“The Education of a Gardener” by Russell Page is my favourite dipping-into gardening book. Despite being written fifty years ago and by a gardener with a Hello A list of clients, the book has ideas to inspire and coursing through it the philosophy of genius loci. This is strong sense of bringing out the spirit of a place.
Page worked with Jellicoe at Ditchley Park, helped Henry Bath thin out the over planting of trees at Longleat, collaborated with the Duke of Windsor and Duchess of Windsor in the making of their parisian garden. In addition he was called in by Marchesa Lavinia Turner, to help her develop her new garden at La Landriana, Ardea, near the saggy tideless beaches of the Anzio landings. There are 3 gardens to visit in this part of Italy: La Ninfa, La Torrechia (a recent work by Dan Pearson) and Landriana.
The Marchessa was a plantaholic who developed the unpromising site from scratch – including supervising the removal of undetonated mines. She called in Russell Page to help her impose order on her burgeoning plantings and worked feverishly to create a very floriferous garden. She died ten years ago and the garden is a little blurry at the edges, but in that lies its charm.
The hillside mass planted with Rosa mutabilis is famous. Interesting to visit and see that the Persian lilacs (Melia azedarach) are growing up and making the whole area bosky – I expect that either the roses of the trees will have to go. On and round the garden at a plane-catching pace with our fizzy guide, Lucia, who has all the plant names and spellings scribbled down to drip feed to us.
The planting is impressive: no bare earth and ground cover where-ever you look. Here is Orchid Bletilla in drifts lining the pathway and Ophiopogon japonicus which is a fantastic way of keeping out the weeds. Two more plants had us scribbling feverishly… Myrsine africana (could this be the alternative to blighted box? Drought resistant, evergreen, puts up with heavy topiary? Drat not reliably hardy – and nor is that orchid. Last catch all plant the perfect groundcover, Pratia pedunculata . Or was until research flagged it up in the Invasive Species Compendium.
I leave you with some images. Another very romantic, un-Italian garden which needs to be seen.