San Giuliano Garden: a garden in continual movement…
The San Giuliano Garden, winner of the Great Italian Gardens’ “Gran Premio Giardini” prize in 2013, boasts plants specimens from all over the world. Visiting the San Giuliano garden is always a new experience.
(newsletter Marchesi di San Giuliano, February 2, Nr. 1/2016) Starting in the 1970s, the Marquis Giuseppe di San Giuliano began to create a garden surrounding the farmhouse that today extends to approximately 4 hectares. Initially palms were planted between the Chapel and the terrace, namely Chamaerops spp., Phoenix Canariensis, the former now partially lost due to the Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, Phytolacca dioica, Erytrina crista-galli, Bismarckia nobilis, and Washingtonia filifera can be found, together with some other plants such as the Cedar of Lebanon, brought to San Giuliano from Villa Leucatia, an old family property north of Catania, while still young. Several plantings followed, some attempts were successful some other not, leading to this very interesting, somehow austere, part of the garden. The Macrozamia moorei was planted in the 1990s and even more recent is the so-called “blue belt”, the part of the garden opposite the terrace where grey-green plants are predominant, such as the wonderful specimens of Yucca rostrata, Trithrinax campestris, etc.
Over the years, the garden has been enriched with rare and noteworthy specimens of various plants coming from the most different places around the world, such as the Encephalartos spp., whose number of species are growing year by year (today Encephalartos horridus, ferox, villosus, lehmannii, altensteinii, chimanimaniensis, etc. can be admired).
In the 1990s, a “hidden or wallet” garden was added to the existing gorgeous garden surrounding the farmhouse, it is the so-called “giardinetto” (little garden), obtained by transforming the former home orchard and vegetable garden. For this project, the Marquis di San Giuliano required the collaboration of Oliva di Collobiano, and her collaboration was crucial. They designed a space enclosed by dry-stone walls overlooking the citrus groves. Keeping the original system of “saie” (Arabian irrigation channels) that brought water from the watering place through to the “giardinetto”, they built ponds interconnected to each other through a new network of saie, in order to create a discreet water circulation to mitigate summer heat.
A fountain of water-lilies, from which two cross shaped paths originate, is the heart of the new garden, divided into different spaces. Particularly in the tropical space, a very luxuriant vegetation can be found, with specimens such as Archontophoenix spp, Musa spp, Datura spp, Rhapis spp, etc.; in the “mediterranean garden”, next to the old “garden of grapefruits and lemons” a new garden of red grapefruits has been added; finally, in the “scented garden”, overlooking the citrus groves, with Etna in the background, a wide variety of aromatic plants with various species of sage, thyme, artemisia, tulbaghia (wild garlic), etc. A pergola with different varieties of table grapes, under which citrus grow, provides shade to the main path of the “giardinetto” in a reassuring manner during summer heat, that in Sicily can be very intense and protracted.
In the early 2000s, another important change; the Marquis “perceived” the garden, by the time wonderful and fixed in its architecture, as too austere and his desire was to enrich it with a touch of kindness and colour, that only a woman could give. So, the English head gardener, Rachel Lamb, arrived after she had worked in Mediterranean and Middle East; Rachel gave a hint of graceful elegance to the garden introducing new plants that flower starting from march (anemones, daffodils, nasturtiums, etc.). In the “giardinetto” she created a dash of colour with its ancient roses (blooming in May) and made the paths elegant with blue and white Agapanthus and other flowers. She remodelled some existing corners and created new ones, such as the tropical garden near the square pond of the “giardinetto”, where she used a wide selection of essences, “new” for us.
The last important work was the remodelling of the “succulents hill”, enriched with plants ranging from Ferocactus spp. to Trichocereus spp., from Echinocactus spp. to Pachypodium spp., etc.
The San Giuliano Garden proves the highly dynamic nature of a garden, growing with us, without established patterns, becoming beautiful over time, through endless attempts and trials, by virtue of the passion and care of many people and of the infinite patience of the owner, who has learned to wait for nature’s own timing.