Mary opened the meeting by welcoming members and new guests, then circulated a sign up sheet for those willing to enter a competition to produce a bakery item “better than Helga’s” – a reference to the delicious apple torte the latter produced for this meeting. She notified members that Irma Battista had withdrawn as Treasurer with the result we are still in need of a Vice-President and Treasurer.
She then introduced our guest speaker Klavdi Kukovic, a garden designer, who came to Vancouver 12 years ago from his home in Slovenia then abandoned his previous occupations in engineering and pharmaceuticals 8 years ago to take up garden design. It is easy to see how his engineering background translated into the application of rigorous design principles not apparent to the untrained eye but which he demonstrated interspersed with slides on his talk on Italian Gardens, augmented with music composed by Wagner and Lizst while vacationing at two of them.
His talk comprised visual tours and demonstrations of symmetry and the application of principle of the Golden Mean. This summary does not cover the breadth of background information, history and just plain gossip which made this an outstanding presentation.
Villa d’Este, in Tivoli, one of the most famous high Renaissance gardens was designed for Cardinal d’Este, a grandson of Lucrezia Borgia, using classical ideas of symmetry and proportion. The clipped hedges we all associate with classical Italian gardens, originally surrounded beds of colourful flowers. But, its rigorous symmetry is carefully broken up with a (now) old oak tree growing at an angle in an unlikely spot. He described d’Este as really a water garden with over 500 jet fountains.
He explained in detail with diagrams how establishing the lines of primary, secondary and tertiary force in a garden can be used to site walkways, structures and architectural feature which leads to a feeling of the garden being settled and attached to a house.
The old garden at the Royal Palace of Caserta, is an example of the great French style, built for the Spanish King of Naples in the 1770’s, with a 3-kilometer water canal punctuated with occasional water features, and designed to impress with sheer scale, which it does. The new garden is an interpretation of the English landscape style with individual trees highlighted in open parkland.
Giardino de Ninfa, was begun in the 1920’s, by a wealthy, eccentric Englishwoman who brought cuttings from her Roman garden when she came to escape the summer heat of Rome. A landscape garden, it has been described as “managed disorder” and “the most romantic garden in the world” and features sub-tropical plants such as banana trees.
Giardini la Montella, designed by Russell Page, whom Klavdi described as “the most famous garden in the world designed by someone no ‘ones ever heard of”, for Susanna Walton and paid for by her husband, the English composer William Walton, demonstrates strong geometry in the division into 4 separate gardens reflective of Muslim belief.
Villa San Michele, in Capri, is a villa situated on an almost perpendicular site, demonstrates how the villa is connected to the garden by a strong architectural trellis stretching to the end of the garden which finally opens out into an unobstructed, spectacular view of the sea overlooked by a granite sphinx.
Giardino della Landriana, also designed by Russell Page in the Arts and Crafts style, is a collection of about 30 separate gardens separated by hedges which also demonstrates strong geometry. He showed slides of the Rosa Mutabilis (China Rose) garden, the White Garden, the Spanish Garden, the Orange Grove garden with small topiary “oranges” planted below an orange tree, and the Spring Garden unfortunately viewed in high summer when it was not in bloom.
Lastly, Villa Cimbrone, in Ravello, is another English style garden, visited by the famous, including Vita Sackville-West, Richard (where he was inspired to write the second part of Parsifal) and Cosima Wagner, and Leopold Stokowski and Greta Garbo, the latter of whom succeeded in “wanting to be alone” in spite of their fame and ensuing media pursuit.
If you missed this, you missed a treat! However, Klavdi gives talks on Moorish and Japanese gardens. He says both illustrate strong geometric principles, but the Japanese illustrates it more through the use of the void. Sounds fascinating.
Submitted by Wenda Deane