Inspiration #1 for my blogs and my deep interest in garden food, self sufficiency and urban gardening, has always been this garden … Come with me on a garden tour!!
When I was a child, in the 1980s, and until the late 1990s, Grandfather took care of this garden. It was him – and my father – who taught me about gardening, caring for plants. Local fruit trees and ancient vines of the Lagoon. How to grow rare climbing plants and citrus trees.
While my grandmother loved cooking and baking, not just at home, but also at her own restaurants in Venice. She always used Lagoon herbs in maintaining and experimenting with old family recipes. Four principles were the basics of her cooking, four basic herbs and spices, when she was 20 years old. But then, she started experimenting, and to me, she makes the best food I’ve ever tasted.
When I think of a garden, or what the word paradise means to me, this garden comes to my mind at once. I regret we didn’t take more pictures of this garden in the 1990s. So I only have those notes which I keep in a drawer of my desk.
In little terracotta pots along the railing, there were lush parsley, sage, erba cristallina – what a nice name – and rosemary bushes growing. Lots of ivy which made for partly overgrown facades and little coves where birds could nest.
Next to the herbs there was a tall yucca, a towering aralia plant, little palm trees and soft green ferns. A second pergola overgrown with uva fragola grapes. Purple wisteria, of course, and pink roses, growing next to white and pink blossoming oleander. Gelsomino fragrante – fragment jasmine and the ever-present pittosporum. Blue lilies and a red maple tree, just like today, and a cedar tree. Laurel bushes, strawberries and red currants. A pomegranate and a fig tree. Fragrant geranium (which we still use for syrup).
It was – and still is – such a quiet garden. When you live in Venice, you can hear the sounds of footsteps or porters transporting the baggage of visitors at all times of the day. It seems, though, that our jungle somehow muffles every noise, except the chirping of the birds. We get blackbirds, pigeons and sparrows, mostly. Once we even had a woodpecker live in the garden that took a morning bath in one of the small water basins! What I probably love most is the
Kitchen garden, and a tiny orchard adorned with seasonal flowers.
I remember how in May 1992, I took notes of the plants growing there. It was a particularly fine morning, with birds chirping and Grandfather at work, planting new herbs.
Planting pink carnations in his terracotta pots perched on the railing of the terrace overlooking the garden.
Today, there are still lush kitchen herbs growing. From menta to basil, parsley. A flimsy parsley variety I took home from Positano grows well here – so here we are, we are experimenting again, as Venice has always done. We’ve also got a few herbs from the Dolomites here, like Waldmeister and chives, that are doing surprisingly well in a shady corner.
The kitchen garden housed on the first-floor terrace is artistically connected to the kitchen on the ground floor via a black wrought-iron chiocciola (winding) staircase. Very practical, the aromatic herbs are just a few steps away. To reach the garden, one needs to cross the dining room, where a door and little windows lead out. This is a protected space, where pot plants such as purple cyclamen bring color into foggy winter days, against the silhouette of the towering church beyond the red Venetian facades.
For at least 15 years, I’ve consciously working with my grandmother on the recipes we make with herbs and blossoms we harvest in the garden. This is why I focus on these topics, described in detail in my ebooks. The books always refer to this garden, and the recipes are made with produce from there (and the markets, of course).
Each book will contain a reference to the following topics:
My grandmother’s garden kitchen, ancient recipes with herbs and blossoms we’re tasting. The Fragrant Garden Pharmacy – home-made syrups and teas. The history of our garden, which you can recognize even on the first veduta – map of Venice, by Jacopo de Barbari, showing the profile of Venice in 1500.