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28 Jun 2018

Plants in the art

The term, used here in reference to plants, may seem not only arbitrary but also presumptuous, giving certainly what is meant by “art”, a concept on which illustrious philosophers have discussed without arriving at a true clarifying result. The word derives from the Latin aartis, which opposed the human work guided by intelligence to the unconscious of nature: over the centuries it changed its meaning and was divided into more or less arbitrary schemes and categories, thus losing its meaning even if art, in spite of everything, had to conform itself to nature itself and not create anything truly independent. This happened to the production activity that we call “technical” today was differentiated from it. Here we want to remember, at least briefly, the part that the Plant Kingdom has had in art, in the common sense-understood, of a work of beauty. Generally, individual, it can be, and was even more so in ancient times, popular, as a human expression often expressed anonymously, at the beginning by a single individual, but later adopted as a deep root of a people or a race. Obviously, vegetables inform themselves above all the so-called figurative arts, such as drawing, painting, sculpture, architecture and, consequently, they also influence their derivations, which have a decorative function only, without coming from a true artistic impulse. , while achieving beauty on a practical, mystical or religious basis. However, we can not forget, even if in a secondary line, that essential arts such as poetry and music, which would seem abstracted from any intention other than spiritual, sang the work of nature and paid their tribute to the mother earth and to his marvelous plant works. The figurative arts are rooted in the obscurity of the most remote prehistory and can be said to begin with the graffiti of the cavemen, who however generally reproduce images of animals, men and sometimes objects of practical use. In-begin to find real decorative elements drawn from the plant world in the higher civilizations, that is to say already historical, even if often wrapped in legend and an inaccuracy with regard to dates and times; they offer us the first evidence of an artistic interest in plants. In addition, this interest had two different origins: one of religious order, for the populations whose Pantheon included some who presided, overworks or phenomena concerning the plant world (and one can also understand the various functions of plants in sacred ceremonies, such as especially those concerning death and burial), and one of a decorative order, when we find purely ornamental representations, often only with a function of contour to human figures. Without going into specific merits, we mention the evidence of a Cretan-Mycenaean art, such as the frescoes in the throne room in the palace of Knossos, where the walls are decorated with flowers, while other white lilies appear in the paintings of the palace of Amissos and a fragment of a fresco is generally known as “the prince of lilies”.

The ideal plant
The ideal plant designed by P. J. F. Turpin was published in the “Morphological writings” of Goethe published by W. Troll in Jena in 1926: it contains in a graphic synthesis the morphological and physiological characters described in the work by Goethe himself. Redesigned and co-ordinated by H. Berg to Gottingen in 1967.

Egyptian culture, which in more recent times it has left us so much splendor of artistic works, it is in an advantage compared to us, because, unlike what happens for the Etruscans and the Mycenaeans, it was possible to reconstruct and read their language and therefore have written testimonies ; In spite of this, its origins are surrounded by uncertainty: we are only given to know that Egypt initially consisted of two kingdoms, which, after bitter struggles, united in the person of the pharaoh, then, in 3000 BC. about, after alternating events, through a slow integration, in organized nation. This process, however, is long, because in the wonderful rock temple of Ramesses II, at Abu Simbel, from 1300 BC. about, we still find a relief, in the entrance wall, representing a god of Upper and Lower Egypt that binds lily and papyrus, symbols of the two parts of the country. In many other frescoes, both anterior and posterior to this period, we find other depictions of plants; particularly beautiful is a floor painting representing a marshy landscape in the palace of Amenothes IV (who reigned from 1372 to 1355 BC), in the capital he built and which he called Ikhnaton, today Tell-el-Amar-nah. Nor should it be forgotten that it was the Egyptians who crowned their columns, almost like tree-like stems, with capitals formed by plant elements (such as the palmiform and lotiform ones) that the Greeks later resumed by introducing the leaves of the acanthus into the architecture. Turning to oriental art, we find in all ages, up to the most recent, the first religious use (we must not forget that the same Buddha was referred to as the “jewel in the lotus”) and then also ornamental plants and flowers, culminating in relatively recent art and fantasy jewelry, such as Chinese vases and jades, Indian miniatures, Persian, Chinese and Oriental rugs in general.

Abu Simbel | 18th century Chinese vase
1) Abu Simbel, relief in the entrance wall: a god of Upper and Lower Egypt ties the lily and the papyrus symbols of the two parts of the country. 2) 18th century Chinese vase decorated with flowers.

Even the civilizations of pre-Columbian America are not absent in the idealization and representation of plant elements, as the statuette representing Xochipilli (literally “noble flower”), god of the Aztecs’ flowers, shows us; indeed, they even possessed a city called Xochimilco, that is, “field of flowers”, which stood next to a lake on whose surface they had, like elsewhere, floating gardens; the origin of these was due to earthy masses detached from the banks and kept together by the fibrous roots that penetrated completely, and were one of the major causes of wonder for Cortés and his troops at the time of the conquest of Mexico.

Persian carpet with floral motifs

However, in spite of the need of many modern artists to relive the experiences of primitives with virgin eyes, it is a fact that art history, as it has developed over the centuries and as we know it, proceeds through Greece and ancient times. Rome to be held, in the following centuries, mainly in Europe and then to radiate in the New World, also influencing the East and becoming the very concept of “art” in the broad sense, with the acquisition, among other things, of that part which concerns the Plant Kingdom.

Aztec civilization: statue representing Xochipilli, which literally means "noble flower" and was the god of flowers of that people judged cruel but lover of nature.
Aztec civilization: statue representing Xochipilli, which literally means “noble flower” and was the god of flowers of that people judged cruel but lover of nature.

A phenomenon in the limelight can be considered the Etruscan art that, although contemporary to the Hellenic and Roman ones, contrary to these, did not follow and it came less with the extinction of the people that had created it. Precisely because it is an art peculiar to a different population (and therefore had a different development until it turned to Hellenizing forms) we can not fail to mention the beautiful murals of the tombs, such as those of Cerveteri or Tarquinia, in which much often we find floral motifs or representations of trees or fruit. Despite the high splendor achieved in all the decorative arts, the Greeks did not particularly exploit the Plant Kingdom in their creative activity; or, sometimes, they stylized the motifs for forging almost like a geometrical element, as it happened for the classic Greek “palmette”. When we talk about Hellenic art, our mind runs to magnificent statues, grandiose and sunny architectures, but plants only appear sometimes as an accessory element: so, for example, acanthus leaves in Corinthian capitals or in the decoration of amphorae, vases , jewelry. Different was the artistic attitude of the Romans, as, moving away from the origins, their rough and combative life, initially simple, became richer and widened his breath with the expansion of the conquests that also brought a greater openness of mind and the adoption of exotic artistic forms, though always mediated through the character of grandeur that the hegemonic extension helped to sustain.

Fresco representante a garden in Villa di Livia, stored in the Terme Museum in Rome
Fresco representing a garden in Villa di Livia, stored in the Terme Museum in Rome


Of course, especially in terms of statuary and architecture, many infiltrations of Greek art, but love for nature and its products is shown in its fullness through the wall paintings, such as what it represents a garden in the Villa di Livia at Prima Porta near Rome, and also through numerous testimonies in the still intact houses of Pompeii and Ercolano; in these the mural decoration pretends an architecture in which there are views, landscapes and even flowers, fruit, vegetables, so much so that we can deduce to find ourselves in front of the first “still lifes” that appear in the art. Festoons and garlands follow each other in the frescoes and are repeated in the floor painting that will then be transformed into a mosaic; we find them as friezes in relief on urns, cippi, clogs of various objects, and for ornamentation in stucco on ceilings of palaces and sumptuous houses; oak and laurel leaves intertwine, often united with arms, in memories of victories and triumphs; leaves and flowers appear in jewels and jewels, perhaps often of Etruscan origin. The fall of the Roman Empire of the West and the consequent transfer of the capital to Byzantium, with the beginning of the Empire Ro of the East, coinciding with the slow but progressive process of assimilation of pagan religiosity in various forms by Christianity, called forms of art which, first of all hybrid, then became evident throughout the period of the Middle Ages. The images and works are affected by the ornamental motifs that preceded them, both in the East and in the West, and are often inspired by plants and flowers. In reality, throughout the Middle Ages, art is essentially sacred.

