Ludwig Winter was a botanist and architect of the German landscape, designer of nurseries and gardens such as the Hanbury Gardens of La Mortola.
Ludwig was born in the kingdom of Prussia. His father Antonio was a bookseller at the famous University of the Grand Duchy of Baden and his mother Emilia was a painter. At the age of 12 he settled in Leipzig with his family and that same year his father died. The mother remained alone, caring for the five children using her talents as a painter, but the family's financial resources were scarce. At the end of the school Ludwig, who had shown great love for the study of botany since his youth, moved to Erfurt, the German city of flowers, where he continued his studies and immediately found a job at the company Jülke, remaining two years.
He then moved to the Potsdam School of Horticulture, then in 1866, as a first gardener, to the Botanical Garden of Poppelsdorf, near Bonn, famous for its tropical plants. In 1867 he went to Paris to visit the Universal Exhibition. In love with the French capital, he decided to settle there and worked first as a simple garden worker at the Antoine Chatin company, specialized in the cultivation of palm trees, and then as a gardener in the Tuileries park.
The arrival of the Franco-Prussian war prompted him to leave and after some brief work experiences in Cannes and Marseilles he moved to Hyères, where he managed to get hired by the company of Charles Huber as a hybridizer. Here the company Charles Huber was about to launch his own creation, a beautiful anemone. It was the Winter who produced the design of that portentous flower, which had great success in Europe. After this first, brilliant test, Huber occupied him as a flower designer and it was Huber himself who, recognizing Winter's superior abilities, put him in touch with Thomas Hanbury (1832-1907). The meeting with Hambury will give a definitive turn to his life.
With a letter dated November 12, 1868, Winter was officially hired by Thomas Hambury to build the garden of the new property of the English gentleman, Palazzo Orengo, located at the Mortola, near Ventimiglia. In 1869 Winter moved permanently to Italy and began his collaboration with the two brothers Hambury, Thomas, the only owner of the villa and his elder brother Daniel (1825-1875), a pharmacist and botanist of great competence, collaboration that will end in June 1875. At the end of this fruitful collaboration, one of the most beautiful and richest gardens on the Riviera was born, fortunately still open to visitors. Already in 1871 the garden was open to the public on Thursdays and the proceeds of the tickets were donated to charitable works.
It was at that time that he met his future wife, Giustina Muratorio, who worked as a maid at the Hanbury. The exact date of the marriage is not known but in a letter dated September 8, 1870, Daniel Hanbury congratulates the young chief gardener for the happy event. In a letter dated 10 August 1871, Thomas Hanbury congratulates on the birth of the couple's first child, Antonio, and on July 28, 1872, the first daughter, Paola Emilia Teresa, was born.
In 1873 Winter requested a loan from Thomas Hambury to create his own independent firm, but was denied. However, the free spirit of the young gardener led him to retry two years later and this time Thomas Hanbury understood that he could no longer hold it and on 21 June 1875 he granted him a loan of 40 pounds without interest to be repaid by the end of 1876. Winter and Hanbury they will always maintain excellent relationships and there will still be small and sporadic collaborations.
Winter, not yet thirty, began his independent activity with a small temporary nursery in Bordighera in the plain near the river Borghetto, where he grew roses, including the famous rose "Safrano", and mimosas. Being plants with a short productive cycle, could support the needs of the large family. Winter was the first to cultivate roses for the cut flower and greatly appreciating the qualities of Safrano made known this variety created in 1839 by the French Beauregard. Soon several other varieties were added including: Isabella Nabonnard, Captain Christy, Coquette de Lyon, France, Banksia etc.
The success obtained allowed him to apply for a new loan in 1877 and to transfer his nursery, renting another land in Curtasse, just after the Madonna della Ruota, to Ospedaletti where he made the first mimosas prosper. That was the famous "Garden of the Madonna della Ruota" and introduced the Acacia podalyriifolia, a quality that was considered lost and instead had been preserved by Pasquale Motta di Intra and therefore was called "Motteana". Using hybridizations between A. podalyriifolia, the dealbata and the pycnantha, he created the hanburyana in honor of Thomas Hanbury, neufvillei, sieberiana. In 1894 Winter welcomed his first true pupil, Stephan Neuhoff, who will develop even more the production of mimosas, obtaining plants particularly resistant to frost, following the example of Lambert who had grafted them on the Floribunda.
Winter, always eager to innovate, dedicated himself to the cacti, creating numerous new varieties that he will dedicate to the people he admired or his close associates. The catalogs were very rich, you could find about sixty palms, 92 species of Cereus, 40 of echinocactus, 141 of Opuntia, 40 of Agave and many others. The particularity of Winter was that of having, for each species, plants of different sizes, as well as being published in two languages, German and Italian. There were numerous photos.
Winter also had the ability to innovate and find practical solutions to the problems of transporting plants. For example, he had the idea of cultivating the Phoenix canariensis by burying the vase so that it would be easier to unearth the root system. He also invented a special wagon to which hoists could be applied for the transport of large plants.
