Do you feel like taking an evening trip through time and space? Italy is the destination!


An Alpine Garden in Northern Italy.

Exceptional gardens like this are seemingly a dime a dozen in Italy!

Italy. The very word is powerful. Few places on earth inspire the imagination like Italy.
The SFA Gardens at Stephen F. Austin State University will host the next installment of the Theresa and Les Reeves Lecture Series at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 18.  And the subject- Italy!

Before we get to the details about the lecture let’s think about Italy for a moment or two.
That famed boot-shaped peninsula has inspired vacationers for millennia. Even the Italians vacation in Italy. The southerners head north to the famous northern Italian lakes in the summer, and the northerners head south in the winter.  Roman emperors loved the Lake District in the summer as much as Texans love Colorado in August. But the Italians never need to leave there beloved Italy.  (Wouldn’t it be fine if Colorado was part of Texas!)

Everything Italian just exudes sophistication. The Italians have been working on cultural refinement for centuries. They hardly need to try. I have a little Italian ABICI bike that is just a charmer with two wheels and peddles. Merely getting on that bike and heading up to Java Jacks for coffee on Saturday mornings makes me feel a little better about life. And speaking of espresso… Where would we be without the food and drink that has come out of Italy? Food historians suspect that the real basis for the famed French culinary artistry is in reality Italian cuisine!  Catherine de Medici, the little “duchessina”, brought Florentine cooking tradition to the French when she came across the Alps to join her new husband Henry the Second of France.

Then there is literature and music world. The Italians fall behind no one in these areas as well. I know this sound strange; but if I’m feeling a bit melancholy, I will often resort to Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem for a little emotional pick-me-up. Of course, one could go on and on. If Nicolò Paganini does not stir your blood, then something is seriously wrong – Go to the doctor get a checkup! And their literature…but let’s get to gardening.

When it comes to gardening, things Italian are fundamental to western garden tradition. I shall never forget the first Italian garden I walked into. I have never been the same since entering that garden on Isola Madre. I’ve been in Italian gardens elaborate and simple, public and private, naturalistic and formal, and each one had a certain inscrutable panache, an earthy connectedness to nature. The Italians revel in what grows in the earth! If I’ve learned anything from Italian gardening it is joy. I can’t help but smile at every remembrance of the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio’s garden at Gardone Riviera. The garden is full of such humor and fun; one has to see it to believe it. The Italian navy’s light cruiser Puglia is set right into the hillside overlooking Lake Garda. Talking about an extravagant garden folly – it takes the first prize!

Do you feel like taking a trip through time and space? Join us in the Agriculture Building (1924 Wilson Drive), room 110, this coming Thursday evening as Dr. Leonardi Lombardini, a Texas A&M University horticulturist, presents “Italian Gardens through Time: from Rome to the Renaissance and Beyond.”

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