Byzantine mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna
Byzantine mosaic in the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna

Byzantine art is born, combining Eastern and Hellenistic elements, culminating in the great golden rutilating mosaics in which saints and martyrs images of Christ and the Madonna are often framed or divided by trees and flowers, and still, mosaics or reliefs of only flowers or branches fill the spaces between columns, windows, balustrades. Romanesque art is born which, for about two centuries, developed separately in each country and in every region with different shapes, even in the unity of concept, and used geometric volutes of plants for the ornamentation of walls, pillars, cloisters, especially with symbolic intent, abounding in shoots of grapes, ivy and others. Finally, an architecture is born, the gothic, which, although inspired by the Romanic one, remains essentially Nordic: in the slender curve of the arched arch vaults it seems to be inspired by the grandiose intertwine branches in the high silent woods. The colored windows look like rainbow reflections between the trunks formed by the columns, the ornamental flora is free and no longer geometric, forms marble designs of branches and leaves in the balustrade of the pulpits or in the contours of the niches containing paintings and sculptures.

Andrea della Robbia: Madonna and Child, from the end of 1400 | Carlo Crivelli: "Madonna della Candeletta" today in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan
Andrea della Robbia: Madonna and Child, from the end of 1400 | Carlo Crivelli: “Madonna della Candeletta” today in the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan

But it is also affirming another already existing art, both in the classical age and in the oriental cultures: the miniature, that is the art of painting in small proportions on paper, parchment, ivory, etc. The term in itself derives from minimum, the color used to square the pages and emphasize, with respect to the rest of the writing, the initial titles and letters of the manuscripts. In the Middle Ages, this art spread and improved, often decorating most of the manuscript pages with floral motifs and was maintained until the modern age. The spread of the miniature, mainly used for the transcription of religious texts, was mainly due to the fact that the Bible (until then considered the sacred book of the Israelites, per-sequenced and destroyed) was accepted by Christianity in the its quality of “sacred writing” and was therefore spread to the maximum, compatibly with the available means (the art of miniare requires time and patience, as well as happy inventiveness and skill), to the point that the Bible was the first printed work in 1455 by Johann Gutemberg, inventor of mobile type typography; this work, known as the Mazarin Bible, virtually marked the end of the miniature that survived only as pure artistic work without the original decorative purpose of writing.

Surrealism: Giuseppe Arcimboldi. The Spring is preserved at the Real Academy of Bellas Artes de S.Fernando – Madrid

However, starting from 1300, and more sensibly in the 1400s, the late Middle Ages already gave way to the first manifestations of a modernism which then led, in the modern era, to the Renaissance; in Italy, the fourteenth century Tuscan was a forerunner of this individualist movement. Andrea Pisano, who died in 1348, executed the pure lines of the bronze door south of the Baptistery of Florence, framing it with floral festoons; Ambrogio Lorenzetti, a Sienese painter, depicted, already in the first half of 1300, in a triptych, a Santa Dorotea from the womb full of flowers, with a bouquet in her hand; in the four-hundred, a century of preparation for the splendor of the sixteenth century, the floral motifs returned with greater insistence, gradually resuming the classic forms of festoons and garlands, especially in architecture. We find them in the portico of S. Maria delle Grazie in Arezzo, by Benedetto from Maiano; in the basement of almost all the tomb monuments, among which we celebrate that of Ilaria del Carretto in the Cathedral of Lucca, sculpted by Jacopo della Quercia. Still garlands of flowers frame the sweet Madonnas, candid on a light blue background, of Luca della Robbia and those of his nephew Andrea, and others, of fruits, appear around the sweet Madonna of the painter Carlo Crivelli, in front of which a vase of lilies his perfume. With the end of 1400, while in Italy “exploded” – is the right word – the Renaissance and the work of the forerunners ended, even in the rest of Europe painting in particular was free of pre-existing forms and gave rise to works in which the genius was reflecting; many of these works are permeated, literally, by the vision of nature, and plants and flowers bloom now freely.


No more schematic or solitary forms lilies in the Annunciations, no longer narrow and ornamental garlands, although these often survive as an accessory element or expand as an object in its own right: flowers acquire realism, they recognize and could almost be established, from the age of paintings, which of them were known. If already in the paintings by Sandro Botticelli, however naturalistic, they were difficult to identify, who could ever equivocate with the iris of the “Virgin of the Rocks” of Leonardo da Vinci, kept in the Louvre, or those of the «Virgin with the Child» by Jan Bruegel who is in the Galleria Doria in Rome? It almost seems that an invisible thread binds the brush of the u-no to that of the other: no more flat or draped backgrounds, but real landscapes, where the religious subject acquires a relief of humanity in contact with nature. The landscape as a backdrop to divine, human or mythological events, and consequently the insertion of arborescent, herbaceous or flowery plant essences into it, becomes a fact of an unprecedented extension and therefore we can not certainly give a list: just remember, as an example, the very sweet Annunciation by Lorenzo di Credi (1459-1537), the paintings by Giorgio da Castelfranco, known as Giorgione (1475-1510), the «Adoring Virgin» by Antonio Allegri, called il Correggio (1494-1534), and more famous names like Raffaello Sanzio (the Madonna del Cardellino), Tiziano Vecellio (La Venere del Pardo).

Still life 1600, by Michelangelo da Caravaggio: a fruit basket | Sandro Botticelli, detail of the Spring with flowers on the lawn
Still life 1600, by Michelangelo da Caravaggio: a fruit basket | Sandro Botticelli, detail of the Spring with flowers on the lawn

The frescoes of the great Renaissance palaces are adorned, yes, of mythological scenes, but also, and increasingly, of floral decorations, until the very ornate, though heavy, Barocco, which, using every type of decoration, is pictorial that in relief, he used, naturally, also vegetables. A place apart, however, must be reserved for the design that, with intents not completely artistic, but rather of study, depicted plants and flowers of a realism that seems incredible today and that borders the successive figured herbaria, especially in Leonardo’s drawings da Vinci, largely preserved in the Royal Library of Windsor, where lilies, oaks, violets and humble plants, such as the Tipha, are so complete and animal anatomy of this genius. Moreover, in his writings, Leonardo shows not only the way of depicting plants, but also in the sixth part of his treatise on the painting, his indication of the leaves, their arrangement, the woods of the stems and the mechanisms of absorption of the lymph and its observations concerning the importance of plant physiology discoveries. From the end of the fifteenth century onwards, to clarify a real distinction in the figurative arts of the various European countries, since they often intertwine and influence each other, both in general and in the artists’ lives, as they traveled and they penetrated different ideas and techniques from those of the country they came from. Albrecht Diirer himself, who was born and died in Nuremberg (1471-1528), a genius who was a renewer of Germany, who had some authors only second to Leonardo, traveled and studied in Italy and other countries. The statue of modernity, or the watercolor of the pond in the forest that is today in London at the British Museum, or the realistic plant backgrounds, as the engraving of the “Madonna of the monkey “, but he studied and carefully designed plants for himself. In the meantime the Flemings burst, with their exuberance of flowers and fruits, their floral compositions completely detached from any religious or mystical feeling, their still lives. Already in Frans Floris, in the painting representing the Van Berchem family, painted in 1558, despite the presence in the canvas of the thirteen people, and being the fruits on the table of the 1500s, through the Baroque, throughout the 1600s, the flowers became more and more their appearance as absolute protagonists.

