GARDENS

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Sweet clementines




VILLA CASTELLA, FLORENCE


Reviewed by JOHN WOOLLARD


There is an excellent little book called Success With Citrus Fruit written by Sigrid Hansen-Catania, published by Merehurst, London (ISBN 1-85391-669-2), which is very useful for anyone trying to grow citrus in temperate climes subject to frosts.

Particularly useful are the summaries of the popular types of citrus plants, their history of cultivation, their appearance (with photographs), their uses for culinary and other purposes like soft drinks, how to care for them in temperate climes and how to design their use for ornamental purposes.

The book gives a lot of emphasis to the use of these plants ornamentally and draws attention to the garden of the Villa Castella as the home of one of the most impressive collections of ornamental citrus in the world.

This is part of what she says about the Villa Castella garden:

"This garden is a living testament to the Renaissance art of gardening. Visiting the garden is like stepping back in time. With its 500 specimens, it must represent one of the largest collections of cultivated citrus plants in pots. Amongst them are some particularly rare varieties, such as bitter orange with bizarre yellow-orange patterned fruit that was cultivated for the first time in Florence in 1640. Villa Castella is also home to one of the oldest terracotta vases dating from 1790 and with the original plant still growing in it....

During the Second World War the limonia at Villa Castello was used as a hospital and many of the plants were left to overwinter outside died during this period. Some of the trees were saved through renewed grafting. Today's visitors to the Villa Castello can still see the effects of those traumatic years in the citrus plants' carefully bandaged scars".

The author goes on to describe the Orangery at Versailles and mentions other orangeries as well as the Boboli gardens of the Pitti Palace, also in Florence.