“But he that dares not grasp the thorn, should never crave the rose” Anne Bronte
Our long-awaited day to visit the Rosa Botanica -Carla Fineschi Gardens in Cavriglia Italy, an hour south of Florence, arrived. (Visited May 29th, 2019). We were met by a lovely Italian woman sitting in an old garden shed out of the rain which took our 6 euros to view the famous garden. On greeting her, she exclaimed “Mamma Mia, Mamma Mia” repeatedly, and we both laughed. It was one of those moments where our laughter crossed any barriers we may have had despite language differences. She knew that we must be very keen on roses to venture out in what was by now heavy rain and I knew that this had been the case for at least three to four weeks and showed no signs of finishing.
As we had travelled more than 16,000 kilometres to visit the garden, we were undeterred and set off with her large umbrella and our raincoats to view the quite incredible display of rose blooms. Many of the blooms were rain-damaged so not the best to photograph but in full spring bloom. The sight of so many roses was overwhelming, and we were surrounded by the heavy abundant blooms in every imaginable colour growing in beds by type and variety.
It was awe-inspiring to see so many roses with gorgeous old pots, statues, climbing frames and bamboo trellises interspersed amongst them. It was a massive collection of more than six thousand rose varietals, all so beautifully kept, weed-free and labelled. The overall atmosphere is of a humble farm and not at all a developed tourist destination. It was first and foremost a Garden to preserve what Professor Gianfranco had established in the 1960s.
The weather by now was very wet, and it was disappointing not to reach in and read what the types and varieties of each rose were because it was simply far too muddy underfoot. I needed a whole dry day here or longer to write notes and really gain from the visit, but today was not the day for it. Thankfully the sun did come out for a short while but not really long enough to appreciate the full sensual experience and fragrance of so many roses. Although the masses of blooms were in part water damaged, it was wonderful to be in the famous garden. We loved the range of colours in the blooms as they were astonishing in their vividness and bright, rich colour. In contrast, the next turn would change to great walls of soft pale pinks, crisp whites and soft peach colours. But what really caught my eye in the grey of the day were the deep oranges, reds and especially the yellow roses that stood out and glowed on our dull day.
Of special interest to me were the single flat trellis frames for the climbers along the avenue of beds made of thick bamboo as in this picture I took below. I often think of climbing roses growing in an English style against a house, wall or archway. Here the trellises were free-standing creating walls along the wide paths which I imagine give the roses plenty of space and air circulation.
Also noted was the importance of interesting objects in the garden such as statues, sculptures and metalwork that seemed to add focal points to the garden’s design.
The roses collection is large and impressive, planted by varietal groups. Fortunately, you can pick up a plan at the entrance and walk easily to your chosen interest. There are roses galore from every rose breeder across the world and all the names I’ve grown to love such as Kordes, Harkness, McGredy, Meilland, Beales, Austin, Weekes, Dickson and more.
There are also ancient, rare roses, a massive collection of climbers and the largest Standard roses I have ever seen.
As we walked around every nook and cranny of the acre garden, I felt that we were all at once on a farm, in a garden and within a living museum with the distinct air of reverence to the founder of the garden. The walk around the garden along the numerous paths and terraces is interesting, and the roses are all in beds labelled and interspersed with terracotta pots, sculptures peacocks and the odd cat.
It is not just roses though olive trees and shrubs and an expanse of a stone wall, the perfect spot for a lovely rose quote. The sound of peacocks, chooks and other birds fill the air now that the sun is almost out and the ginger cat decided he liked us and came along on our walk. It was at once quite educational and breathtaking to be in such an extraordinary garden yet at the same time comforting, humbling, peaceful and homely.
The work that must have gone into creating the garden is astonishing but also quite encouraging when I relate it back to my own efforts of rose growing in rural Australia. I hope I remember this when tending my small garden of 200 roses that doesn’t sound so large afterall now.
“A garden that one makes oneself becomes associated with one’s personal history and that of one’s friends, interwoven with one’s tastes, preferences and character, and constitutes a sort of unwritten, but withal manifest, autobiography. Show me your garden, provided it be your own, and I will tell you what you are like.”
– Alfred Austin (1835-1913), British poet laureate,
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