Naturally he promoted the use of his beloved palms in many ways, including the production of textiles, belts, ornamental works, objects, etc. For the sale of these products opened a large shop, in the current Via Vittorio Emanuele, with a large back garden, where is currently the Olimpia cinema, and where he established a permanent exhibition, which featured the most diverse species of palm trees, now as tall as bell-towers, now dwarfs like little shrubs, which formed the admiration of the bordigottas and that of the English colony residing there.
Over time he bought, at the beginning of the Vallone del Sasso, a large property that became his garden-nursery with the function of production, representation and direct sales. After a long period of neglect, today a small part of the land has been recovered and reopened to the public with the name of Giardini Winter.
The other garden of the Winter was called the Madonna della Ruota, which was located towards Ospedaletti after the famous Casa del Mattone, mentioned by Giovanni Ruffini in his novel Doctor Antonio. On that ground were the famous twelve palms cited by Joseph Viktor von Scheffel in his poem Near Death. That small garden was his pride, softened by a pergola whose columns had as an ornamental motif the jamb of the dactyl palm trees. Under the pergola many illustrious figures strolled, including Queen Margherita, a frequent visitor. Nowadays, the garden is part of a private property, which has been included in the list of properties protected by the Superintendence for Architectural Heritage and Landscape of Liguria. The pergola still exists and can be seen from the street, but the twelve palm trees taken in many photos and paintings, including a very famous Hermann Nestel, no longer exist.
Throughout his career Winter earned numerous awards starting in 1883, when he took part in the Berlin exhibition where he won the Diploma of Honor and where he later opened his commercial agency. His greatest success was in 1897 at the Hamburg exhibition, where he received not only the "Honor Prize of St. Emperor William II", but five other awards and 1,500 marks. In fact, in that exhibition he surpassed himself by reproducing his garden of the Vallone del Sasso. In Berlin he is remembered for his exhibitions, in Düsseldorf and Mannheim for the giant palms that he transplanted, in Frankfurt on the Main for the influential friendships and for the admiration that he managed to awaken.
Winter, during his long career as a landscape artist, created many wonderful gardens, such as those of Prince Hohenlohe and Villa Zirio  in Sanremo, Villa Bischoffsheim in Bordighera and the Historical Park Seghetti Panichi in Ascoli Piceno, of the Countess Foucher de Careil in Menton and Villa Cyrnos for Empress Eugenie in Cap Martin. At Ventimiglia he took care of a palm grove, still existing between the riverfront G. Rossi and via Vittorio Veneto at the request of Thomas Hanbury. Unfortunately, he never saw his project realized because he died before it was completed.
Winter was an eclectic man, a very educated person, he knew and worked in four languages: German, French, English and Italian. From his mother he had inherited remarkable artistic qualities, both as a draftsman and as a painter. He was a man who knew how to be appreciated by intellectuals, men of power and by the staff who worked for him. Paolo Mantegazza, a famous anthropologist and founder of the National Museum of Anthropology in Florence, was one of his dearest friends as Edmondo De Amicis and Hermann Nestel who, following Antonio's marriage with one of his daughters, had also become his patron.
Husband and loving father took care of the eleven children very much, even at an early age, a rare thing for the time. All his children knew how to play an instrument and it is said that in the evening, if you passed in front of Villa Sofia in Via Regina Margherita, you could enjoy pretty concerts. Two died in the first years of life and nine survived: Antonio, Paolina, Rodolfo, Emilia, Giovanna, Costanza, Sofia, Edvige and Clara.
The generosity of Winter was shown in various ways and was so much appreciated by all the Bordigotti that he was granted honorary citizenship on December 30, 1889 and in 1891 King Umberto I named him Knight of the Order of the Crown of Italy. Many of his students and men traveled in his footsteps such as the Ronco, the Molinari, the Allavena and the Pallanca, who are still owners of the famous Pallanca exotic garden.
Winter died of a heart attack in Bad Nauheim on 12 July 1912 where he had gone with his wife Giustina and his daughter Sofia, just to follow cardiological care. At his death, his son Antonio and his nephew Erica, daughter of Rodolfo, took care of the nursery of the Vallone del Sasso. His son Rodolfo, an engineer and architect, also dedicated himself to the design of gardens, including those of the Bordighera seaside promenade, the "Lungomare Argentina". The promenade has a precious collection of Auraucaria Excelsa, surveyed by the State Forestry Corps, which was planted by a student of the Winter, Giuseppe Molinari.
On 17 January 1954 a bust was inaugurated, created by Virgilio Audagna, in honor of Ludwig Winter, which was placed in the gardens behind the Town Hall of Bordighera in the presence of the authorities not only bordigotte, but also French and German. Some descendants were also present, including his daughter Paolina Winter Ronco and his niece Erica.