Saturday, February 6, 2016

La Pietra

A last Italian garden - Like the garden at the Villa Le Balze, this garden was built by a man who married a woman with a lot of money.

Arthur Acton was a British art collector and dealer who spent much of his life in Italy. His wife, Hortense, was the daughter of William Hamilton Mitchell, founder of the Illinois Trust and Savings Bank.

While the villa was built in the Renaissance, when the Actons bought it in 1907 it only had a park in the English style and a walled vegetable garden.

Arthur and his wife proceeded to create a magnificent Baroque Italian garden, which was preserved by their son Harold, who bequeathed it to the New York University in 1994.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Community Gardens in Florence - Orti dipinti

In Canada community gardens are usually what are called allotments in Britain.

The Orti dipinti are actually a series of teaching gardens.

They belong to the community and are staffed by volunteers, but the purpose is not to offer garden plots to the public. It is rather to teach about gardening, especially to school children and the people at an handicapped center next door.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

La Petraia

La Petraia is a 15th century villa associated with the Medici family. You can visit the building which was decorated with 19th century taste when the king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, lived in the villa.

There are two gardens at La Petraia, a green park behind the villa and a formal garden with parterres in front of the villa.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Garden of the Vila Le Balze

Tradition has it that the word paradise comes from a Persian word meaning garden. Paradise is indeed what came to my mind when, last week, we visited this garden in Fiesole, outside Florence.

The fact that it was a very sunny, warm day, in the middle of January, might have influenced my judgment!

"Le balze" means the cliffs and the garden is on a sliver of land on a literal cliff overlooking the valley of the Arno and the city of Florence. It does not appear to be well known. None of the books on Tuscan gardens I checked mention it. Perhaps in part because it is difficult to photograph as the garden is narrow and relatively small.

The steep road takes you to this building surrounded by high walls topped by a loggia. All this gives you no hint of the garden.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Giardino Bardini

The Bardini Garden originated in the Renaissance, but it has evolved over the centuries. It only recently opened to the public, in 2005. From the main part of the city of Florence, when you look across the Arno (behind the houses in the photo below), you can see terraces on one of the hills. These terraces are part of the Bardini Garden on the south shore of the Arno.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Archeological Museum Garden

This Florentine garden is not very big, but it is beautiful. I have some merit in getting to see it, since in winter it only opens on Saturday mornings. I went a few Saturdays ago  and was told to come back on the next Saturday morning. The next Saturday I was back, but I was told they did not open that particular week-end. If there were not enough people or the weather did not cooperate, they did  not open!

 Well I was back there last Saturday morning. A different clerk was at the desk. I asked if I could see the garden, and he answered "Of course, I will call the guide".

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Stibbert garden

This Florence garden is a bit rundown. But, although it does not seem to have much of a maintenance budget, it is very attractive. The rundown look actually emphasizes its rather romantic appearance.

Frederick Stibbert (1838-1906) had an English father and a rich Italian mother. He was a great collector and made this garden just outside Florence with the help of Giuseppe Poggi.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Giardino dell'ortocolturale

Despite the name, for most of the year this is more of a park where you can take your dog for a run than a horticultural garden. The busy season is apparently spring when the garden takes on a new dimension.  At all times of the year, it is still rather elegant and offers some interesting features.


Saturday, January 2, 2016

Giardino della Gherardesca

Covering 4.5 hectares, this garden is one of the largest private gardens of Florence. Being private, it is not open to the public. Actually it is now part of the Four Seasons, a five star hotel. Still, we wrote to the hotel explaining that we knew the garden was not open to the public, but asked if they could make an exception. Their answer was that we were right, it was not open to the  public. However, if we could set a date, they would give us a time when we would be welcome!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Boboli and the need to control

The Boboli Garden, probably the best known garden in Florence, reminds us that our tendency to associate  gardens with flowers is a relatively new. Before the nineteenth century, gardening was mostly about putting order in nature, according to classical notions of the ideal landscape. For us nature is at its best when left alone; for them it was at its best when completely under control.  It is an approach that does produce beautiful spaces as shown in the Boboli  but, in the end, our need for total control of nature might be our downfall.