This is it. Probably the last article about Galeazza Garden. It was written by Italy’s most famous landscape architect and garden designer, Paolo Pejrone, and it’s definitely as good as I can do as a self-invented gardener. Time to sign off and move on, leaving the garden and this blog behind. Time to write “Als Ich Can” (As I can) as Jan van Eyck did on his tiny self portrait of 1433, now in the National Gallery of London. I love that phrase, even if the pun doesn’t work because I’m not named Eyck, the idea that this simple three word expression could be either a proud declaration (look: this is my best) or incredible modesty (sorry: this is all I can do). Or both.

Als Ich Can. As I can. Well, that’s for sure, because now there is a third and very sad element to my story: I cannot enter the garden anymore. The owners have locked me out.

Als Ich Can. I’ve done all I could.

I leave you not with a garden image, but one of my favourite paintings.

Probably the last article about Galeazza Garden…

La Stampa – Friday 24 August 2012 – page 23

A Green Paradise: Ten years ago the garden was reborn around a circle of water, and it grew into many concentric ripples of vegetation.

The Move: The plants that weren’t crushed by the rubble will find a new site in nearby Mantova.

In Memory of a Broken Garden

Clark Lawrence is forced by the earthquake to abandon Galeazza di Crevalcore

By Paolo Pejrone

White rabbits, according to an antique legend of Romagna (The writer Carlo Flamigni tells us in his “Yellow Egg” published by Sellerio) change color before an earthquake. At the Castle of Galeazza on the 20th of May the only thing white was a big cat, who wasn’t able to save himself, and died under the ruins. His owner, Clark Lawrence, after three months, has begun to move to a new location. And he’ll be taking with him seven dwarf goats and all he can save from “his” garden, which, after the earthquake, can no longer be cared for or cultivated: the plants, at least those that aren’t buried under the rubble, will be moved to a new location near Mantova.

Clark, American from Maine, went years ago to live in the great Castle of Galeazza of Crevalcore, located between Modena, Ferrara, and Bologna, and turned it into a famous and very “talked about” place, especially for its garden of special plants. It was all done with great fatigue, effort, and intelligence, restoring first the parts that were most in need of help: Clark made it a living and breathing sign of his love for his adopted land, transforming it into one of the many warmly adored (and by us often neglected) jewels of our beloved Italy. His association “Reading Retreats in Rural Italy” became, both for its originality and quality, one of the most popular places for creating, exhibiting, performing and discussing the arts and the stimulating world that surrounds them.

When Clark arrived here the garden, almost ten acres, was a thick jungle of briars, brush and elders, and it was only thanks to his stubborn will and his free and intelligent use of chainsaw, axe, and pruners that it became a large cultivated lawn of botanical rarities from around the world. Seven little goats, a handful of Japanese Totenko fowl, and the big white cat, Malvolio, were his full-time companions; two pianos, and many books and paintings remind us of the once lively and appreciated activities of this popular place.

A noteworthy castle, antique and proud, and able to stand up with success to the appetites of late medieval invaders who appreciated its strategic position in the fertile plains of Emilia. A strong castle, especially the famous and invincible tower, crowned by parapets of merlons; Galeazza, named after its heroic constructor, Galeazzo Pepoli. Now the tower has been beheaded and has crumbled to half its original height.

Incredible how a place, after centuries, managed to find (in less than ten years) a new reason for living, and then, in just a few seconds, it became a ruined memory: a hard, cruel mockery of the castle and its new garden, made of lightness, irony, and refined taste. Reborn almost by accident around a circular pool of water that became the fulcrum of that new world, lively and innovative.

The Garden of Galeazza was welcoming, linear, embracing; born with a simple design, repeated over and over again, little waves of vegetation. Clark has been through and continues to live through very difficult times, made up of privation and of disadvantages, but with courage and serenity he is trying to understand what future might be possible for him and most importantly his garden.

Difficult, and often without answers, is the confrontation with reality of the towns and areas damaged; with their victims, the large and small industries destroyed, the emptied barns, the famous monuments crumbling and falling. How should one behave, and what should one do in the face of a tragic end to such an historic monument and its garden? Isn’t this pile of bricks in Crevalcore, in the end, just another useless castle and its garden only a garden: a group of green areas in which only plants grow?


With a 10 euro contribution, people may become members of the association and help

Clark Lawrence face the costs of moving to a new location.

In ruins: The photos above illustrate the disasterous effects of the earthquake on the castle and its garden, located in Galeazza, Crevalcore, in the province of Bologna.

Mien Ruys’s Garden 

What looks like wood is actually recycled plastic, but it looks and feels good, and lasts longer.

And inside Mien’s garden…

We find her “hard design, loose planting” and use of “new” materials. The fountain shaped as a stone ball is actually cement on chicken wire. 

The wilder the area, the more I liked it. Some less-interesting borders looked like something I’ve seen before - in England.

It was raining for part of the day, but it was gorgeous just the same.

Dutch is impossible and funny. Sometimes it sounds something like what an English speaker who knows a dribble of German might imagine, and other times, well, it doesn’t. This is the entry to a garden designed by what some consider “The Mother of Modernism” in the gardening world - the Dutch Garden Goddess, Mien Ruys. And how do we pronounce her name? It sounds a bit like a gutteral “Mean Grouse” minus the G. And by some accounts she was a mean, difficult woman, so her first name will be easy for you to remember.

The LOW Po River, and a very GREEN! Netherlands. It has only been a short time, but I already miss the cool green country I just visited. Here near the Po it is still hot as hell and dry. Corte Eremo is no exception. 

Adiantum capillus-veneris, (Southern maidenhair fern, Black maidenhair fern, Venus hair fern) growing in a shady corner of Piet Oudolf’s Garden, Hummelo, Netherlands

Piet Oudolf’s Garden, Hummelo, Netherlands

Actaea pachypoda; Doll’s Eyes, White Baneberry

Piet Oudolf’s Garden, Hummelo, Netherlands

Piet Oudolf’s Garden, Hummelo, Netherlands

Meeting Piet Oudolf yesterday at his home in Hummelo was one of the highlights of my Dutch Garden holiday. Thanks to Stephanie, who manages to wiggle us into amazing places on the days they are closed to the public!

A Japanese Morning Glory from the Galeazza Garden blooms while spending some time at Laura Bonsi’s house. Many Galeazza plants have been moved there, and are doing very well!

Firemen help Clark move more plants from the Galeazza Garden - and we begin removing aquatics; heavy!