Mediterranean notes

Rome and Venice

In early May 2012, I presented my new book Mediterranean Landscape Design (Thames and Hudson) in Rome and Venice to members of two Italian garden clubs : the Giardini aperti (www.giardiniaperti.it) and the Garden Club of Venice, baptized the Wigwam club in the 1970s by ecologist founders who admired Native American attitudes to nature (www.giardini-venezia.it/). My fairy godmother for the whole week was Italian garden journalist Ida Tonini, born in Venice but now living in Rome. She had already helped me in the preparation of this book, especially for the chapter on Venice. I often felt like Lewis Carroll’s Alice, zigzagging my way from event to event, feeling sometimes very big and sometimes very small, never knowing what would happen next, but confident it would always be something marvellous. There was a spirit of Romantic comedy throughout—beauty enhanced by shared laughter.

What exactly is a "bastide" or a "mas" in Provence?

The word bastide evokes a country house in Provence. This word is a commercial siren song in Provence today, but what does it really mean? Thirteenth century manuscripts used it to describe fortifications, but by the seventeeth and eighteenth centuries, it had come to mean an elegant estate. Specialist Nerte Dautier compares the Provençal bastide to the Tuscan villa, both being « “a kind of rural habitat which combines an aristocratic or middle-class residence with a working farm and gardens.”

Sparoza, a founding Mediterranean garden

There is a debate currently among members of the Mediterranean Garden Society about Sparoza, an innovative garden near Athens, dating from the 1960s, where the society was born and which it still contributes to maintaining. Its custodian, Sally Razelou, was the MGS’s first president. For various reasons including Sally’s inevitable aging, the future of this garden is in doubt. I was asked to explain why I think this historic garden is really important for an association like the MGS, with its worldwide membership and growing international interest. Here is what I wrote: