Florence, Italy


Pergola covered in wisteria and ivy in a garden of Villa Palmieri, Florence, ca. 1915, from the Arthur Peck Collection, via Oregon State University (OSU) Special Collections & Archives Commons on flickr.

The 14th century Villa Palmieri is credited with being the story-telling setting for Boccaccio’s Decameron.

To see this garden, its handsome ordering, the plants, and the fountain with rivulets issuing from it, was so pleasing to each lady and the three young men that all began to affirm that, if Paradise could be made on earth, they couldn’t conceive a form other than that of this garden that might be given it.

However, the garden was completely restructured in 1697 and then partially redesigned several times thereafter, according to current fashions, through to the 1920s.

Since 1986, the villa has been owned by the Italian government and houses part of the European University Institute.

Arthur Peck was a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the Oregon Agricultural College from 1908 to 1948. During his long career, he created a teaching library of 24 boxes of glass lantern slides — now in OSU’s archives.

The Sunday porch: Wellington

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: Wellington, now River Farm, about 1931, Alexandria, VA, via Library of Congress.“Wellington,” near Alexandria, Virginia, 1931, hand-colored glass lantern slide by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The white columned, ground-level porch wrapped around two and a half sides of one wing of the house.  I like the black and white wicker rockers and those terracotta jars.

Today, the house (built in 1757) and its surrounding 25 acres are the headquarters of the American Horticultural Society (AHS) and are called River Farm.

George Washington originally gave the property that name after he purchased it in 1760.  It was then 1,800 acres in size and became one of his five farms around Mount Vernon.

During the 1800s, the property, re-named Wellington, passed through several owners’ hands, becoming progressively smaller in size.  It was only 280 acres in 1919, when it was purchased by local businessman Malcolm Matheson, who restored the house and gardens.

In 1971, when Matheson wanted to retire to Florida, the house and (then) 27 acres were bought by the AHS.  The funds for the purchase had been donated by board member Enid A. Haupt — partly to help the AHS, but also to keep the last of George Washington’s old farm out of the hands of the Soviet Embassy, which had wanted to buy it as a summer dacha for its employees.

Today, River Farm is open to the public  weekdays, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. From April through September, it is also open on Saturdays, from 9 am to 1 pm. Admission is free.

And, of course, it can be rented for weddings and events.

A gardyn saw I, ful of blosmy bowes
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
There as swetnesse everemore inow is,
With floures whyte, blewe, yelwe, and rede

— Geoffrey Chaucer, from “The Parlement of Foulys