Autumn / Daily Life / Garden

Autumn Gardening

10.10.15

You will be focusing finding your way amongst the crowds when you come to Venice in August. Looking somewhere for refreshing shade and quiet. But even in the center of town, along those beaten paths, there are secret oases of verde rigoglioso, lush green private gardens. Not just the semi-private corti courtyards you cross or look into. I mean the little gardens off-limits, hiding behind the walls. Almost one-third of Venice consists of these little secluded and private gardens.

Venetian buildings, the so-called l’edilizia della Venezia minore are rather structured, consisting of several levels on and above the ground. There are, for example, a first-floor terrace, in-between loggias and top-floor altane (roof terraces). All are natural extensions of the inner courtyards often used as gardens. Paved and terraced, covered with mossy lawns. Hiding behind red brick stone walls and facades painted in Venetian Red, the rosso venexian hues.

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In this post, I would like to show you my grandparents’ garden in the midst of Venice, which is spreading on several levels as I mentioned above. On ground level, there’s a rectangular garden plot. Towering above the buildings surrounding it, you can see the facade of a cloister. Part of this garden belonged another convent, suppressed in the 19th century.

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Spring and harvest time, from end-August what we call the fifth season, through mid-November, is the most “active” time we spend here. I mean there’s much work to do while in summer the terrace is used to relax and find shade, peace and quiet from the crowds passing by beyond the walls.

DSCN3158It’s this place I grew up with and that I miss most when I’m not there. A place tended by Grandfather where he taught me about his kitchen garden and other evergreen bushes, fruit trees and flowering plants.

About the problem zones of Venice – salt water filtering through in case of acqua alta. Where the grass is covered by a sticking salty, thin white film. He planted purple azaleas and light pink hydrangea, and they are still there. He loved to experiment, he was a superb gardener. That was very contagious, for ever since, buying anything offered on plant seeds racks in town has been my hobby. The vegetables grown from these seeds usually took well so we enjoyed the finest and softest insalate da taglio and rucola in the terracotta pots. Even melons grow well. Up to now, though, I ‘ve been unsuccessful in growing hibiscus and banana trees from seeds.

Late April and September have always been my favorite seasons to spend time on the terrace.. There are fruit trees (pomegranates, figs, pears) growing in the soil and in terracotta pots. There’s something to harvest all year long. A short time ago, it was time to harvest fragolino grapes, the juicy black-blue grapes growing exclusively in the Lagoon and on its northern fringes.

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Currently, we can enjoy all colors in the garden. Now in early autumn, we harvest raspberries (which go into a basil-cream-flavored pancake for breakfast). There’s a kitchen garden corner below the terrace, and another angolo reserved for them, in the sun. There’s a Passiflora growing in another sunny spot. Sometimes, there are as many as 30 blossoms on the Passiflora bush.

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Those herbs and plants loving shade grow downstairs on a little raised flower bed. The mints, for example. Our water mints go into a syrup or we make pomegranate-mint tea from them. Autumn is also a second prime time for our roses. We use them to make rose-marzipan muffins as you can see in the picture below. Also, the lavender bushes are regaling us fresh blossoms. These go into our lavender syrup and are dried to make tea from.

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In the winter, we mix lavender blossoms with lemon juice and local honey from eucalyptus and pine trees. It helps prevent or cure colds and also influenza.

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There’s always something to taste, cook with and marvel at during the year. Figs and grapes and raspberries. Kitchen laurel, parsley, mints, rosemary, basil and curry herb. Lavender and roses, wisteria and kumquat, tangerine and lemon trees on the terrace. Plus, a nice collection of oleander with white, red and purple blossoms. It’s a garden that Grandfather had been tending since 1968, which is now regaling us lots of colorful blossoms and fruit-bearing trees.

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Author: Iris

Iris Loredana: Culinary historian, food and lifestyle blogger. Author of the Blogs "La Venessiana" (Venice) and "From My Italian Home" (coming soon). My family is from Venice and Amalfi and I'm currently based in Venice and Vienna. I love traveling, cooking and gardening - all the things I'm writing about in my blogs !!