Albrecht Durer, a design of marsh plants preserved at the Albertina Museum in Vienna Brooch made of diamond flowers on silver, French work 1800
Albrecht Durer, a design of marsh plants preserved at the Albertina Museum in Vienna Brooch made of diamond flowers on silver, French work 1800


This phenomenon can be explained in part, as well as with the idea of a life that could be defined as “sanguine”, with the introduction in Europe of new species of flowers that are admirably to accentuate the composition, more than the humble spontaneous flowers or the rigid symmetry of some, like lilies, preferred in previous ages. This is the case of the tulip, which is rightly an expert in floral arrangements, Beverley Nichols, determines”the first dancer” in a dance of flowers, but also of many other exotic flowers. Among the painters of flowers flemings must remember the luminous Ambrosius Bosschaert (1573-1645), master of Antwerp, and above all Jan Bruegel, called “of the velvets” (1568-1625), son of Pieter Bruegel the old. Unlike his father, who in his splendid paintings mainly depicted mass scenes on purely Flemish backgrounds, Jan «velvet» does not look for news or energy: his paintings are perfectly happy and even when he does not paint only flowers, all the known flowers at its time, or fruits, and sometimes animals, it infuses, in full, in the paintings, these elements as in the «Allegory of the senses» or in «The seasons»; however, for our purpose what matters most are the large vases or baskets of flowers and his friendship with Rubens, in whose paintings he often painted the floral part. There are innumerable “still lives” painted in these centuries, and it would be madness to try to make a list of them. Here we will only remember that he also painted a famous artist especially for the drama of his paintings, Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1569-1609), and that, in addition to the Flemish, in the following century the Neapolitan school left lavish and sumptuous examples of this type of painting, whose prototype is found in the works of G. Battista Ruoppolo (1620-1685). Meanwhile, France, which many evocative floral backgrounds had donated in previous eras, with miniatures of the “book of hours” by the Duke of Berry and with its beautiful tapestries and tapestries, remains on the international scene only with the latter, also given the opening of the hand-bills of Gobelins and, above all, of Beauvais, which deals in particular still lifes; for the rest, France did not reappear autonomously in painting until 1700. In fact, the landscapes of Nicolas Poussin (1594-1665) or Claude-Gellée, called Claude Lorrain or the Lorenese, famous engraver (1600-1682), were inspired by those Italians, and above all Romans, since both spent almost all their life in Rome and died there.

Auguste Renoir, a bouquet of chrysanthemums (Rouen, Museo delle Belle Arti)
Auguste Renoir, a bouquet of chrysanthemums (Rouen, Museo delle Belle Arti)

England, with a phenomenon that has not yet been resolved, is practically absent from the history of painting until 1700: a phenomenon that is even stranger, given the splendid literary flourishing of this country; perhaps internal wars, religious reform, destruction they enter for something in this absenteeism from which only the miniature is saved, which became art in its own right, divided by writing, and in particular the art of portraiture. We find in fact in the «Victoria and Albert Museum», in London, a very charming figure of a young man leaning against a tree in a rose garden, by Nicholas Hilliard (1537-1619); but we must wait for the great landscape artists and portraitists of the second half of the 1700s to reach a true form of art, even if adapted to the era in which it took place. Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788), despite being mainly a portraitist, offers us magnificent landscapes where the central theme is only a pretext, as in the “Market cart” in which the cart moves among imposing trees, in a wood that fills with all the canvas; true and noble landscape designer is John Constable (1776-1837) who, despite not giving details, summarizes with his coloristic power the trees, the water and the play of light of the English countryside. The eighteenth century and especially its rococo are prodigals of flowers: these bloom from any sacred or profane decoration, soften rooms of castles and palaces framing wide-ranging painted perspectives, even adorn the furniture, both with inlays and paintings, as in the eighteenth century Venetian, or, more linearly but always in polychrome, in Austrian, German, French furniture; flowers are also reproduced on the tapestries. In such a mass of heterogeneous ornaments, the roses of Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840) stand out solitary.

Surrealism: Giuseppe Arcimboldi. The Spring is preserved at the Real Academy of Bellas Artes de S.Fernando - Madrid
Surrealism: Giuseppe Arcimboldi. The Spring is preserved at the Real Academy of Bellas Artes de S.Fernando – Madrid

It will be necessary to overtake the first part of the 1800s, with artificial flowers and plants from the so-called Victorian period. A bright flash of brilliance is a good idea, but better than those reproduced on wool, silk, velvet, until, with a sigh of relief, we find ourselves finally in front the flowers, real flowers, whatever the technique used to paint them, French impressionists: the chrysanthemums and spring flowers of Renoir, the Van Gogh sunflowers and, gradually, other names as to our mind: Edouard Manet, Henri Fantin- Latour. It was the turn of the 1800s with the 1900s that were the manifestations of a decorative art known as “floral”: the stained glass windows with the confused drawings, the drawings of the curvy squiggles and the angelic figures that often, together with the flowers, accompanied by their roots in pre-Raphaelitism and further back, in the hybrid fusion of romantic influences, by Dante Gabriele Rossetti (1828-1882), its founder. But, as if to defeat this sluggish trend, the first appears, the prototype of those who were later called “naifs” (naive): Henri Rousseau, called the Customsman (1844-1910), with his really primordial art that appears as a polemic reaction to Impressionism. His paintings, such as “The monkey in the forest” and “On the edge of the forest”, present plant forms in their essential expression, and yet fully alive, in their primitivism, which detaches him sharply from his contemporaries.

Snake enchantress by Henri Rousseau, known as the Dragonman
Snake enchantress by Henri Rousseau, known as the Dragonman

Today another modern naif, Yugoslavia Rabuzin, presents us as solar flowers as the Van Gogh sunflowers but treated with a technique that is both primitive and wise. On the other hand, the beginning of the twentieth century presents itself as a ferment of energies in search of something new: Henri Matisse (1869-1954) passes from the Impressionists to the current known as the “fauves” and given to 1911 his “Forest Moroccan », with plants reduced to the essentials that stand out against the sunset and frame it. Expressionism and therefore surrealism arise, which offers us, in the various countries, very different works, all of which transcend in some way the commonly understood reality: Giuseppe Arcimboldi gives us a “spring” all composed of flowers that could have come out of a fourteenth century brush; the Walloon Belgian René Magritte presents us with an improbable forest, from the columned trees, in a vigorous whole that echoes Gothic-Medieval origins. And it is at this point that our plants almost disappear from art: in abstractionism, there is no place for them, as there was not in cubism or futurism and only from time to time there is still some surrealist expression or naif. The case of literature is different, since the word, compared to graphic expression, is more connatural to being and at the same time is more subject to external pressures. Keeping silent on prose, which would take up too much space because in many literary texts we find magnificent descriptions of flowers, plants, landscapes, and limiting ourselves to poetry, we find in almost all countries, from the earliest antiquity, individualistic or popular poems where there are hints Plant Kingdom, both as a source of life and as a lyrical vision; but we will also find that it is easily overwhelmed by the conditions of places and times and has experienced periods of obscurantism so long as ever they knew the figurative arts. This is simple to explain, since painting and sculpture, apart from the few cases in which personal genius was able to dominate the era and adversity, were fortunate enough to be able to fall back on minor arts, but still arts, which formed a continuous thread, while the word, said or written, is itself, in its pure state, and has no possibility of compromise. In the case of obscurantism, in short, between literature and the other arts, there is the same difference between war and guerrilla, even if it is a misguided war and a very subtle guerrilla war.

Procura in bianco di René Magritte mostra una foresta stilizzata | miniatura raffigurante la riconciliazione indiana krishna e Radha
Procura in bianco di René Magritte mostra una foresta stilizzata | miniatura raffigurante la riconciliazione indiana krishna e Radha

Thus, for centuries, while in the Middle Ages the figurative art played on folds, such as the miniature, and tacitly prepared for the Renaissance, or in 1700 gave little glare in a world of grace and indifference, but always loyal to the grace of beauty, for very long periods the poetry disappeared entirely, bastardizing in sterile litanies first and empty afterwards. It can be said that, since the advent of Christian literature, poetry no longer exists, but only poets, with the exception of the less civilized countries in which poetry gushed forth from the popular soul. As in all manifestations of human culture, in the Far East, the poetic references to a plant world often have a symbolic character, without detracting from their grace. Already in 1350 a.C. Pharaoh Amenothes IV (promoter of a religious reform that was born and died with him) raised to his new god, Aton, representing the sun, a hymn that is perhaps the most ancient and beautiful that is known. The repeated praise of the rebirth of dawn and restful sleep at night, includes, in fervent thanks, men, animals, trees, and flowers. In ancient China, the poet K’uIuan, wrote, before committing suicide because he fell into disgrace, a poem entitled “Lisao”. We find these verses full of nostalgic melancholy: “I picked the irises on the banks and in the deep valleys – I intertwined a garland of autumn orchids …”. Li T’aipoh, poet who lived from 698 to 762 AD he writes: “a turtle walks on a lotus leaf – a bird rests among the flowered reeds …” and the Cantonese cantons, anonymous and written in a dialect of the south, in the province of Canton, have delicate verses such as: “Flowers, in the silent nights you have often given me your perfume – you hurt your heart, so red, so mottled! … pity that it can not shelter you, ah, evil autumn wind! ». The Japanese, according to reliable sources, received the writing of China only in 400 AD, through Korea, and, as long as they had in the meantime novels worthy of literary fame, even if too long and monotonous for Western tastes, the poetic expression was reduced to a form comprising only five lines, according to a set number of syllables (and in fact their writing is syllabic); they were called “tanka” and by way of example only one was sufficient; they often spoke of flowers, but always in the same way, at once concise and delicate. “Light falls – spring rain! – and do not disperse – the cherry blossoms – until I saw them ». Even the later novels, such as the best known, the novel of Prince Genji, of the author Murasaki Shikibu, born around 978 AD, are full of messages that the characters exchange in poetry, as “if not I had already taken to make a pillow – a tuft of grasses – which grow on the roofs – I would not have found a drop of dew – to justify this message ». The whole thing is very delicate; although the novels are decidedly erotic and corrupt in the background, the archaic language and symbolism greatly attenuate its often symbolic character. Indian literature is essentially philosophical and ethical, but in about 1600 of our era, we find a poem describing the love of the god Krisna and his treasure is spread in the garden. “Too elaborate for our taste, this is a description of the spreading of pollen; But we must also speak of the “Book of Books”, of that great literary monument which is the Bible, which, though almost totally religious, is ethical or practical (many of the laws that prescribe are dictated for say “sanitary”), contains an almost unique jewel that is the Song of Songs. Who will not be taken by the enchantment of verses like these: “I am the rose of Saron – the lily of the valleys – like a lily among thorns. “O my sister, my bride, you are a closed garden …” – a tree of pomegranates – and of the delicious fruit trees, – of cyprus and nardine plants; – of nard and of crocus, of the odorous reed and of cinnamon – and of every tree of incense – of myrrh and of aloe – and of every more exquisite aroma ».

