Hi. My name is Clark. I'm American by birth but have been living in Europe for about 15 years, 12 of these in Italy, and the last 7 in the medieval castle of Galeazza, near Bologna. I'm the only person living year-round in the castle, but lots of people come to visit. It's a kind of bed and breakfast for bibliophiles and lovers of art and nature. At any rate, I would like to communicate with people who know about and have a passion for Japanese gardens, because I've got a huge project to work on, and I need all the help and advice I can get.
The Castle is surrounded by about ten acres of gardens and woodland. The whole place was left abandoned for about twenty years (1983 to 2003). I'm dedicating most of my time to re-creating and maintaining the gardens, but nothing is left of the renaissance garden, very little is left of the 19th century "English" garden, and so I'm starting from a clean slate - or rather from a ivy and weed-choked jungle which I have begun to clear away, starting with the central courtyard and working my way around the property.
I don't want to plop a Japanese Garden in the middle of the Po Valley, but I would love to incorporate some of the design principles, plants and ideas which I have seen in Japan into the castle garden - merging East and West in some ways, or at least bowing reverently toward Japan. This will take time. I have the time and patience, but not the expertise, so I'm hoping some of you might be interested in visiting the property and helping plan how the garden will develop. I'm not intending on planting boulders or dumping tons of gravel in the main courtyard, but through working with what I already found upon my arrival (a circular fountain in the middle of the front courtyard, closed on three sides and open to the south) I might be able to do a softer, grassy version of the circles of gravel I saw in the enclosed tsuboniwa of Ryogen-in, Kyoto. This will not shock the spirit of the place which for about 200 years had a circular drive around the courtyard.
Some purists might say incorporating Eastern ideas and aesthetics into a garden in Italy sounds stupid or impossible, but when I saw a diagram of an "ideal architectural setting" in Gunter Nitschke's Japanese Gardens, (armchair cradles a ming-tang) I knew I could do it.
Let me know if you'e interested in collaborating in some way.
for photos: www.galeazza.com
Welcome Clark, You probably are one of our most unique members and likewise a unique landscape. Probably pruning will be the most important parts of your transformation. Go through our old posts, several come to mind that may lead you in the right direction.
How lucky you are, Clark. My wife's family (distant) still occupy Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye and it is something. Yours looks just as intriguing. Have you met any spirits?
Sounds like you have the right idea; pursuing a love while not attempting to put the round peg in a square hole. Your garden may end up being a woodland garden with a Japanese air. Welcome to the forum. I am with with June in looking forward to the transition.
Welcome. I just spent some time looking through your site that you linked with your post. What a wonderful place and site! Besides Japan, Italy is known to have some of the finest gardens in the world, so you have an interesting project ahead of you. Italy has always been my second favorite place I would like to visit and study. Italy has turned out many fine arts that include: cuisine, religion, art, music, literature, fine clothing (the best a man can buy-Kiton, etc.).
How did you wind up living in a castle?
When can I start? :D
I was wondering how Clark and the castle did with the earthquake, I hope he posts to let us know
Bad news, Japanese Gardening friends! The Earthquakes in May 2012 have destroyed my home, the Castle of Galeazza, and much of the gardens I had been working on for nine years. I have moved to a new location, and taken what I could from the garden, including many Japanese ferns and plants. It has been a hellish time, but the worst is behind me now, and it's time to start over in a new place, very close to one of Italy's most beautiful Renaissance towns, Mantua.
I now live in Corte Eremo, and would be happy to show any of you around if you're ever in Italy!
PS My old gardening blog ends with a newspaper article about moving out of the castle and trying to save what I could from the garden: www.galeazzagarden.tumblr.com
and my new blog tells about how I would like to incorporate the 1000 plants I've moved into an unusual shade garden made in a partially ruined cow barn. www.hortushorrei.tumblr.com
Clark, i have no words. I am sorry for your terrible loss.