The mansion park in Dég is one of the finest examples of the classical landscape garden, commonly known as the ‘English garden’, which was a popular form of garden architecture in Europe during the 19th century. It was the largest park in Hungary at the time and continues to attract people not simply because of its vastness but also because of its harmonious spatial composition.
The park of Dég Festetics Mansion was once the largest landscape garden in Hungary, spanning over 300 hectares. It is situated in the region known as Dégi-süllyedék (Dég Depression), at the confluence of three waterways, the Bozót-patak (Bozót Stream), the Bogárdi-víz (Bogárd Water), and the Kislángi-árok (Kisláng Ditch). Its excellent natural conditions were consciously exploited during its development, taking into account foreign examples.A substantial portion of the historic garden area is still a contiguous green space, although its ownership is not unified. Most of it is state-owned and managed by Vadex Mezőföldi Erdő- és Vadgazdálkodási Zrt. (Mezőföld Forest and Game Management cPLC.) and the National Heritage Protection and Development Nonprofit LLC. There are also substantial chunks of privately owned property on the north-eastern edge of the park that are typically historically developed with agricultural and residential buildings.
The park was constructed concurrently with the mansion in the 1810s, making it one of the oldest examples of the ‘picturesque’ style of landscape gardens, which is characterised by lavish landscaping and a structure concealed by a natural appearance. The design of the park may have been influenced by Orczy Garden in Pest, as Amália Splényi, the wife of the commissioner of construction, Antal Festetics (1764-1853), was the niece of László Orczy, and their palace in Pest was also located in the vicinity of Orczy Garden. Recent research indicates that both gardens were planned by Bernhard Petri. Thanks to the natural boundaries of the park and the ha-has in certain sections, it blended seamlessly with the distant landscape, to which it was connected by visual axes. ‘Eye-catcher’ structures were erected at the end points of the visual axes. These included the tower of the Catholic church, built at the same time as the mansion, the double white bridge, the row of tithe cellars and the tower of the Reformed church, as well as paths such as the south-western path or the one leading to the island of the present-day Hollandi (Dutch) House, which simply offered a view of the distant landscape. The lakes were already dammed during the time of Lajos Festetics (1732-1797), but the park’s serpentine lake system, unique in Hungary, was created at this time, with the water level controlled by tidal channels that accompanied the bed. The main representative entrance to the mansion was from the direction of the post road.
In the last quarter of the 19th century, during the time of Pál Festetics (1841-1924), geometric plantings typical of the Historicist period, such as the rose garden next to the mansion, the planting of the southern ramp, and the ornamental plantings in the nursery area were made close to the buildings, which, however, did not alter the structure of the park. It was during this period that the iconic Hollandi (Dutch) House was built.
The mansion park was extensively refashioned in the first third of the 20th century by Sándor Festetics (1882-1956). The carpet beddings surrounding the row of tithe cellars were removed, as was the majority of the nursery. A number of garden structures, including the pump house and the historic spring, as well as furniture were added to the park, based on designs from model books. The original rose garden was transformed into a terraced garden with a stone garden and a tennis court. A stone mosaic was laid in front of the mansion’s north façade, and a rock garden was established on one of the Ördög-dombok (Devil’s Hills) to the north-west of the mansion.
After the Second World War, the mansion was taken over by the Ministry of Agriculture, and then, served as a residence for children who had escaped the Greek Civil War from 1950. From 1954, it was used as a foster home for Hungarian children.
The historic gardens have been slowly, but systematically and persistently cleaned up since 2003. The natural passageways have been made accessible, the brick pavements of the walkways have been revealed, and the ground floor halls of the mansion, which had been walled up after the war, have been reopened. This made the monument accessible to visitors, but the major breakthrough came between 2009 and 2015 with the EU tender. The surface water body system was restored; the two-km-long lake system, the lakeside promenade, the surrounding green spaces, the burial mound, and the former bridges were reconstructed. In addition, the pools and asphalt sports fields were removed, allowing visitors to once again admire the magnificent park.
As part of the 2018-2022 tourism development project, the green space surrounding the mansion was restored, and the garden structures were refurbished. The Hollandi (Dutch) House, the crown jewel of the park, underwent a comprehensive interior and exterior renovation and now features a special display dedicated to its original purpose. The old pump house was renewed and received a new roof; the tennis court was made usable, and the adjacent trellis was revitalised. A new mechanical system was installed on the historic spring, allowing water to once again flow from the restored lion-headed spout. The reproduction of the white garden furniture set depicted in period photographs is currently awaiting guests in its original location. During the renovations, another original route of the garden path from the mansion to the lake was uncovered, which in the spring allows for a stroll in the Festetics family’s footsteps among a dense carpet of ramsons.
The garden is a wonderful site for both winter and summer walks, offering an unparalleled scenic experience. It is ideal for picnics, meandering along the waterfront, and explorations.