Greek literature is made to begin with Homer, though many oral traditions, and perhaps partly also written, must have preceded en. As the epic poems are still in the Vs of the Odyssey, when the island of Calypso is described as follows: grotto, luxuriant: poplars, alders and scented cypresses: the birds with their fast wings nested there … … and the whole cave was surrounded by a vine, young and luxuriant and full of ripe bunches … … around it there were soft meadows of violets and … »but the Greek poetry is full of references to fruits and trees, often also with flowers: from Sophocles singing” like in the leaves of a tall poplar – but only in that of the summit – a gust of wind … »to the epigram that Simmia composed for Sophocles himself:« softly, on Sophocles’ serious, wrap yourself slowly, – or ivy, widening your green branches; – roses bloom everywhere, and the vine with its clusters – it spreads around its damp shoots … ». Much, of course, the Roman literature that culminated with the art of Virgil and Horace was two to the Greek. The first the work of Virgil, the Eclogues, has remarkable hints to well-known plants: «hedged junipers and chestnut trees stand up – and under every tree the fruits lie everywhere …» and descriptions of the earth, fields and crops are intensified in the Georgics, which are probably the highest moment of Virgilian poetry. Horace is less attached to the earth and its products, but also, in the Odes, can not stop itself from mentioning holm oaks, myrtle, pines: “to you consecrate the pine that dominates the villa …”, thus continuing a long series of testimonies on the most widespread plants at that time. With the Christian era, we begin an essentially religious literature, written in a Latin that becomes more and more “vulgar”, moving towards modern languages, especially towards Italian. And the plants almost disappear everywhere: not that the regular references to lilies or roses are missing, as a symbolic attribute in regards especially to Our Lady, but mystical anxiety, combined with the rough labors of war, makes us forget the serenity of nature, despite still find some lyrical examples. Aurelio Prudenzio Clement, Spanish, born about 1348, sings Church and martyrs, but, suddenly, the sweetness rises on the tombs: “you catch purple violets – you reap the blood crocuses: – the gentle winter does not lack them; – the ice melts and frees the fields – so that you can fill the flower baskets ». Venanzio Fortunato, born about 530, takes up again the reason to celebrate Easter and then spring: «tufts of violets stain the purple fields, – the green grass meadows and the grass crown sparkles – the stellar lights of the flowers – and every plant has eyes that smile “. It will, however, be necessary to arrive at 1300 and at the dawn of Humanism, at Cino da Pistoia, at Petrarca, at Dante Alighieri, to find hints that are not of religious piety and that lead us back, through the sublimation of the female figures loved by these poets, to the floral elements; and since some concepts are of all times and of all lovers, there is a singular resemblance between the verses of Petrarch who envies the grass trampled by Laura: “happy flowers and happy, and well-born herbs – that Madonna, thinking, premer sòle … frigid little trees and green leafy fronds – pale violets … »and those who wrote Pierre de Ronsard in France about two centuries later:« then, descending down, – under his feet – a thousand bloomed flowers grow; the beautiful lilies and the carnations – vermillion – blush among the roses ». From this point we can proceed by individualistic and non-historical choice: of course, many other reasons push poetry, everywhere, from the epic to the civil fury, from the melancholy and desperation of death to the joys of love or glory, but the approach to nature persists and is a purely individual matter. Petrarchism was for a long time in Italy, just as the “Pléiade”, a school derived from the graceful Ronsard, perpetuated in France, but with the modern era, the writers turned away from these schemes and, although they were or were to follow schools various, their work always remains clearly personal. Thus we find in Italy Giambattista Marino, born in 1569 in Naples, more virtuous than a poet, who nevertheless presents, from our point of view, a remarkable peculiarity: one of his long “Idillii” contains an unprecedented enumeration of rural flowers, of which we give a brief example:

“The poppy springs – raised from the grave oblivion, -colour of wonder, – its vermilion and sleepy head, – and ‘n piè risen to emulate the roses – of fine grained purple cheeks …»; Frallois de Malherbe (1555-1628) with only two lapidary verses became proverbial: who does not know, in fact, the concept “et rose, elle a vécu ce que vivent les roses, – the espace d’un matin” (and, rose , did she live how much the roses live, the space of a morning)? As for England, the figure of Geoffrey Chaucer (1340-1400) dominates for an entire age also influencing other European literatures; more than his great works, however, we may be interested in some simple verses in an English that has now disappeared: “of the floures in the mede – love I most these floures whyte and rede – swiche as man callen days in our toun … »(Of all the flowers in the meadow – I love more than all these white and red flowers – which are called pratoline, in our country). Humility on the part of a great man who preferred allegory, or revelation of poetic sweetness? Of course, two centuries later William Shakespeare arrived (1564-1616), which also blurred the memory of those who had preceded him. In spite of his great historical work and the unparalleled dramatic work, both in the Sonnets and in all his theatrical works, he names flowers, both as attributes and for themselves, to the point that in England the list of which cites, and it is said that one could construct an entire garden with them. The epochs are pressing: the Romanticism comes and, given its nature, it would be difficult for it to renounce to involve the Plant Kingdom in its dreams, sometimes delirious. We will now quote the various literary currents without interruption, since the transition from one to the other is often gradual; in Germany, the romantic Friederich Wilderlin (1770-1843), who died in a state of madness, wrote: “with yellow pears hangs – and full of wild roses – the land on the lake …” followed by the lyric Heinrich Heine (1797-1856 ) that sang above all the North Sea, but also the fields of lilies and dark forests. In France René de Chateau-briand dedicates entire poems to the description of flowers and woods (“la forét”, describes grass, streams, honeysuckle …); the prolific Victor Hugo, who sang historical and powerful events, confesses, almost in a whisper, that will bring to his daughter’s grave “a bunch of holly and flowery heather”. The dreamer Alfred de Musset praises the nights of May in which “the fleur de l’églantier feels ses bourgeons éclore” (the flower of the rose of stain hears its gems open). In Italy, Giacomo Leopardi makes the broom famous, Giovanni Pascoli studies plants and flowers more as a naturalist than as a poet, and his flowers arise, very sweet lawn, from the volume of poems entitled “Myricae”. And also the controversial Giosuè Carducci indulges in vegetal notations: “the tree you tended to – the pargoletta hand – the sweet pomegranate – from the beautiful vermigli fior …”. Gabriele D’Annunzio, with the sumptuous phraseology that gave him the fame of “imaginific”, eternal the oleander in his “Laudi of the sky, the earth, the sea and the heroes”, but even before, although with the decadent taste of the time, he had discovered the charm of the forests in the «Heavenly Poem». The rest is produced today, like the papyrus of Salvatore Quasimodo on the river Anapo. However it seems appropriate to close this gallop in the green fields of poetry, recalling the words of one of the modern poets who most passionately and with greater purity expressed his love for the trees and fields of the earth in which he was born: Federico Garcia Lorca he wrote with all his heart: “cuando yo me muera – entre los naranjos – y the hierbabuena …” (when I will die among the oranges and the mint …). Federico Garcia Lorca was shot in the Spanish Civil War … but he was not buried in his orange trees.

