Behind the leaves: garden art and culture

What's hiding behind the leaves? What lies beyond a green curtain that separates us from a garden or a forest? Many images appear in our mind even before our eyes rest on that remnant of nature, until just before precluded by an impertinent and presumptuous branch: expectations of pleasures, hidden or rediscovered, waiting to be (re)found. And with what reverential respect one enters unknown yet immediately hospitable places! Smells, colours, new tactile experiences and satisfaction at the sight of vegetal and architectural harmonies that make that whole a recognizable and satisfying unicum.

Frescoes of the underground nymphaeum of Villa di Livia (part.)
I Century B.C.
Rome, Museum of Palazzo Massimo

Man, in his long evolution - still in progress today - has had the plant world as a constant reference and no distinction can be made: whether we are talking about large monumental gardens or small private and apparently anonymous spaces, the common aim is to satisfy the primordial need to return to the essential forms coming from the earth.

Frescoes of the underground nymphaeum of the Villa di Livia (detail of the short southern wall).
I Century B.C. Rome, Museum of Palazzo Massimo

Who among us has never grown a simple pot of basil or geraniums on a windowsill? And who has never enjoyed the wonder of the great gardens, designed and grown to praise creation and to enjoy its magnificence, even through the combination of art and water? There are no distinctions in this sense: both experiences arise from the need to dominate nature and, at the same time, to belong to it and enjoy it.

Frescoes of the underground nymphaeum of the Villa di Livia (detail of the short southern wall)
I Century B.C.
Rome, Museum of Palazzo Massimo

Thus were born the cultivations of the first settled peoples and the viridaria or floraria of ancient Rome or the medieval horti concluded, arriving at the poetic landscape gardens in the English style, not without passing through the vain Italian Renaissance parterres or the exotic Japanese and Oriental gardens.

Nothing is essential and everything is indispensable in the world of the garden, in a perfect green harmony that - going through time and its fashions unchanged - has allowed the birth and development of a sumptuous necessity.

With this intent I inaugurate my column: to find the message behind a large garden, a small domestic cultivation, a flower and its symbols or a historical-artistic current making every garden the architectural example and the representation of the forms of greenery.

So let's move the leaves of that hedge together, let's lower our heads almost in a reverent bow and let's go forward with new eyes to see what's beyond the step and the wall...


Stefano Lazzaro

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