24 comments on “Autumn Gardening”

  1. Iris,
    The thing that impressed me about Venice on my first visit the end of October 2008 was the greenery in every available space, pots on balconies, trees peeking above the walled gardens. I literally felt like I’d been dropped in a fairy land. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love your blog.
    Ciao, ciao,
    Michelle

    1. Dear Michelle, I love these green features too!! There’s so much to discover behind closed walls. So inspiring for my Venice project. It’s also quality in life – in a city without cars and in the midst of all those green plots and plants. Ciao, Iris

    1. Dear Rob, thank you so much!! I love the little green spots in Venice, too. There are many different garden climates in Venice. This makes for quite a variety of plant treasures to discover. From kitchen gardens to ancient botanical gardens.

      1. In the meantime, you can also visit Venice virtually. I’m preparing a program on my Website where you can do that :-) and prepare for your next visit to Venice.

  2. I love visiting gardens and seeing the flowers bloom in the warmer months. Venice is beautiful in the Spring but we will be visiting at the end of November and I am wondering what sort of delights can we expect to find.

    1. With so many evergreen plants – laurels, magnolias, etc you will find, on a sunny November day, that the gardens are fully alive like it was early spring. You still find geranium, roses, white and yellow chrysanthenum, purple cyclamen. The first yellow and red leaves of American vines and the gingko tree.. I will be organizing a garden brunch on 24 November, where we will learn more about Venetian Levantine gardens. Would love to meet you if you have time. Program will be online from 20 October.

      1. I’m so glad to hear that and I hope that we will experience a sunny day or two. The garden brunch sounds lovely thank you, sadly we are leaving Venice on the 23rd but I will continue to read your blog to see what is happening in one of my favourite Italian cities.

      2. I was so delighted in my winter travels to Venice to see there was still so much greenery and I loved all the cyclamen on the window ledges….even at Christmas. So there should be lots of beautiful flowers for you to see.
        Have a wonderful time. Wish I was going too.

      3. Yes, it’s still green in November, only in mid-December will all leaves of deciduous trees turn golden yellow and fall off.

      4. Thank you!! I wish you a lovely trip to Venice, and I’d say there will be fine weather. It’s still mild in November, even though you might experience a few bouts of acqua alta.

      5. You’re welcome and thank you for your wishes, I am very excited to be returning to Venice. I’m curious to see an acqua alta but won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen :-)

      6. Will publish a blog post tomorrow on La Venessiana, where I describe what acqua alta is like in fall. Your Venice trip will be a wonderful experience, acqua alta usually lasts for a couple of hours. What’s also wonderful is that you’ll witness the Festa della Salute, the best-loved feast of Venetians!!

      7. It’s one of the favorite weeks of the year to be in Venice. I will also publish an itinerary for this day, as it”s so special to relive this ancient feast. Btw, have already published the acqua alta post :-)

      8. I will be looking out for the itinerary. I read the acqua alta post and looked up what phase the moon will be during our trip and it will be a quarter moon so maybe no acqua alta? :-)

      9. During the first days after new moon, the probability that you will encounter acqua alta is rather high.. that’s the rule, but it depends on other factors too, like bora winds, low pressure weather .. you might witness acqua alta, after all :-)

  3. What a wonderful garden! You are very lucky to have lived in Venice your whole life, to have such an amazing bakcground and family! Living in venice has always been my dream since I was a kid!

    1. Thank you so much!! It’s a home and garden I miss whenever I’m away from home. My grandmother had been telling me for more than 10 years, why don’t you write about it, we want to tell our visitors what Venice is really like beyond guidebooks.Blogging and ebooks is a solution to describe how we’re really living here in Venice. It’s paradise in spring, but can be challenging in autumn when acqua alta filters into the lower part of the garden. Will get back to gardening soon, what it looks like in winter.

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