25 Jun 2018


With the ancient Latin term pérgula, perhaps derived from pérgere “to go ahead, to continue”, originally indicated the palaces or pylons, on which the peasants exposed the fruits to the sun, and also the pews on which merchants exposed their goods.

In later times, with the evolution of the building and acquired the ability to build multi-story houses, the word pérgula was indicated on the upper floor of the building, often overlooking the shop, where the merchant lived.

Still later it was called the highest part of the house, usually consisting of a sort of terrace covered with beams of wood or iron, which had the task of supporting climbing plants, whose presence was used to give shade and freshness, essential in the warm and sunny southern climate.

The pergola has, in fact, remained one of the most typical and decorative elements of the Latin architecture (as is the patio for the Spanish one); from the elegant examples of the Roman villas of Pompeii it has been handed down, through the centuries, in the medieval verzieri (as famous painters, such as Fra Angelico, Mantegna and others have handed down in their pictorial depictions) and in the refined and sumptuous gardens of 1700 , up to the most schematic and rustic forms of our days. The pergola, in fact, appears, in all its possible variations, as an almost essential element of many gardens or terraces, where it frequently takes on the function of living outdoors, creating a harmonious continuity between the closed environment without having to give shade and coolness, essential in the warm and sunny southern climate.

The construction of a pergola in a fresco of Francesco del Cossa
The construction of a pergola in a fresco of Francesco del Cossa.

The Pergola has remained in fact as one of the most typical and decorative elements of Latin architecture (as is the patio for the Spanish one); from the elegant examples of the Roman villas of Pompeii it has been handed down, through the centuries, in the medieval vizier (as famous painters, such as Fra Angelico, Mantegna and others have handed down in their pictorial depictions) and in the refined and sumptuous gardens of 1700 , up to the most schematic and rustic forms of our days. The pergola appears.

In fact, in all its possible variations, as an almost essential element of many gardens or terraces, where it frequently takes on the function of living outdoors, creating a harmonious continuity between the closed environment of pillars or columns that look on the free space; in this form, the elements that make up the roof can be both horizontal and inclined, relative to the style of the garden. In the most common meaning, the term Pergola defines a kind of tunnel consisting of two parallel rows of pillars, made of wood, brick, concrete or iron, opposite to each other and connected at the top by horizontal elements; the whole is a scaffolding that acts as a support for every type of climbing plant, both ornamental (floriferous or foliage, to create shady corners), and fruit. And this, in fact, is a typical and characteristic way of cultivating the vine in the rustic gardens of the Mediterranean countries and of the European Mezzogiorno; it is possible to taste good and fresh table grapes and to use the shade of the vine leaves to repair the garden street-beds. On the contrary, in some Italian regions, the pergola is a characteristic system of planting the vineyards, even if it is in disuse due to technical and mechanization reasons; the terms of pergola and pergola are used interchangeably, even if, strictly speaking, the pergola is to mean a very long and large Pergola or a pergola set. The materials with which to create a Pergola are various; very common are the Pergola made of wood or with frames of iron, more rustic instead those obtained with pile-streaks of cement or brick, used especially if the environment is rural and old style; the least exploited material to date is marble, but it has had the greatest use in the past and has remained in the most classic examples, found in many patrician villas, as in the Doria palace in Genoa. Whatever the material with which a P is intended to be made, even before construction, great care must be taken in designing a whole that harmonizes with the masonry of the house, which is proportionate to the size of the garden and has a certain strength. the pergola, in fact, once covered by a thick curtain of branches and leaves, offers a strong resistance to winds, with the consequences that can easily be imagined. If the choice of the building material is fundamentally important, the actual dimensions of the pergola are equally fundamental; in designing this fact we must take into account many factors and, among many, also the type of plants that will grow on the pylons, because, if these are particularly thin and rather vigorous and thick plants, the stability of the construction may be compromised. ; or, if the plants are slender and delicate and the roofs somewhat strong, these are not sufficiently covered by foliage and the whole loses some of its charms. Generally it is considered a minimum height of two meters to allow the transit of people; the width depends on the path or path that you want to cover, but it must not hinder the ease of the passage; on the contrary, a minimum width of 1.20 m should be considered, in order to allow walking at least two people side by side. Among the easiest to realize are the wooden structures; the best construction timbers, available on the market, are oak and chestnut, both very resistant to rotting and to attacks by parasitic insects; naturally, other more current wood can also be used, but these are not as resistant, and therefore there is the need to treat them with suitable wood preservatives, especially in the parts that are buried. The main supports of the pergola must offer the maximum guarantee of resistance and durability; it must be checked that they are healthy, they do not show too many nodules or cracks. The dimensions of the section, mostly square, vary from 8 to 15 cm, depending on the size established for the item; when calculating the length, it must not be forgotten that the poles will be placed in the ground for at least 40-60 cm. The vertical uprights must not be more than 2-2.5 m apart so that the structure is adequately robust; for the same reason the connections between one and the other must be fixed firmly and with particular accuracy. An always advisable method is to keep these poles in place, sinking them into a concrete cast; with this (expediency the stability of the whole construction is never bought even if the plants that grow there develop excessively.

A vaulted flat vault is much easier to make than those with a barrel vault; we use smaller beams than the vertical, at most 8 x 8 cm, to connect these last to each other, fixing them with screws and nails; the most expert in carpentry can make joints that increase safety. If desired, or it is considered appropriate for the aesthetics, these vaulting beams can protrude beyond thirty centimeters. If instead, you prefer to make a barrel vault, you can find on the market, or have a craftsman prepare, metal arches with galvanized iron pipes or rods that will then be firmly fixed to the vertical support posts; but although they may be robust, it can be verified that, once abundantly covered by climbers, under the action of strong winds, they have oscillating movements; for this reason it is preferable to prepare the entire metal arch, even if this, although deeply rooted in the ground, will certainly be lighter than the previous one; it is almost always recommended to increase its resistance by welding horizontal crossbars on it, both sideways and on the vault. This type of pergola has the advantage of being practically invisible, once the plants have completely developed on it and are, therefore, the most suitable to give relevance to particularly interesting plants. Once the supporting structures have been created, any decorative elements may be placed in position, but in most cases, it is preferable not to weigh down the whole with superfluous details and to give maximum emphasis to the vegetation, which, if opportunely chosen, will be the best decoration of the garden. Almost all the gardens are bordered on the boundary by walls of the fence and are accessed inside them through the entrance gate, supported by pillars often completed by an arch or a small rustic roof on which it can grow, with remarkable decorative effect, a beautiful flowering creeper, like roses, rincospermo or bignonia. An arch, of both ancient and modern style, can be a pleasant decorative element even inside the garden: it can be inserted at the beginning of an avenue or to interrupt a too compact hedge; it is also an excellent solution to support climbing plants with a showy bloom, such as roses, which, even on their own, always give a very pleasant ornamental note. A succession of individual independent arches can form a variant to the classic pergola, to be built along an avenue, to obtain a less intense shading. Many archers are built in bricks or even stones similar to those of the house, materials that have a more rustic and natural appearance, but, if the style of the house and the garden allows it, can also be realized in wood or even in live cement. In this case it is very complex to be able to give the construction the usual semicircular shape and it will be possible to resort to flat or corner cladding, which perhaps harmonizes better with the type of material; as has already been said several times, on several occasions, the modern designer ‘must take into consideration the character of the garden in which the arch or the arches must be inserted. The construction of a masonry arch requires great care not only in placing the individual building blocks in situ, thus harmonizing with the surrounding environment. In the front row, among the most exploited plants for this purpose, those climbers predominate, especially the roses, and among these the re-flowering forms. When the plants, once chosen, must be placed in the home, the holes must be prepared by digging them between one upright and the other of the pergola, at least 30 cm away from them or from the supporting wall, so that the roots do not interfere with the foundation structures that, over time, would lose their stability. The pit will be slightly wider than the maximum root development so that it has the maximum ease and does not have to branch off in inappropriate directions. The soil with which the hole will be filled again must be the most suitable for the cultivation needs of the chosen plants and, if the soil is particularly unfavorable, it will be necessary to perform a bonsai in good time. We mention some of the most used plants: Clematis, Jasminum, Passiflora, Lonicera, Wistaria, Ampelopsis, Parthenocissus, Bignonia, etc. (see Climbers, plants).

