 creepers and 16 climbers. In all 14,016 varieties, or 182 species. If we were to take into acount the varied forms, varieties and cultivars then the numbex of species would approach 800. Among conifers the following are found: Pseudotsuga, Tsuga (Hemlock), Picea (Spruce), Pinus (Pine), Abies (Fir), Chamaecyparis (Felsecypress), Thuja (Arbor vitae), Juniperus (Juniper), Taxus (Yew). Most numerous among indigenous deciduous trees are: Populus (poplar), Salix (Willow), Quercus (Qak), R.obinia (Acacia), Tilia (Lime), Fraxinus (Ash).
Among the exotics are Japanese maple, American chestnut, black walnut, tulip tree, magnolia, royal paulownia, maklura, pterokarija, pagoda tree. Opeka is famous for the number aid varieties of its climbers. The size and beauty many of the trees nnake a great impression. Of the original nineteenth century garden furniture a number of exceptionally fine stone benches are preserved.
Opeka park and gardens cannot be compared with those of any other Zagorje manor, for they are quite unique and it is a happy chance that they have come down to posterity intact. In aestetic and dendrological importance no other garden can compare with them.

 
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