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.







It is a garden on a grand scale. There are kilometers of alleys between hedges. The most important of these alleys have statues, some actually dating from the Roman era. An advantage of visiting the garden in winter is that there there is hardly anybody around.




 Contrarily to the majority of formal gardens, several Italian ones, including the Boboli, are built on a steep bank which makes them more dramatic. The building below is called the  "Kaffeehaus" (1775). It comes with a Boboli cat (much friendlier than the Giardino dei simplici cat).


Even if flowers play a very secondary role, there were some anemones which, dandelion-like, managed to settle and bloom on a grassy bank despite the fact that this bank is kept mowed.


I was impressed by orange trees made into a hedge against a sunny wall.



At other times of the year, I believe the island is the most colourful area of the garden with potted azaleas and pelargoniums.




Despite the fact the garden is in a very urban area, I was pleased to see a live heron fishing with Neptune. No doubt he is the most successful of the two.


Rather than ending with one of the numerous marble mythological gods represented in the garden, I chose a working gardener and his spade.



13 comments:

  1. A very interesting tour Alain. Although there is indeed still a desire to control plant life into oblivion, I do see more and more evidence of a desire to 'create' more natural gardens, both from an aesthetic point of view, and a wildlife/ecological one. If you are ever over here, take a look here: http://www.knollgardens.co.uk/garden/
    The website doesn't explain much, but the garden itself does. I am enjoying your Florence tour, as I am a lover of old controlled gardens.

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  2. You make a very good point that our control of the natural world will destroy it. we let out too many invasives and globalization has allowed many species to migrate to where they shouldn't be.

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  3. A orange tree hedge - fascinating!

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    1. I noticed that oranges are tastier here than at home, probably because they are grown locally.

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  4. I suppose the gardens were an extension of the architecture and therefore had to obey the same rules. much prefer the flowers.

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    1. To tell the truth I like both and both can be overdone (the formal ones can degenerate into something rather sterile and the flower ones become a collection of one specimen after an other).

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  5. What an amazing early garden, eh! I've just been organizing some pictures from our trip there three years ago, today actually. I'm including it in a Life Long Learning series I'm giving here this winter on Gardens of England and Europe. For a garden built in the mid-1500's, it had a huge influence on gardens since.

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    1. Good luck with this project Stu (is this in OS?). I can provide you some pictures.

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  6. What a history for this garden. I suppose when natural chaos reigned outside the walls, the garden was a perfect retreat.... now that urban chaos surrounds most of us we try to recreate a bit of nature.
    I wish I looked as classic while working the garden. There will be no commission of myself in crocs and a baseball hat working the spade. No one wants a see a statue of that!

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  7. Beauté! Vous en avez de la chance. Ici, il neige à plein temps; Remarque, c'est aussi très beau. Bonne année, Alain et Lorne

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  8. I'm sure you had nice time in Florence, Alain. I love visiting Florence as well, I haven't been to Boboli, but I should :)
    Orange trees along streets surprised me too, but I think fruit aren't edible, they were small and wild.
    Lovely photos!
    Happy New year Alain, I wish you healthy and successful year!

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  9. Interesting images. I love the heron and Neptune as fishing buddies.

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