Have you always been a garden enthusiast?
My love of gardens started in 1991, when I was living in Washington, D.C., where my husband was posted with the Department of Foreign Affairs. We got to see great gardens, including Longwood and display gardens in front of Rockefeller Center in New York, as well as some small domestic ones in Virginia. My love of gardens has been fed by visiting open gardens in Canberra and Sydney, exploring privately owned gardens when open to the public, National Trust gardens, the RHS garden at Wisley, and reading books, news articles on gardens and gardening, as well as watching TV shows on gardens around the world.
When did you first become interested in the Gardens of Ninfa?
The BBC program on Italian gardens by Monty Don was the first and only time I heard of Ninfa. His presentation there was enough to pique my husband’s interest in particular. He likes trout fishing and I suspect the river through the garden was part of his desire to visit the garden.
What’s most enchanting about the gardens?
I have visited Italian gardens in Lakes Maggiore and Como districts, parks in Rome, and some on the Amalfi coast but Ninfa has a special magic. The allure is created by the ease it appears to have in its plantings. Most people regard tradescantia as a weed but in a dark corner of Ninfa the vines are allowed to weave around the buttresses of roots. Roses similarly climb up trunks or fall into graceful arches. There were no clipped box avenues, instead there were some sweeps of lavender. Bushes grow into natural shapes and are not pruned neatly.
How did the book come about?
Usually I take a lot of photos and have problems choosing which ones to incorporate in a book. I wondered if I should show the contrast of the same views on the first cloudy day with the second sunny day, or if I should separate the two days we visited. In the end I mixed both, selecting the photos I liked the most. It took me about a week to make the book. I had a small souvenir book I bought there, and the notes I kept in my diary (I wrote at the end of each day).
Are there any other gardens you’d love to do something similar about?
I love English gardens, from the grand famous ones such as Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, and Wisley to the small ones surrounding friends’ homes in Surrey. The English seem to be born with green thumbs and can grow an incredible range of perfectly bred plants with masses of flowers. There are always surprises with their landscaping, innovations, and creativity. Singapore has done amazing landscaping around the city as well with clipped bougainvillea and their parks are quite special. Spanish gardens vary from humble courtyards where geraniums tumble from painted tins to those referencing the rigid lines of the Mughals such as the Alhambra.