Five inspired ideas gleaned from a visit to Tuscany

  • Saturday, June 23, 2018 9:00am
  • Life

The third week of June is the start of summer and that means more outdoor living. Make this the week you fully prepare for living on the patio or deck by providing citronella candles and ivy geraniums to repel insects, comfy furniture including a table to set down drinks and, of course, furnish your outdoor space with plenty of plants.

Hanging basket tip: Deal with the drips from watering hanging baskets by placing a container garden below each hanging basket. Not only will the second container catch the drips, you will also be recycling the drainage water and plant food from the overhead basket.

On a recent trip to Tuscany we enjoyed visiting a few gardens, a graveyard (it took the help of the whole group but we found the ancestral graves of my relatives!) plenty of sunshine and great food. Here are the top four inspirational ideas from Italy.

Balance is important

At the table, the texture of the pasta must be balanced, not too hard and not too soggy; life and dinner must have a balance of sweet and salty. In the garden, balance means the amount of foliage and evergreens must be in balance with just an accent of flowers. The summer heat and scarcity of water has something to do with gardens full of cypress and olive trees over American style flowering shrubs and perennials but life balance also counts. Like most Europeans, the Italians believe in a work/play balance — they don’t skip vacations, family dinners or free time.

Symmetry creates a classic garden

What happens on one side of the main garden path must happen on the other. We visited a villa garden within the walled city of Lucca and the classic design of a water feature in the center with paths radiating outward is a design repeated throughout Europe. This formal garden used statuary over tall evergreens to balance the space with vertical lines.

Lawn? What lawn?

Even in large country gardens the typical Italian garden does not include a lush green lawn. Gravel paths, gravel courtyards, pavers and grassy fields dotted with wildflowers provide the groundscape. One Italian landscaper explained to me that lawns are an American obsession — inherited from the Brits who are obviously a bit crazy.

Wisteria — no hysteria

We visited Italy in April when wisteria was seen dangling from castle walls, escaped into trees and (how very daring) hanging overhead in the outdoor eating courtyards of fine restaurants. Back home we are warned that the strong and virile wisteria vine should be kept away from buildings as the fast growing limbs can destroy structures. I asked at the hotel where we stayed why the ancient wisteria had not damaged anything. “We prune it,” I was told. It seems the extra work of controlling a wisteria vine is worth the heavenly scent and artful flower clusters in this country. “Anything for beauty” is the motto here.

Travel tip: Red poppies as well as wisteria bloom all over the countryside in Tuscany each April. Forget April in rainy Paris, put April in Tuscany on your bucket list.

• • •

For more gardening information, she can be reached at her Web site, www.binettigarden.com.

Copyright for this column

owned by Marianne Binetti.

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