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From the President: Softscape, hardscape and landscape

by Cali Doxiadis
photographs by Cali Doxiadis

For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 49, July 2007.

Cali Doxiadis writes:

“Very few mediterranean country gardens are aesthetically self-contained because very few are flat. In our regions there is no such thing as a “lost” horizon, unless it is that of the sea. It is a question of terrain. Our horizons are very present and visible, framing our immediate environment. Even within the limits of our own gardens, many different levels are usually represented. On the whole this makes our life easier – at least where design is concerned. The built-in variation in levels spares us the necessity of creating it with either costly constructions or slow-growing trees; even an immature garden presents a pleasing synthesis from day one. Most often parts of our garden are projected against other parts and against the immediate or distant landscape, which becomes another, often dominant, element of our design. Often the only decisions we need to make are how to provide transitions, areas that lead the eye to the surrounding landscape without distracting from it – intermediate zones that mix the “artificial” with the natural and merge in with what lies beyond. Our only concern for the landscape need be that we refrain from betraying it.”

Easy Transitions

Garden in Greece. Sweet peas freely sown where garden give way to wild
shrubs. They are succeeded by other self seeding annuals at other seasons.

Garden in Tuscany. Simple wooden rails divide outer border of flower
garden from forest.

Garden in Greece. Gravel with mixture of wild and cultivated local shrubs
leads to woods beyond.

“We talk about the “formality” of the Italian garden, thinking only of the clipped box hedges, gravel paths and marble fountains, not taking into account that all these elements are usually seen as foreground projected against the natural or even urban and suburban landscape. The formal parterres and the descending succession of marble pools, fountains and stairs on the steep hillside of the Villa Lante in Lazio, for example, when viewed from the lower garden are surrounded by the natural forest of holm oaks, Quercus ilex, and form an integral part of it. When viewed from the higher reaches, the parterres and statuary are seen projected against the picturesque houses of the village of Bagnaia and the agricultural valley below. This is not a unique example.  Most of the historic gardens all’ italiana, whether situated within towns or in the open countryside, are built on terraced slopes and combine the formality of their layout with their projection against the living landscape to achieve an effect of vitality and naturalness. They are not intricate flat carpets to be admired from specific vantage points. They are “of their landscape”, often using the very oaks, cypresses, myrtles and rosemaries of the surrounding hillsides shaped to form an orderly mirror image as contrast and ideal.”

Villa Lante

Views of fountains and parterres projected against oak forest and village.

Castello Ruspoli di Vignanello

This famous 17th century parterre is a roof garden accessible
from the castle by way of a bridge spanning a village street. 

Villa d' Este, Tivoli

From each vantage point this famous garden is seen as part of the
physical and manmade landscape.
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