How to bridge the gap between the intimate world of our interiors and the wildness of nature beyond - how to understand the tension between chaos and order that is at the very heart of things - how much should one intervene? these were our first questions as we began to create a garden at Il Viottolone.
The Tuscan hills around Florence are an open plan arrangement of olive groves, cypresses, vineyards and oak woods with farmhouses, castles, villas and villages dotted in between. The farmhouse that was Il Viottolone in 2004, stood in some hectars of abandoned olive groves, a very overgrown field full of brambles and a disused vineyard, all surrounded by cypresses and majestic oak woods.
For many months, we studied our ramshackled new home, in detail we devised plans and elevations for the house alongside plans for the creation of a garden; we spent hours pondering the landscape, the vistas, the movement of the sun, where the shade falls and when. Having opened up the inside of the house, we then opened doors onto our outside space.
So often our dreams and desires can get carried away on a wave of excitement and enthusiasm, we forget to heed the telling signs around us of what thrives in the middle of the middle of Italy with scorching hot, dry summers and often freezing cold, harsh winters. New gardens, have little shade and the extreme climate of inland Tuscany is demanding; even with water it is difficult to keep tender new plants alive through the summer months.
However the tough survivors are there, they are in fact all around us, in our gardens, in the olive groves, on the roadside, in the woods, fields, we just have to open our eyes.
To find the harmony we seek in our gardens today, perhaps we need to connect our dreams to our environment, to let them speak together; to join our dreams with our earth by sieving them through together.
view to kitchen then
view from the kitchen now
This small but intimately cared for space is the arrival point and main entrance to the farmhouse, it also links the house with the barn. North-east facing, this is a garden for morning sun and evening shade, where more delicate plants can survive and where a green oasis offers a fresh welcome in summer months.
spring courtyard delights
entrance to courtyard
jasmine and nepeta
Our west facing aperitivo spot laid with reclaimed local stone, looks out towards olive trees, woods, local villages and mountains in the distance. Here jasmine, agapanthus, plumbago and pomegranate trees underplanted with gaura and japanese anemones dance in the hot sun and offer their scent as we glory in the evening sunset and listen to the trickle of water falling into an old stone trough.
looking down toward the sunset garden
sunset from the terrace
Passing through the kitchen to the back of the house, opens up to a wider tuscan landscape. Here grasses, meadow and olive trees mingle while the eye is lead by a new planted oak tree to the church of Santa Cristina in the distance.
apple pergola leading to the field garden
iris in full bloom
view from kitchen terrace
view from kitchen to field
Close to the kitchen and for quick access we grow herbs and salads, further away from the house a large vegetable garden produces a vast array of seasonal vegetables. Fruit trees are spread around the farm, with figs being plentiful and most suited to our climate followed by apricots, mulberries, cherries, plums, peaches, grapes, pomegranates, apples, persimmon etc .....
roses, iris, rosemary and artichoke, mid may
vegetables in May
iris in may
Standing quiet and humble the silver branches of the olive tree glisten and sway with the wind, together with the cypress they create the backdrop to our landscape. We farm about 350 olive trees totally organically and take upmost care to grow, harvest and press them to produce the very best and highest quality virgin tuscan olive oil.
the olive groves late spring
the new oil
our strong helper
our helper & his assistant