modern countryside garden 17-acre
Oriented southeast to northwest, the gardens enjoy the most dramatic sunrises and sunsets from their hilly vantage point above picturesque misty valleys. Maximising these backlit backdrops, we incorporated wispiness and height with autumnal grasses and spring perennials, interwoven among herbs, bulbs and deciduous shrubs to soften the woody nature and sculptural forms of existing vegetations. The gardens' twelve distinct zones progress from a formal courtyard, through a dining patio, Pine woodland and sculpture displays via a stepped bank leading up to an infinity swimming pool, lawns and a tennis court. The clients' modern seating, cooking and dining areas, each covered, heated, well-furnished and elegantly lit, feature unique ambiences and vistas, where we included a minimalist species palette to suit a contemporary country garden design in a mature setting.
The new planting schemes specifically cater for the owners' visiting schedule, primarily during spring and autumn with a major sojourn in summer. The layout focuses on low-lying Mediterranean shrubs which preserve uninterrupted views of the surrounding hillside landscape, modern sculpture and native trees. Alongside existing Iris, Lavender, Rosemary, Pelargonium, Photinia, Echium, Teucrium, Agapanthus and many Box balls, we interspersed small native sun-loving species and a handful of Australian and South African selections which are highly suitable for the location such as Boronia, Westringia, Osteospermum, Dietes and Erica. With over 60 Hydrangea bushes dotted around the site, much loved by the clients, we relocated most of them into a new East Asia border along the northeast boundary which not only screens neighbouring properties, but also provides a colourful spring-summer display in suitable ericaceous soil, shade and irrigation, accentuated by Magnolia, Hibiscus, Mahonia, Lilac, forest grasses and Lilyturfs.
Encompassing seventeen acres, half of which are laid out as an Olive grove, the site has been developed by the clients for ten years. With only ten days available, we set out to transform specific garden areas into integrated zones under established tree canopies. Amid plenty of plant nurseries in neighbouring Pistoia, helped by three experienced gardeners and one very nifty Piaggio Ape three-wheeler in all its 50cc mightiness, we embarked on a horticultural adventure like no other in dry, balmy weather with twelve hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset. The dry, stony soil requires irrigation for ornamental plants to thrive, and here, supplied by an underground spring, the bore water sustains healthy plant growth. Many of the planting borders traverse steep banks, where cultivation is tricky, and the dense groundcover species provide beneficial coverage as well as nectar for wildlife.
Steep terrain, rough ground, hot days, cold nights, scant rainfall and scores of Pine needles present tough conditions for cosy horticultural cultivation, yet here, in North Tuscany, everything seems to grow well indeed. With every majestic sunrise, even on overcast days, there's an unsurpassable hopefulness, bolstered by the stately forms of Cypress, Olive and Stone pine trees; an assuredness of Mediterranean life and its sheer abundance of nature – narrated by the calls of wild boars, pheasants, owls, bats, multitudes of songbirds and of course raucous Cicadas during summer. The ancient, romantic, dramatic, historic and traditional virtues of rural Tuscany, attained via a mere 110-minute flight from London, are thoroughly enjoyed by the owners at every possible opportunity, when outdoor family pursuits take centre stage albeit in a contemporary, well-ordered and highly personal setting. From vegetable beds to abstract sculpture heads, sleek poolside to misty hillside, alfresco pizza to tennis near Pisa, there's an arboreal, floral, vegetal or herbal gem to be relished in each turning, in this villa of luxuriantly verdant gardens and its paradisiacal landscape.