A bit about the gardener
I must start with the confession that I am not a professional gardener and I have not had any botanical training: I am in fact a chartered civil engineer. During the course of twenty years I have learned by observing my garden and my – often mistaken – efforts to make it flourish here in Umbria.
My ideas for how to cope with a dry garden have evolved slowly. In the beginning I tried irrigating plants but many just curled up and died: fungal infection seemed to kill off as many as did drought.
Behind the house was a heap of rubble left from when the previous owners did building work in the 1960s. It was impossible to get a fork into the jumble of old concrete, bricks and steel. One day when I was at the local vivaio looking for more plants to commit to certain death, I spotted a collection of small plants in tiny square pots growing from cuttings. These were of plants that grow well in our area – cistus, teucrium, phlomis … I bought dozens and returning home squeezed them into the crevices in the rubble. By the following year they had mostly flourished. Result!
I decided then to build a natural pond rather than a conventional swimming pool. That was just the beginning: the grounds surrounding the pond were a sea of mud. Sticking to the principles of a garden that is in harmony with the landscape and requires no irrigation, I put in more than a thousand plants in the first winter - and lost only ten.
I believe that what has resulted is a garden that is self-sustaining and ecological and which provides interest and sanctuary in every month of the year, despite the challenging conditions. I do hope that you agree.
As an introduction to my approach to the garden in Umbria here is a talk I gave in Castiglione del Lago a couple of years ago.
I have occasionally opened the garden to groups of visitors, but this article will explain why I don’t do this routinely.
The photo at the top of this page shows a group of visitors to the garden in 2017
Many of these articles first appeared in the Castiglione del Lago monthly newsletter “Qua e là” edited by Priscilla Worsley
All text and photographs © Yvonne Barton unless stated otherwise