21 Jun 2018

Garden project for a functional patio

A lawn, in a small garden, can be impractical, and if you still want an area for play, social life and relaxation, then a patio can provide all the space you need.

Since the project has a rather large and uninterrupted area without greenery, the plant is particularly focused on ensuring that the garden does not seem too bare.

Garden project of a functional patio


  1. Although quite extensive, the main patio remains pleasant thanks to its round shape, made discontinuous by the hedges and the pattern on the floor.
  2. The raised terrace adds another dimension and provides a quiet shelter, separated from the main part.
  3. The project includes exuberant vegetation, which compensates for the uniformity of the paved areas.
  4. Floating benches provide flexibility of arrangement, and can be placed in a formal way at the corners or freely around the table, as a refreshment area.
  5. Barbecue and fountain are accessible without cluttering.
  6. A useful storage area is shielded behind the terrace.


These modular benches are simple casings on wheels.

You can arrange them around a table or place them in various parts of the garden.

Make them with lifting or detachable seats, so you can also use them as containers, and equipped with cushions for greater comfort.


Fountains and water features embellish any garden. If their height is at least 45 cm you can also sit on the edges.

Place them so that you can see them from the house, at a point where the sun can highlight the moving water plays of light.


The built-in barbecues can be built with materials that are uniform to those used in other garden works, such as raised beds or walls.

Be careful not to place them too close to the area chosen as a refreshment point, and prefer a fairly open and ventilated position.

14 Jun 2018

The garden as a place of entertainment

With the arrival of the hot season you spend more time outdoors, and there is nothing better than a corner of ter-breed or garden in which to improvise a cozy dining room. A comfortable and functional furniture will help you make the most of the space: swings, sandboxes, dungeons, play areas for children, swimming pools … The garden offers a myriad of activities for the whole family. Under the portico or terrace you can recreate a romantic ambience with traditional design furniture, natural materials and aged finishes that will give the whole a rustic touch. Even children can enjoy domestic outdoor spaces. Thanks to suitable furniture and accessories to keep them entertained, the garden will become one of their favorite places, where you can play and maybe get passionate about gardening. A well-air-conditioned space will allow you to rest and enjoy the well-being of outdoor life.

1. In the children’s play areas, avoid poisonous plants.
2. If swallowed, ivy, potos, holly, melia, vinca, and many others are toxic.
3. To keep children entertained remember to allocate a garden area to the sabbia, which you will renew periodically, and avoid abrasive pavements.
4. A specific grass area can be reserved for children, with slides, swings and other games.
5. For outdoor games, the best material is wood. If the toys are made of plastic, they must be resistant to UVA rays.
6. Avoid placing thorny or poisonous plants in transit areas.
7. If you put small trees home, children can learn to walk by clinging to their branches.
8. Taking advantage of a swimming pool and the watchful eyes of an adult, children can become familiar with the water.
9. Place the play area in a visible spot even from inside the house.
10. Ponds or fountains with fish, plants, tar-tarughe and ducks will be an additional attraction for children.

• If you intend to use the terrace mainly for sunbathing and resting, a sofa and a table will suffice.
• If you plan to have lunch or dinner in the garden, calculate the space needed to place a dining table with a parasol.
• Leave some areas of the dining area free to maintain an airy space.


• Do not forget the presence of a shadow zone: it is as important as light, especially during the summer months.
• Do not place a large table in a small space. There are folding models or extendable tables that will allow you to arrange the number of diners you want, comfortably and without problems.


• Create a lounge area between the pool and an area planted with pine trees. You will get a magical corner, perfect for relaxing in the heart of the garden.
• Protect the tables and the outdoor mattress with a pergola.
• Place a tent in the garden: children can play with the Indians.


• If you have children suffering from allergies, avoid planting
olive trees, cedars, poplars or oaks.
• Arrange plants with thorns like roses, wild blackberries or
cactus far from the play areas for children.

Make sure that the play area is close to the house in order to be able to monitor it at all times. In the space for children’s games, an area for the sandbox will be essential: you will have fun a world to dig and build castles

1. Find an isolated and free position to relax in the evening breeze or the morning sun.
2. Insert a raised platform from the ground by one or two steps. It may be ideal for designing a lounge space that can be used by adults and children.
3. Place large cushions and covers on the ground to protect yourself from the humidity of the night.
4. Choose a functional furniture: the different alternatives can be very refined. Choose the one that best fits your garden.
5. If you want everything to be in style, with-tattate companies that offer a complete furnishing of armchairs, sofas, table tops, dining tables and pergolas.
6. Choose furniture in light material and easy to transport, so that you can reposition at any time.
7. Arrange cushions on the chairs to make them more comfortable. Some ground ottomans are a good solution when you have guests and there are no suffi ciency chairs.
8. You can place a wind chime with bamboo tubes, which resonates with a gentle and relaxing tinkling when it is moved by the wind.
9. Attract birds by arranging a watering hole.
10. Insert a hammock to rest on. You can place it between two trees to enjoy their shade on hot days.

