|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The Reinhardt Garden
1. Daring Design
by Helene Pizzi
2. A Work of Art
by Ida Tonini
photographs by Helene Pizzi and Cali Doxiadis
For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 46, October 2006.
Helen Pizzi and Ida Tonini give their individual impressions of the unusual and challenging garden created by the garden designers Thomas and Martina Reinhardt.
"The comfortable serene surroundings of the gentle wooded Apennine hills, just a few miles from Cortona, on the Umbrian-Tuscan border, have suddenly disappeared as we walk through an opening in an 8-feet-tall strange Canna hedge. The impact is immediate, like going through Alice's looking glass. The outside world has been excluded. We find ourselves enclosed in a strange, secret, silent, mysterious place, drawn magnetically to proceed onwards."
"This garden is complex, as well as rational, and it changes completely every year. It is created and born in the spring, nurtured in the summer as it matures fully, then it simply dies in the autumn. The annuals have lived their cycle. This is an unstable garden that dies away each year and is reborn and re invented each spring. It is always innovative, energising, and optimistic in feel with the clever use of common annuals, easily recognisable, so very humble, and terribly unfashionable."
"There are no plant labels because it is completely unnecessary to know all the plants' names. It is the overall charm, the relaxed garden rules that rule here. It is totally an untraditional garden."
"The white gravel path leads to another turn, another music, another emotion. Each garden space is tightly planted with bright blooming annuals and offers amusing and surprising plant combinations. Over the edges of the pathways spill thick groundcovers, such as Hypoestes phyllostachya, the Polka Dot Plant, with attractive spotted foliage tinged in greens, pinks, violets and white. Catharanthus or Madagascar Periwinkle - so poisonous, so drought-tolerant, so attractive... some white with a distinct red eye, all with glossy green foliage and a display of never-ending blooms - has been planted in many spots. That wonderful, ever-loved even if scorned by sophisticated grand gardeners, Impatiens, Busy Lizzie (in Italian Fior di Vetro or glass flower), has been used over and over in this garden, much of which is in dappled shade. These and other "common" annuals provide that feeling of comfort for familiar things of the past, enriching the spiritual music of this garden, intertwining themes like a Bach fugue."
"One tries to identify an exotic essence, then next to it another more sensual one appears, then, fortunately, one recognises a few familiar plants, common Tagetes, shy Impatiens, innocuous looking medicinal herbs, plain zinnias which here, who knows how, are transformed into damsels of some distinction. Visitors are funnelled along the narrow path, without a pause, with nowhere to stop and meditate. The only place to rest your eyes is the sky. The plants overhang the path so that one has to step around them as they creep over it. Perspectives and angles shift. At every bend, the colours and the infinite nuances change, even if the brush strokes are often decisive and strong.
The collections of bananas, cannas, grasses and amaranths, of Alocasia and Colocasia, of brugmansias and Miscanthus, Sedum, zinnias, Echinacea, Celosia, Cosmos are overwhelming, fascinating, flowing like a river in spate. One is swept along with the current unresisting, tuning one's emotions to each admirable combination, to the chromatic inventions and the succession of light and shade."
"It is above all a work of art. Thomas Reinhardt, the grandson of the great theatre director Max Reinhardt, created this garden with the help of his young and beautiful wife, Martina, to flourish over one long season. Every year in March, the garden is planned and composed in collaboration with nature as if the land were an immense canvas over which colours were to be spread and combined. The vegetation reaches its greatest development and balance in the summer. Nature itself then dissolves the composition, like a Buddhist mandala, gently, with the arrival of early autumnal frosts."
The garden (and future courses in gardening techniques) is only open by appointment. Contact the Reinhardts for arrangements.