When I spent a week at Podere Palazzo almost four years ago with my family, all the fresh plantings on the grounds were teeny-tiny nubs, and a few of the spindly cypress trees had wooden tree crutches to help hold them up. We didn’t mind; the surrounding views are breathtakingly beautiful in every direction. But the owner (and my dear friend) Patrizio, who is relentlessly passionate about his native landscape, had always dreamed of having a formal Italian garden like the historical villas of Italy. “At some pont I started fantasizing of a hybrid garden that was at once formal yet more rustic than most formal gardens,” says Patrizio. “I wanted to create a viewing axis from the south side of the house towards the valley that would become an experience of its own. Most successful Italian formal gardens create not just a special oasis, curated to the max, but also an amazing dialogue with the landscape around. And that became my main goal: getting the beauty of the landscape around the house to ‘speak’ to the home with an intermediate element that was both architectural and natural.”
The formal garden project started hand-in-hand with a more naturalistic garden project for the remaining four acres. “Despite my enthusiasm and desire to get it all done fast, it has become the most fun work-in-progress of my life. Gardening requires a lot of patience and the game is in the waiting. Every year I say, ‘The garden this year looks great, but next year will be better.’ And that’s because you learn how to trim a rose bush better, learn which plants do better with the dry summers and wet winters, which are more subject to pests…” He also wanted to create a modern farm, where the grounds are not just beautiful but also edible. In the more naturalistic part of the land, where there were already Oak trees, Elm trees, and wild pear and plum bushes, he planted 106 olive trees on one side of a hill and 50 fruit trees on the side, plus every herb you can think of.
“The formal garden is more extravagant in the plantings and aside from classic staples like Lavenders, Santolina, Viburnums, Cotoneaster, Artichoke plants, we infused it with edible herbs, hundreds of flowering bushes and roses and an organic vegetable garden that in each season grows and produces a bounty of goodies,” says Patrizio, who has grown into a self-professed countryside and garden addict. The knowledge and skill he’s garnered is so inspiring. But most of all, I love how he rhapsodizes about every single individual plant (way too many to include here). “The creeping Rosemary is a beautiful plant that requires lots of patience but is extremely rewarding (that is the creeper you see falling down on the pool rock wall). It is so elegant and slow in the way it grows down on a wall, and it blooms all year round. It also provides the only flowers in the months of January and February–how precious is that? And we use it to cook and roast in the fireplace.”