Sunday, 17 March 2013

First Plantings 6

From In A Tuscan Garden, published anonymously 1902
The back of the house looked to the north. And a thick plantation of fir-trees, though somewhat darkening the kitchen and pantry quarters, had the advantage of protecting us from cold winds, and of making that part pleasantly cool and shady in summer. The tops of these firs reached far above our roof and had a most picturesque effect as one looked back to the house from the garden. The big villa lay above and beyond this plantation, which effectually shut out our humble dwelling from the view of the owner; and below it was a delightful stretch of grass planted with cypresses and other trees, and small thicket of lilac bushes close to our glass door.  There was also a beautiful “Naples Laurel” at this corner.  I don’t remember to have seen this variety of laurel at home; the flowers grow in large white clusters, and have a  peculiar scent much disliked by Italians.  It makes its new leaves in April, when the old ones turn a brilliant scarlet as they fall.  One of the most beautiful funeral wreaths we ever made had these red leaves placed in and out among the white flowers composing it.
This grass field gave us just the right aspect for all our spring-flowering pot-plants, azaleas, imantophyllums, etc., during the hot summer months, and though it did not form part of our small domain, no difficulty was ever made about our plants standing there from July to October, when they were again transferred to their winter quarters round the house.
Returning to the rose-beds and, looking from them down upon the main body of the garden ground, – the long part of the cross –a more unpromising piece of land could not be imagined; but it possessed one great treasure, a grass walk, which ran parallel with the shrubbery, down to the very end of the garden, where a clump of cypress trees closed it in.   I have always thought it was this grass walk that gave our garden the peculiarly English look it had, even in those early days, and which, pace Mrs.Earle, is much more to my taste than the hard gravel paths of an Italian garden. One friend, the owner of a very superior domain, used to come and look at it, and aver with a sigh that that grass walk was worth the whole of his place put together, - glass houses and gardeners included.
On the left of this walk was the newly-cleared ground, cribbed from the shrubbery.  The gardeners never forgave us for that clearing out – “it was a bel bosco, Signora,” they said, “till you spoilt it.”   That their bel bosco was not what we wanted, was a thing of which they took no account, and they had been so left to their own devices, and so accustomed to have their own way in everything, that they deeply resented the change entailed by their masters having chosen to let the villino with its adjacent ground.  Of course, had it been possible for us to be entirely independent of them, I would have been only too thankful, but by the “law of the land”, both written and unwritten, I had not the right to prune a shrub, or cut  a twig of all those old trees; and it was therefore very important to us to keep on some sort of terms with them.  As it was I got into dire disgrace in those first months, from sheer ignorance of the customs of the country, and often was wholly unconscious of having done anything amiss.  However, one day I put the finishing touch to all my enormities, and nearly got turned out.


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