10 Jun 2018

Great gardens of Europe

The gardens that deserve the appellation of “great” have been many, through the ages and in almost all civilized countries. The fact that only those of Europe are treated here does not mean that there were no marvelous ones in Persia, for example, or in India, or that they do not exist in North and South America; it is simply that the discussion concerns the historically most important gardens for us Europeans, those that reflect the events and tastes of our old continent and that are therefore closer to our feelings and our conception of life. They are also the most numerous, since their construction covers centuries of history, artistic evolutions and rivalries between the powerful; kings, grand dukes, and nobles for a long time wanted to have palaces and castles, each one more beautiful than the others: the relative gardens were a source of pride no less than the splendid rooms and precious works of art; often, indeed, even more. It is obviously not possible to describe all of them splendid gardens that meander across Europe; we must therefore make a further choice, trying to speak not only of the most beautiful, but also of those most representative of a certain style or epoch.
Italy is rich in gardens and many of them have become property of the State for various events and for donations, while others are private and some of them can be visited on certain days. In Tuscany we find a large group of clearly Renaissance setting despite the subsequent changes that have not changed its essential character. The famous Boboli Gardens in Florence, begun around the middle of the 16th century, are rich in statues and vegetation: the most interesting motif is the road bordered by shaped hedges and centenary trees, which starts from the Belvedere and reaches the oval basin with islet and the famous statue of the Ocean performed by Giambologna. Stupendous for the proportions and the simple admirable scenography of the connection of the different levels is also Pan fi teatro. Next to Florence, near Settignano, we find the Villa della Gamberaia, whose structure dates back to `600; this, although not being
large (about one hectare), is in its main part a beautiful example of Italian garden, with its water mirrors placid and refined by oleanders that contrast with the topiary works; these give shape to quick cypresses, at rates, at low evergreens; a green lawn, exceptional for its length in a dry climate, and bordered by cypress trees, forms the connection with the baroque part, made up in part by a lovely eighteenth-century courtyard of exquisite workmanship.
Near Collodi there is the Villa Garzoni, whose garden, laterally displaced from the villa itself in an unusual way, constitutes a large scenography of spectacular, theatrically baroque ethnos. It starts from large parterres of flowers with two fountains with high central spurts and ascends the slope of a hill with three terraces articulated by stairs, fountains, central water games and side waterfalls to the steps; at the top two large fi gures symbolize Florence and Lucca, while at the top of a statue representing the Fama, a powerful jet of water flows back into the basin below. With Villa Marlía, next to Lucca, we enter into the heart of history, as it was bought in 1806 by Elisa Bonaparte, Napoleon’s sister, Grand Duchess of Tuscany. It was built in 1600 and has beautiful gardens, among which we can mention the so-called “teatro di verzura”, a wonderful jewel created by shaping yew trees to form, in a hemicycle, wings, wings, boxes and even the pit for the prompter, all around a stage made of rasa grass and animated by statues representing the masks of the Italian theater. The garden, well preserved and very classic, has high hedges, especially shaped oaks, and an enchanting garden of lemon trees, with a large rectangular pond bordered by a balustrade with large terracotta pots containing lemons and flowers. In Northern Italy, we can remember in a special way, among the large gardens of which it is equipped, what stands on one of the four islands of Lake Maggiore, called the Borromeo Islands, and precisely Isola Bella, so called because in the second half of the 1600 the Count Carlo Borromeo built the palace on it that he dedicated to his wife Isabella: although the island is not the largest, the splendor of the garden that descends to the lake through ten sloping terraces covered with beautiful vegetation, and the baroque conception of buildings that border on extravagance (such as the water theater called “the pyramid”), make it an almost unique example due to the use of very delicate plant essences whose cultivation is made possible by the temperate climate of the lake.
ln different ways and in modern times the same phenomenon has allowed, always on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the very large and beautiful Villa Taranto, which represented until a few years ago the greatest botanical garden of the world belonging to a private, the Scotsman cap. Neil McEacharn, who dies, has left the Italian state.
Amazing for its speed of execution, as well as for its content, since the plant of 40 hectares and more of land was begun in about 1930, Villa Taranto is not only a collection of beautiful gardens but also one of the most beautiful collections of rare plants in Italy. Many are
the examples, which the climate allows outdoor life, cleverly arranged in slopes, valleys, meadows, ponds, and fountains so that the formal part is integrated with the landscape with absolute naturalness; large greenhouses also allow the conservation of rare plant species even in the Botanical Gardens.
In the Veneto region, the Villa Barbarigo in Valzanzibio, near Padua, brings us back, albeit with later additions, to the Renaissance garden, with its shaped hedges, long avenues and pools of water adorned with statues, artificial caves, and balustrades. In Lazio, despite the havoc perpetrated on the beautiful Roman villas, now disappeared or reduced to minimal proportions or public parks poorly maintained and semi-evicted, we still have a large group of gardens that maintain the ancient splendor unaltered. Obvious reasons of space allow us only to mention the most important or known as that of the Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola, a splendid example of a garden of 1500, and of the nearby Villa Lante in Bagnaia, still in the upper Lazio, whose plant was executed on Vignola’s design, which at that time presided over the works of Caprarola. The garden, in a very light slope, is on a single axis that culminates in a grotto fountain, called the fountain of the Flood: from this top the water follows the garden axis, flowing downwards and feeding a series of fountains which form a real sequence of parterres alternating with the shaped and fiery ones. In the same Rome we still have beautiful gardens, like those of Villa Medici or the Vatican, but certainly, none of them is as famous as the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, which began in the middle of the 16th century at the behest of Cardinal Ippolito d’Este. Pirro Ligorio and water technician Oliviero Olivieri, famous at the time, who undoubtedly lavished all his art on it. In fact, water is, it can be said, the true essence of the garden,
the main protagonist: gushes from a thousand waterfalls, flows through unexpected streams, rises majestically from monumental fountains or placid stagnates re fl ecting the canopy of cypresses, forms games and jokes, creating a unique work in the world, not only in the Renaissance, but in all the ages; in fact, even if in the French gardens we find a great abundance of water, it assumes only the appearance of grandeur and not of life in itself. Villa d’Este is a garden formed of water, but not an aquatic garden; it is built from an architecture that employs a fluid material and in which the stable elements
(stone, trees) have only a secondary role. Among the most famous fountains, we will mention that of the organ, which has musical devices regulated by water, that of Girandola and the famous avenue of Fontanelle, also called “one hundred cinnamon”. To find a wealth of water, even more as an extension, but different as a concept and architectural use, we must arrive in the mid-1700s when Vanvitelli began work on the Royal Park of Caserta. Here the abundance of water is extraordinary, but it is no longer an element of surprise: it forms a central axis sloping like a single chain that flows from a fountain into a fountain, from a waterfall to a waterfall, from a basin to a basin. These elements are connected to each other by marble channels and groups: the bold project required more than 30 kilometers of the aqueduct, with ducts and galleries, and was, by that time, a work of exceptional dimensions. Woods of holm oaks and tall trees frame the real garden, hiding the borders and making the park much broader by a skillful play of perspectives and visuals. To conclude this rapid review of the great Italian villas, we will mention the ancient, though abundantly remodeled, Villa Rufolo in Ravello: it is influenced by both Arabic and Roman influences and, blending flows and ruins, extends like a magical terrace overlooking the sea. between gardens and pergolas where the notes of Wagnerian music linger; we will also mention the eighteenth-century Villa Tasca, in Palermo, transformed through time into a tropical and picturesque corner with a flourishing not easily traceable elsewhere in Italy.
France. When one thinks of the French gardens, the mind immediately runs to a name: Versailles, the largest park in the world, one in which probably more history has passed than in any other, among its fiery parterres, its groves, its fountains and the numerous buildings added through the decades by whims and ambitions of kings and queens. Woods, swamps, and land around the village of Versailles belonged to Louis XIII who loved to go hunting, but the park was started only in 1660 by Louis XIV, still very young (he had ascended the throne only four years, seventeen years old before): in the year following the planning and execution of the grandiose work, they were entrusted to André Le Nôtre, the most famous garden architect ever to exist. He had already given France his first masterpiece with the garden of the castle of Vaux-Le-Vicomte, belonging to Fouquet, minister of the king’s finances: it seems, indeed, that precisely because he was humbled by the splendor of this work, Louis XIV decided to to make Versailles something unique in the world and to have the Fouquet arrested, who died in prison. The works were long and difficult, although the deployment of the means used was impressive: what appears to us today as a sloping prospect, with the large raised terrace facing the villa, was a specially created hill; a river was diverted to allow the construction of canals, the largest of which required the leveling of a rise; with the passing of time everything continued to be enlarged, embellished, sometimes radically modified, and yet the final result also appears to be a splendid work of the whole.
From the terrace of the villa, there is a 400-meter-long avenue with turf, preceded by ramps, hemicycles, fountains and ending in the basin of Apollo, beyond which lies the Great Canal (a surface of more than twenty hectares) that leads to about three kilometers the central axis. On the sides, groves, various gardens, the water heater, the round colonnade, fountains and groups of statues of fine artistic value are adorned and interspersed with hundreds of various works of art, from vases and urns to basins with a total of 1400 gushes of water. Over time, the two buildings of the Grand and Petit Trianon were added, the latter very dear to Marie Antoinette, who completely nourished the garden according to the style of the time.
Survived by the Revolution and the Napoleonic era, Versailles was transformed, at the time of Louis Philippe, into national property, with the museum in the villa, and so that after so much history and so many events, we can still admire its amazing gardens, where perhaps at night, many illustrious shadows wander. The aforementioned Vaux-Le-Vicomte which, as we have said, constitutes André Le Nôtre’s first masterpiece, at the same time forms the most classical model of French Renaissance garden and is essentially formed by a huge expanse of sloping land from the castle front, divided in two very large parterres, with fi ne-shaped and embroidered flowerbeds (the so-called << broderies >>) and adorned with statues and water basins, the largest of these, at a lower level, is immediately before the river’s crossroads Anqueil, canalized for one kilometer and widened in the central point of intersection with the axis of the garden, in which it is embedded in a wall with caves and waterfalls.
Woods and tall trees frame this magnificence and are scattered and decorated with sculptures and surprise gardens with fountains and flowerbeds. Among the other famous gardens created by Le Nôtre we can mention Marly, built always by desire of Louis XIV between Versailles and Saint-Germain; Saint-Cloud, which offers a splendid view of Paris, and above all Chantilly, one of the most famous works of the great architect, built where the castle of the princes of Condé already existed and unfortunately much altered over the centuries; in its main part, however, it retains the wide breadth of its basins and channels between lawns and fiery platforms. Antecedent to all these is the garden of the castle of Villandry next to Tours; this more than its beauty, too schematic and formalistic for our taste, owes its fame to being the only garden, among those of the castles of the Loire, in which a careful reconstruction allows us an exact vision of this that it could have been a French garden prior to the Renaissance (but already partly subjected to Italian influence in 1500), when the castles were still based on a defensive rather than aesthetic; it is composed of several successive terraces divided into various sectors, some of which present only innumerable paths between complicated drawings of shaped hedges; others, on the other hand, have vegetable labyrinths or trellises and roses pergolas. Overall, the reconstruction of this garden carried out recently after the destruction of previous centuries, and in particular those of the century. XIX, is more important as an example than as a beauty.
Gennania. For one of those coincidences that make history so singular, while France is rich in beautiful gardens especially by virtue of its strongly centralized government (the kings of France really hold a record in this field), Germany it has many gardens, even if not all of them sumptuous and famous, precisely because of the divisions of its territory, in the likeness of what had happened in Italy. As in Italy, it happened among princes, grand dukes, cardinals, so in Germany voters and archbishops wanted their gardens, competing among themselves and sometimes even with the heads of foreign states. One of the largest, most beautiful and famous gardens in Germany is that of Nymphenburg in Munich which, in the second half of the 1600s, when the works were started, under Ferdinand, was one of the brightest capitals in Europe: Bavaria in fact, despite its complicated historical events, it was one of the most important electorates. Initiated by the Italian architect Barelli, the project was suspended due to war and only resumed in the second decade of the eighteenth century, a period of which remains a classic example despite the many changes made later in the Romantic era. The castle winds with vast wings and it is this vastness that determines in the part of the entrance, in front on the façade, the enormous exedra with two large water basins flanked by very spacious lawns and formed by a canal that flows towards the city. This same canal, preceded by vast parterres, is found in the back part of the park itself: it flows in a central axis, at the sides of which groves and avenues intersect and conceal three delightful pavilions. Moreover, Bavaria is full of more or less sumptuous gardens, like that of Schloss Linderhof, and the one erected on a Chiemsee island, Herrenchiemsee, a small copy of Versailles; at least these were the intentions of the mad king of Bavaria Ludwig ll who ended his days by throwing himself (l886) into the lake of Sternberg, near which he had built another castle. Among the other eighteenth-century gardens, rich in sculptures, green lawns and flowers but often also of strange buildings and works that resent the beginning of the English landscape garden, we find Schwetzingen near Würtzburg, created for Carlo Teodoro, elector Palatine, by the French architect De Pigage (modified later by the German von Skell) which included not only false ruins and an obelisk, but even a mosque!

