One of the unsung aspects of gardens is their super-ability to have one foot in timelessness and the other in the current moment.
In a French garden, for instance, or an English garden, it’s possible to have a building of, lets say five hundred years old alongside trees of one or two hundred years, alongside a flowering shrub of ten years old, alongside a poppy flower that burst from its bud this morning, and will be smashed apart by a sun-shower by three this afternoon: the ‘eternal’ and the ephemeral, and everything in between. It’s how, even in an old garden, every passing moment beckons to be noticed, and to be appreciated.
For the most part, the passing moment in gardens – the call to seize the day – is flower-generated. Shorter time-scales are marked by the swaying of plants in wind, and of birds in arrival and departure, but the poignancy of the passing is largely provided by flowers.
In Italian gardens, which are mostly flowerless (at least at this time in history – some suggest they were not always so), and in which I’m currently steeped, it seems to me that
the ‘moment’ – the conviction that this very second is unique – is provided by the movement of water. Not much else changes from week to week, season to season, or even year to year, but it doesn’t need to.
Against a background of inanimate and living stability is an eye-grabbing flash and sparkle – the revelation and instant disappearance of jewels that add passing value to every passing moment.
This is never more evident than at Villa Lante (where all these pics were taken), which for all its genius of conception is as flat as a tack without the animation of water. The stone sits dry and dead. This year, with plenty of rainfall to keep the natural water source flowing, it was virtually dancing.