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A Garden in Venice

Garden art & lifestyle


Tales of Venetian wisteria, growing profusely in a jewel of a palace garden accessible for all of us .. Did you know that though Venetians travelers (merchants) were great collectors of plants, who knows, they might have brought home wisteria plants as well.
Last week I took some time off to discover what wisteria looks like in Venice in the first days of May, and this is what I discovered ..
As I somewhat missed taking pictures of wisteria blossoms in Venice earlier this year, my grandmother recommended that I go and take a look at the gardens of Hotel Gabrielli Sandwirth, a four-star hotel bordering on a canal and at the end of the promenade called Riva degli Schiavoni. So I discovered a jewel of a garden hidden in a courtyard bordering upon Rio Ca' di Dio, and that they have a very special pergola, here are some pictures for you to enjoy !!! Imagine a humid but calm early afternoon, so warm and softly humid as only Venetian afternoons can be, with clouds hanging deep ... plus a garden filled with the song of blackbirds and the soft cooing of doves. 
The skies ware laden and just the faintest sun ray coming through, with thunderstorms all around the corner. My walk of discovery started precisely with a surprise when a profusion of pink blossoms of azalea shrubs in ornamental terracotta pots greet you at the entrance hall of the hotel. These make for a fine flowery background against the marble floor, the walls painted in rosso veneziano colors, and glass doors leading into a terraced courtyard, as you can see below. 
From here, it was just another narrow corridor leading to a door from which at first sight, you wouldn't have imagined the second inner courtyard, used as garden..
Look at the pergola in the far end of the garden, next to the canal Rio di Ca' Dio ..
Standing next to the entrance and after checking out its layout, I noticed the colorful collection of roses blossoming, and also some roses whose yellow buds were fringed with pink and reddish hues .. To the left of the door leading into the garden, you can see a Venetian stone fountain (vera da pozzo) and tiny terraces laid out with stones, as well as a terraced pathway tracing the rectangular garden.
Pastel pink roses and a few rain drops on the leaves, testimonies to the warm humid weather ..
The rose gardens, lined with flower boxes
Palm trees mark the edges of a grassy area, interspersed with rose bushes and a main pathway separating ivory-clad niches overgrown with shrubs like laurel bushes and pittosporum. This is the more informal part of the garden, where shrubs are surrounded by young palm trees, as they are usually present in spring in Venetian gardens, and pots nursing young plants. Stones and stone-laid terraces are also a defining element of this garden. The inner part of the garden is also covered by a pergola made of American vines.
In Venice, grassy plots are usually fringed with evergreen plants: ivories or low-cut box trees
Lush young sprouts of wine overgrowing the pergola
And in the far end, running all along one side of the garden, is a pergola, and you need to get very near to it, or rather, beneath it to fully appreciate what you are in for .. There are also several stone water basins (vasche per ninfea) in the garden, full of water lilies, whose leaves look like a bud may be coming forward any moment ..
Structuring elements housing palm trees of all kinds and sizes
Finally I walked towards the other end of the garden, past the water basins, immerged in the lush green and faint rose scents, to take a look out upon the canal. First I looked down, searching the basin overgrown with water lily for buds, then I looked up towards the thick green roof of wisteria leaves. I had faintly noticed them in the humid haze, but then wisteria had already blossomed earlier in April this year, so at first I didn't take note.

So it came as a real surprise when I finally looked up at this green roof of wisteria and found the ... white cascades falling down on my head ... a pergola of white wisteria had been found !!!
Glicine bianco - white wisteria blossoms, full of warm and humid spring air
The cascades of white wistera were so beautiful, though not really fragrant. To the left, you can see a rather high palm tree which starts blossoming !!
White wisteria coming down directly upon one's head
Wisteria plants (il glicine in Italian) came to Europe in the first part of the 17th century, so there is a chance it was present in Venetian gardens before the end of the Serenissima Repubblica in 1797. In Venice, the glicine comune - Chinese variant of wisteria (wisteria sinensis) is most common, its blossoms come first in April, even before the leaves, and its sweet perfume penetrates into the town's corti and sotoporteghi. 
Looking closer, you can see a purple wisteria - with very tightly set blossoms so it could be the American variant - so it is actually a mixed pergola - with plants making white and purple blossoms !!!
There is, however, a second variant available, which is hardier than the first one, also with purple blossoms, wisteria japonis. The white blossoms variety in Venice is wisteria brachybotrys. Its blossoms come a bit later in the season, so they are still around in shaded places. I am still doing reseach on how wisteria came to Venice in the first place ..
This is what the wisteria sinensis plants looked like in Venice last week: They come always first, and this year, first blossoms came in the last days of March !!
The last variety is the American wisteria, and it may be that this is also part of the pergola at Hotel Gabrielli's garden. American wisteria blossoms in May and June, has shorter blossoms and is not perfumed at all. 
So if you would like to discover the more unusual "exotic" wisteria plants in Venice, it is worth paying that visit to the gardens of Hotel Gabrielli !! It's a garden full of roses, wisteria and palm trees of various kinds.
Purple roses mingle with white wisteria


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