Austria. In the various phases of rivalry between powerful houses and European rulers, we can not forget Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, former residence of the Habsburgs, built in 1695 on a project by Fischer von Erlach and renovated in 1749 by Nicolò Pacassi; Maria Theresa of Austria wanted to provide it with a rival park with the most beautiful in Europe. The park itself dates back to 1705, but in its final form, with its parterres and fountains, it is very similar to that of Versailles. There is also a very important greenhouse especially considering the era in which it was built.
Great Britain.
When we speak of an English garden, the mind immediately goes to that kind of landscaped garden that we are used to calling in this way. It is true that part of the garden in England developed later than in Italy and France, but for this reason it is right to mention, among the later ones, also gardens (such as Hampton Court), begun, enlarged and embellished by l600: these constitute an example of classicism that, even in the subsequent variations, is influenced by the influence of Italian artists who started it.
Here we find not only one axis, but three large avenues (of which the central one is the most important) that starting from a large semicircular parterre in front of the villa, diverge among themselves extending to the borders of the park. Classically, the central avenue includes a long canal of about one kilometer, and, as can be seen from the engravings of the period, further lateral parterres adorned the building. Other gardens of the end of 1600 have undergone such transformations that they no longer allow us to find the classic or Renaissance model that inspired them. This happened for the magnificent Blenheim castle park which was donated by the State to the Duke of Marlbourough and started by a classical model: later (1770) it was modified to such an extent by Lancelot Brown that the course of a river towards a pre-existing valley. A dam was created to obtain a large lake with islands, groups of trees were appropriately distributed and the whole aspect of the whole changed, with the only residue of a rectangular parterre bordered on two sides by two wings of the castle. One of the first examples of European garden with landscape, totally designed in this way and not the effect of changes, we have it in the garden of Stourhead, started around 1730: even here there is a valley full of water and barred by a dike and a lake remarkable proportions, whose slopes in slope appear to be even more accentuated by the use of tree species of different heights and whose different colors, especially in autumn, offer a show worthy of a painting by Claude Lorraine.

Many ornamental constructions are scattered in the park: some quite dubious taste, like the reduced Copies of the Pantheon of Rome or the temple of Baalbek, other original and truly splendid, as the so-called “market cross” of 1373, or an ancient and well kept cottage; a cave, in which some springs flow that feed the river, is adorned with statues with a surprisingly romantic effect. More or less large and impressive, the English gardens are an in fi nity, mostly composed of intermediate styles that, starting with the Elizabethan one, reach up to romanticism, passing through all the phases of landscape art, from pictorial to deliberately spontaneous; in none of them, however, one reaches such a wisely savage aspect as in the garden of Tresco Abbey, one of the largest in the Scilly group, not far from the tip of Cornwall, where the Gulf Stream softens the climate to make possible crops that are hardly found on the mildest coasts of the Mediterranean; this despite rare but violent storms that have led ships to shipwreck on the coast of the islands; a collection of ancient poles of such ships constitutes the so-called << Valhalla >>, in the park, and it is certainly one of the most fascinating things of this strange northern and semiropical corner at the same time. The park itself is all sloping terraced, from the house, built on the remains of an ancient convent in the first half of 1800, up to the sea, with avenues and rock gardens that host plants and trees from many hot countries, from palm trees to aloe, from succulent South-African to South American trees, in apparent, studied disorder. Typically English, such as prototypes, we can say of the “natural” garden, appear instead the Royal Windsor Park and its gardens: here, conserving and opportunely thinning old trees and pre-existing to the design, new arborescent and arborescent essences were planted creating a landscape very refined where, in the shade of the oaks and the beeches, they flourish beautiful rhododendrons and the meadows are embellished with narcissuses to make them look really spontaneous; particularly beautiful and a garden that collects all the old varieties of rose.

Although Spain, due to the disparity of its climates and the drought of most of them, is much less rich in gardens than the other countries considered, we find the famous Alhambra, the oldest garden in Europe: started in early 1200 the reconstruction and expansion of the pre-existing citadel, throughout the 1300 it was continually enlarged and embellished with gardens that, except for some later additions, have reached us in the original form assumed under the Moorish dominion. The gardens of the Alhambra and of the neighboring Generalife are detached from our usual concept: they do not consist of a single extension, large or small, which forms a frame or extension of enclosed spaces, but consists of a whole fragmentary, yet perfectly harmonious, of courtyards, of that particular kind of courtyard called patio, in which each one is a garden in itself and yet connected with the others, like a series of green open-air rooms, adorned with trees, fountains and gushes, which could in a certain sense be considered the southern equivalent of the northern conception of a park formed by many gardens, each different from the others, divided by hedges or various works in order to have its own physiognomy. In the succession of courtyards of all sizes, all beautiful for the decorative arts that adorn them, the most striking thing in a country so dry, is abundance and the reason for the water that flows there, like the large basin of the Patio de los Arrayahes, the canal with spouts of the Patio de la Riadh, the Patio of Lindaraja with its centuries-old cypress trees encircling the graceful fountain; even the most famous, the Patio de los leones, which today only brings to the center the beautiful gushing fountain surrounded by lions, must have once been decorated with plants and flowers, as can be seen from the engravings of the period. A world of fairy tales, the echo of “The Thousand and One Nights” echoes, with the water and the thin columns, in this place, unique in Europe.
Among the gardens of other countries, we can briefly recall Portugal, with the formal garden of Queluz in the north of Lisbon, whose rosy walls of what was once the royal palace open onto a large parterre of hedges and shaped trees ( French and Italian influence) and the Frontier garden. This has a particular originality due to the enormous use of brightly colored tiles, usually in white and blue, and in fact their name is «azulejos >>, also used in Queluz; here, however, they form murals, ornamental and real paintings depicting knights and mythical scenes that are reflected in the water of the large pool or frame caves, terraces, parapets. We find a garden that is different from the others in Holland: in Keukenhof, a vast expanse of land, which had become impossible by private individuals, was saved by the Dutch bulbs who used it as an annual display of their production. Every year, from the end of March to the middle of May, more than 10 million bulbs grow in this garden that maintains a completely spontaneous appearance, despite the enormous quantity of flowers that it hosts and in spite of the landscape adaptation necessary to harmonize colors and shapes in the undergrowth or in the meadows or along the canal. Many other gardens deserve to be remembered and named; it is certain, however, that in every part of our Europe, or almost, the traveler can recreate his spirit and admire the wonderful associations that nature and art have been able to create through the centuries.