We were bidden to a garden. We left Turin at eight and headed towards the Alps and the pointed peaks gleaming white. The garden was in a country estate of the family of the Duke of Savoy (connected with industry) who had lived in and around Turin for centuries. We passed through a neatly laid out village with an Alpine feeling and headed up a narrow lane and then through a gate passing orchards and well-tended fields stopping at a back entrance used by the staff where they had their housing and barns.
We entered onto a landscape of gravel paths well-kept lawns and trees that made for a park-like landscape with mountain forest for backdrop. The park was the lower part of a mountain that rose gently behind the house. Led by the assistant to the head gardener, we followed the paths across the park to where the gardens were laid out in a series of terraces, each with its own flavor. Roses, mostly red, were favored as the highlight to the green backdrop.
Boxwood and holly hedges, stone walls and gravel paths were the signature materials of Russell Page, the garden designer who laid out this garden in the early 1950’s. A round pool with a bubbling fountain in the middle was the highlight of a lawn. Our path wound round the house and then followed a stream that formed a series of pools in the shade of giant trees: beech, a cedar of Lebanon, a redwood, pines and chestnut. The garden remained the same as it was planned. Our assigned guide told us no changes have been made in the plant material. When plants die, they are replaced.
It was a slice of time that has been carefully preserved. It takes a staff of eight. We saw two workers carefully gathering leaves; one had swept the paths clean. The edges were trimmed by hand, so were the hedges. We were treated to coffee by the poolside and served cookies of such delicacy that Proust would have found it hard to do them justice in words.
We remained awed at the state of perfection that has been maintained through the decades. We were overpowered by the deep silence of the shade tempered by the gentle splash of the waterworks, by the carpet of green lawns. As we left, we felt uplifted. A garden is the creation of man working with nature to create a harmony. It was well-achieved here.