Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lucca's Garden Show

the annual greening of the city of Lucca
camelias sitting on grass; a simple but effective display
Lucca is a city famed for its magnificent walls. At the end of March each year these walls become the venue for a delightful gardening and outdoor living market and display called Verdemura, Green Walls.
For the first time visitor to Lucca it is the venue which is most stunning. Lucca's walls were built from 1504 to 1648 and were never used as military fortifications although they were considered a deterrent to the ambitions of Florence and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. They stretch over 4 kilometres to enclose the entire historic centre. 

In the early 19th century the walkway at the top of the walls was transformed into a promenade, an early version of Manhattan's High Line park, by Maria Luisa of Spain. Avenues of four different types of trees were planted: I think I saw elms, have read about plane and chestnut, and believe there are also oaks. They are now magnificent tall trees.
Lucca is situated in a conca or large hollow, the piana di Lucca, surrounded by hills and mountains. To the north are the rugged Apuan Alps, to the northwest the Appenines (still snow-capped at present) and closer at hand the Pisan hills. Thus the promenade affords wonderful views in all directions. This boon is enhanced by the green belt which extends around the outside of the walls to create a broad buffer zone between the old town and the new. 
Looking inward, towards the town, from the pleasing 12-metre height of the walls, one looks down and across at attractive buildings, church towers, rooftops, courtyards and gardens. There is something about being above the crowd that is quite exhilarating. Or do I just prefer high places to plains? But perhaps the glorious, limpid post-rain skies had something to do with it.

The garden display extends between the baluardo San Martino bulwark and the piattaforma San Frediano platform on the city's northern side.

At a guess I would say most of the nurseries represented were Tuscan but quite a few were from northern Italy too.There were growers specializing in lupins, delphiniums, aquilegias, and iris amongst others, from Turin; Alpine flower enthusiasts from Cuneo, also in Piedmont; hellebore, anemone, hosta and rudbeckia cultivators from Brescia.
lovely colour scheme at this stall
Some displayed their wares with great aesthetic sense: the blue iris reticulata, grape hyacinths, violas, campanulas and iberis clumps were particularly eye-catching.
 terracotta garden ornaments - nicely crafted if a trifle twee

Local handicrafts pertaining to the garden were well-represented: we particularly admired terracotta and iron garden ornaments, chestnut wood baskets (see how they are made) and even brooms and brushes handmade from local sorghum and straw.

traditional Tuscan baskets made from strips of chestnut wood
Some of these reminded us of the Disney Sorcerer's Apprentice's broom; the craftsman was making them on the spot
The citrus displays were breathtaking, but then oranges, lemons, citrons, grapefruits, cumquats and clementines always make a splendid show from amongst their dark, shiny leaves.

At least three citrus nurseries were at the show.

Some nurseries had brought entire (small) magnolia soulangeana trees whose blooms waved like bunting in the breeze.

It being only the end of March a little imagination was required for certain plants such as hydrangeas (a specialist nursery was present but with few blooms and little foliage) whereas someone had done miracles with flowering roses.

pretty display of dianthus; pinks
dappled shade and grass make for a simple, attractive presentation
Some iris-breeders had even managed to time some blooms for the show but for display purposes only; they were not for sale.

A few vegetable producers displayed their wares and there were quite a few stalls advertising the virtues of local varieties of beans. I have never seen so many all in one place.

vegie-patch fresh
just six of maybe 100 bean varieties on display

There were a couple of water-garden specialists with large round basins full of waterlily pads which made you wonder how they managed to get all this up onto the wall. Presumably vehicles were permitted up there preceding the event.

One stall with pots of what looked like common weeds and herbs displayed a banner proclaiming that it belonged to the Accademia della Zuppa Lucchese di Magro or Academy of the Meatless Soup of Lucca (could also be translated as Abstinence Soup). After a check on internet I discover that this is a traditional local soup which used to be eaten on meatless Fridays when the week's bread was also used up, since Saturday was baking day. The principal ingredients of the soup are those of a minestrone with beans, plus a bunch of herbs including thyme, bay, marjoram, rosemary and dried fennel added at the end. Served on (dry) bread with EV olive oil.

Academy of the Abstinence Soup of Lucca
A few stylish expositions of garden furniture added to the atmosphere.
aged, rusty garden furniture looked rather appropriate in this setting

a corner for garden machine-lovers
Handy wheelbarrows were provided for carting around one's buys.

Verdemura takes place over a weekend at the end of March each year. Check with their site
There is plenty of parking in the area surrounding the city.
Entrance fee: 6 euros and 3 euros for children and seniors.
There are a few stalls with food but if you want to take a bite for lunch in town they give you a bracelet so that you can return at leisure.
Several conferences and presentations (such as 'Three New Camelia Varieties' and 'Beans for the 3rd Milleniium') were scheduled. There is a small playpark for children and an exhibition (this year entitled 'Jack and the Magic of Beans') specifically for children.
The brochure supplied with your ticket includes a list of all the nurseries and producers.

graffitto from near the walls: 'Take care of the earth, it's our only one!"

1 comment:

  1. Verdemura, what a delightful discovery on the walls of Lucca. A beautiful tribute to spring in Tuscany.


Comments are welcome but will be checked before publishing.