Monday, 9 September 2013

Italian Gardens Old and Modern 10

Neatly raked beds are an unknown quantity in Tuscany.  The gardener digs the ground, turns over the clods of earth, more or less big, and leaves them so!   Now unraked beds I will not have, any more than I will have weeds in beds, or in gravel walks, or suckers of roses left to destroy the roots of the plants.  It seems ridiculous to mention such elementary things as these, but I have been a good many years driving them into people’s heads.  I always say to the gardener, you may, or may not, have success in growing good plants, but neatness and order in the garden are my first requisites, and these it is within your power to achieve.  And the smaller the garden is, the greater the necessity for having it in a decent and orderly state.
The great feature of my small garden is the wonderful beauty of its setting.  If the views on the park side to the east and south are fine, those on our garden side to the west and north, are indescribably beautiful.  As I have before mentioned, owing to the slight fall of the ground, there is no indication that the wall that bounds it gives on to the high road.  On the other side of this road is a large olive yard, with here and there a tree of faintest green, interspersed among the grey olives. This olive plantation is backed by a belt of cypress trees forming a curve, and seeming at last to touch the lower slopes of Monte Morello, the great weather-gauge of the district.  Beyond these cypresses, to the northwest, are noble plantings of stone-pines, almost giving one the sensation of Rome, and here and there a friendly, weather-stained roof peeps out from among the woods, for this is a thriving, populous countryside, the very garden-land of Tuscany.

Looking to the southwest, away beyond the cypress belt, the wonderful green plain through which the Arno winds its slow way to the Pisan coast, shines and shimmers, never the same in any two hours of the day.  In some lights you see it as pale green grass, in others it somehow has the effect of being itself the sea; it is bounded by a ridge of pale blue Apennines, and, in the far distance, the Carrara peaks tower in their grand isolation, veiled in mist during the greater part of the day, but beautifully clear and distinct at sunset, when a pearly tint is over the whole landscape.
A view like this redeems what would otherwise be a rather commonplace patch of ground of the suburban order, and transforms it into a kind of entrance porch to the great temple of Nature lying beyond.  And, sometimes, lying in the deck-chair in the fresh cool air of an Italian summer morning, and watching the lights and shadows  come and go over all this wonderful beauty, one asks oneself : “Was there any use in making a garden at all?”

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