If you had to choose between a flower or shrub surviving 500 years, which would you bet on? How about between a flower and a tree? For his BBC documentaries, Monty Don, the gardening guru of the UK, interviewed Italian garden historians. These experts claim that the gardens of the Renaissance contained flowers of all colors. The sea of green we see today, is not what the Marquesa of … would have beheld.
I had an extensive list of gardens to visit in Tuscany. Overly ambitious, I am not. On arrival, a long-time resident of Tuscany, told me if I managed to see 60% of the gardens on my list, I would be doing well. His prediction was accurate. Even with GPS, getting around proved challenging.
Every period of garden making has a vocabulary. As big and as grand as these gardens are; they have common elements. Pretty soon I was comparing the virtues of the limonaia, nymphaeum and parterres in each of these villas.
It’s funny how the outrageous can become common place. Hundreds of pots of lemon trees sprawled over a couple of acres… lifted by hand (in the old days) and brought to the limonaia for storage during the winter. A yearly occurrence for the gardeners of the day. Nymphaeum of every size and shape. Everyone needs a grotto.
I cannot say, seen one, seen them all. I kept on going, kept on searching, kept on getting lost, kept on ringing the bell at the opening time, which never really existed and kept on being excited by what I saw.
A friend of a friend, I met in Rome, said to me, “we don’t ever think about how lucky we are. We wait twenty years and then appreciate what we had. Living in Italy has taught me to live in the moment.” I am not sure what the take away from this trip will be. I know one thing. I do not envy any of the families that own these properties. I think about the small amount of ground I am responsible for and am thankful that it is piccolo.