The little garden you can see on this page was part of a convent garden in Venice since the 5th century AD. Fruit trees, a fig tree, olives and vines, climbers and citrus trees were growing here in the past, and they still do, thanks to Grandmother Lina's patient care. Since 1968, when the family bought the former guesthouse of the monastery San Zaccaria, five minutes from Piazza San Marco, she has been creating and re-creating a garden in ancient Venetian-style. Today, this is a fragrant paradise stretching across several levels, terracse, balconies, a kitchen garden, tiny orchard and pergola. It's become a jungle, where local plants mingle with exotic ones. Yet, there's a focus on edible species, which grow practically everywhere. Ivy, aralia, palm trees, yucca, purple wisteria and ferns, fragrant jasmine, aralia and pittosporum grow next to roses, lilies and a pergola covered partly with uva fragolagrapes and wisteria.
On the terrace, the family grows the kitchen herbs: Parsley, laurel, mints, sage, and fragrant geranium (we use it to make syrup and flavor pancakes, or simply, make a lemonade from it). Erba cristallina, anise mint and rosemary grow amongst raspberries, red currants, tomatoes and strawberries. There are kiwi and kaki, a small fig and a young pomegranate tree, two species which love te climate of the Lagoon.
The first-floor terrace was connected to the kitchen on the ground floor via a black wrought-iron staircase that we call chiocciola in Italian. Now, it's been replaced by white marble steps. This is a giardino movimentato, stretching across several levels, so a greater variety of plants flourish in different "climate zones":
A large portion of the courtyard garden consists of a lawn, and during high tides sea water comes in, leaving a salty cover. The garden is lined on the one side with pittosporum , a salt-resistant plant smelling just heavenly from May to early July. There’s also a small giardino ombroso where fruit trees and berries grow on slightly raised and insulated beds, to protect them from salt water. In a sunny corner, a vegetable bed lined with rosemary was arranged, interspersed with spike lavender and a sea of Roman chamomile. Zucchini, egg plants, frigitelli and tomatoes flourish next to soft salads, called insalate da taglio, and of course, there's arugula.
There’s also a small nursery to experiment with plants and seeds. Growing eucalyptus and hibiscus from seed, for example, something I've been unsuccessful so far :-(
To be continued.