Phil and I recently followed in Lawrence Johnston’s footsteps to spend a week on the French and Italian Riviera, visiting several gardens in the region, including Johnston’s own La Serre de la Madone. The beautiful Boccanegra was our base camp – here garden owner and manager Ursula Salghetti Driolo put us up for the week, feeding us exquisite home cooked Italian food in exchange for mornings spent working in the garden. Created by the famous plantswoman Ellen Wilmott (she of ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ fame) in the early 20th century, Boccanegra is a wild, rocky, terraced botanical garden laid out on a steep south facing slope overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Paths follow the natural contours and crevices of the rock and the garden is awash with the kind of botanical gems an English plantswoman could only dream of growing in England. As you will see from Phil’s blog, while the garden was very different from the gardens we’re used to seeing back in England, sadly the weather was not – the region was hit by rain so severe that walls in the garden and beyond began to crumble and fall. Fortunately Phil and I had both come prepared so on went the waterproof trousers and the Wellington boots and out into the garden we went to help Ursula with a little planting and clearing around the garden (I planted over 200 2 year old seed-raised Amaryllis in drifts beneath old olive trees) and, when the weather was truly unbearable, to give the greenhouse a good tidy. In our free time we tried to immerse ourselves in Italian culture, enjoying Ursula’s generous Tuscan-style cuisine, drinking deliciously strong Italian coffees and vino rosso, visiting an olive oil producers, attending dinner parties, and even accompanying Ursula to church in Ventimiglia on Sunday for a bit of spiritual enlightenment.

image image image image image  image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image IMG_3026 IMG_3021 IMG_3004 ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? ??????????????????????????????? DSC01122 DSC01116 DSC01101 DSC01086 DSC01075 DSC01039 DSC01021 DSC01017 DSC01015 DSC01013 DSC01005 DSC01000 DSC00995 DSC00984 DSC00980 DSC00975 DSC00973 DSC00950 DSC00942 DSC00934 DSC00933 DSC00923















  1. Mori

    What quite an experience you have had!
    I envy you. You must enjoy eating my favorite olieves.
    It makes my mouth watering,too. I am looking forward to seeing you and Phil soon inJapan

  2. rhiannonharris2014

    We’re looking forward to seeing you in Japan too Mori. The olives were delicious – we got to eat lots of citrus fruit too and Italian sweet chestnuts too.

  3. Douglas Needham

    What a unique experience at Boccanegra! I suspect Ursula was thankful for your help in the garden and greenhouse, especially considering the heavy rain.

    • rhiannonharris2014

      It was indeed a very rewarding experience. Ursula was very grateful for the help in the garden – aside from herself she has only one gardener to tend what is a vast garden! The rain was so heavy and unexpected there that Ursula wore a pair of wellington boots she’d purchased over 20 years ago and until now had no cause to wear!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: