In 2004 we bought our home in Umbria, Italy, and it came with a lovely garden.
In 2004 we bought our home in Umbria, Italy, and it came with, what our our neighbors teasingly referred to as a “giungla”, and a jungle it was.
Neglected for years, the garden’s olive and fruit trees were choked by bushes that had grown into trees. Two sets of steps ran down either side of the lot – one extremely steep (flanked by sticky, prickly pine hedges), the other slippery and cracked. Both led to dank undergrowth thick with ivy that snaked its way through 2 and 3 layers of wire fencing along the property line (3 layers!), slowly crushing everything in its path, including wild roses and long-forgotten rosemary bushes.
It was overwhelming. But we started – where everyone starts – at the beginning. We chopped and pulled and cut and dug. In those first couple of years our trips to Italy were just 2-3 week vacations, and our little time here was consumed with back-breaking yard work.
But then we started to see light at the end of the tunnel – well, over our heads, actually.
The sun was now making its way down to the olive and fruit trees and, with some help from local operai, we cut down and removed the dense cedar hedge that was blocking the breeze. The dying apple and pear trees were replaced with olives, and we pruned up the cherry, fig and walnut trees. Lou hung a swing for me in the biggest of the cherry trees (which still I love) and we began to, finally, plant vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Of course, anyone who has a garden knows that the work never really ends – and that’s the point, really, isn’t it? But our giardino today doesn’t resemble that old jungle, and a few years ago we stopped pulling and cutting things out (except for the weeds, of course) and started planting things instead.
For those of us who love gardens and gardening, planting things feels downright joyful – especially in springtime. The work never ends, naturally, but turning once brutto spaces into pretty, inviting areas sure is worth it.