Kristian BuziolVilla Freya revealed: the lost garden of Britain’s great adventuress

[Scorri in basso per leggere l’articolo in Italiano – scroll down to read in Italian]

After changing hands numerous times, Freya Stark’s home in Asolo is now the property of the Carron family. They supervised its renovation, and brought the villa and its park back to life.

Villa Freya view. Photo Alberto Parolin Photography.

Villa Freya view. Photo Alberto Parolin Photography.


British explorer and writer Freya Stark (Paris 1893 – Asolo 1993) was the last of a long line of British travel writers which included Rudyard Kipling and D.H. Lawrence. Her adventurous journeys to the Middle East and the many books she published, filled with impassioned descriptions about her travels, have made her a legend of our time.

Stark’s parents moved to Asolo with her when she was a child. She knew the most prominent members of the English society of her time: from Winston Churchill, the Queen Mother, Field Marshals Bernard Montgomery, Edmund Allenby and Horatio Kitchener to the legendary Lawrence of Arabia and she carried out important missions for the country’s Foreign Office.

She served as a nurse in the British Red Cross ambulance unit in the Karst region during World War I. Her travels to the East began in 1927 and she went on to organize expeditions to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran and Arabia until 1937. During World War II she was sent to Yemen and Egypt. She travelled throughout the world in the years following the war. Stark went on her final expedition to Nepal at the age of 88 before retiring definitively to Asolo where she was given Honorary Citizenship and the Keys to the City.

Freya Stark died in May 1993, a few months after her hundredth birthday. She is buried in the cemetery of Sant’ Anna alongside photographer and painter Herbert Young Hammerton, only a few steps from Eleonora Duse’s grave.

Villa Freya plant lined pathway. Photo Alberto Parolin Photography.

Villa Freya pathway lined with perennials and trees. Photo Alberto Parolin Photography.

 

The current owners contacted me, requesting that I restore the park which had been abandoned for decades.

What I saw on that first day as I passed through the entrance gate felt like a punch in the stomach. Like when the wind gets knocked out of you and you can’t breathe for the pain. But as soon the air hit my lungs, I recovered the energy I needed to overcome just about anything. I saw brambles, thorns and old roses buried beneath weeds. Trees that had been standing for centuries were now weighed down and dangerous. There were crumbling walls, heaps of debris and years of neglect.

The kind of desolation that inspires you to take action because there was already a great park in front of me waiting to be revealed. All it needed was for somebody to give it a chance to breathe.

Villa Freya flower borders after restoration.

Villa Freya flower borders after restoration.

We removed brambles, weeds, dried leaves from the ancient holly oak trees and all remnants of those species that had been planted at random by people who had shown no regard for this place or for its history. We pruned all trees and shrubs and re-potted every species we could: rose by rose, bush by bush. We finally catalogued everything and let the plants rest for the winter.

Research done by historians helped us to recover old notes which provided information about all the types of plants that had grown in the park originally, as well as those collected by Freya Stark over the years during her travels.

Flower meadow at Villa Freya. Photo Matteo Indri.

A flower meadow was planted during restoration of the Villa Freya garden. Photo Matteo Indri.

We began planting the following spring, respecting the shapes, spaces and the structure of the park. All of this took two years of hard work, observing nature’s timetable and conforming to the cycles of a park that needed its own schedule to get up to speed. I decided to plant a meadow of flowers in the orchard area that could be visible from the road leading into town – a cloud of natural colour. A gift to passers-by and the town’s many tourists.

Villa Freya garden beds with flowers and aromatic herbs including roses and lavender

Villa Freya garden beds with flowers and aromatic herbs including roses and lavender

The vegetables that once grew in the vegetable garden were replaced with perennials and aromatic herbs. The wisteria and pomegranate tree standing behind the greenhouse are intact. The walkway leading from the villa to the back gate now has two espaliers of roses and a row of irises.

Wisteria at Villa Freya.

Wisteria at Villa Freya.

In May, this pathway leads its visitors to a place that stretches beyond any imaginable state of wellbeing. By walking along this path we can believe in fairy tales once again.

Buxus sempervirens, Camellia japonica ‘Alba Simplex’, Helleborus niger, Hosta sieboldiana and Vinca major have all found their place under the trees.

The flowerbeds are home to over fifty different species of plants including Aquilegia vulgaris ’Alba’, Allium tuberosum, Campanula persicifolia ‘Alba’, Paeonia officinalis ‘Alba Plena’, Rosa ‘Gloire Lyonnaise’, Vitis vinifera, Acantus mollis, Clematis montana ‘Alba and many more.

Pathway and steps before restoration

Pathway and steps before restoration

Pathway and steps after restoration

Pathway and steps after restoration. Photo Matteo Indri.

The archaeological area displays Roman ruins. The pathway leading to the Roman amphitheatre was carefully renovated and there is a bucolic meadow, allowing guests to observe the ruins in a most carefree manner.

There are climbing roses wrapped around statues and trees. Although they are now dead, their disposal would have changed the shape of the original park.

Well-kept, peaceful rows of hornbeam trees have created a shaded walkway that allows visitors to reach the amphitheatre while enjoying the cool shade.

Hornbeams line a path at Villa Freya

Hornbeams line a path at Villa Freya. Photo Matteo Indri.

Light, silence, the music of the great Holly Oak, a desire to walk through the park barefoot and the sensation of being out of time and a long way from any other place in this world make this park a true gift for those who come to experience it.

As someone who has ‘lived’ this park day after day, someone who witnessed the return of the roses’ blossoming and the persimmon tree bearing its many fruits, I firmly believe that certain places have a strength all their own and that the only means we have at our disposal to respect our journey on this earth is to entrust these parks to future generations.

Everything we need to be citizens of the world is written in them.

 

Villa Freya is at Asolo in the Treviso region of Italy. It is open to the public on the first three Saturdays of each month, but closed for the months of August and December, and in the event of bad weather. It’s probably best to check first when it’s open if you’re planning to visit.

 

Italiano

“L’esploratrice e scrittrice inglese Freya Stark (Parigi 1893 – Asolo 1993), ultima erede di una stirpe di grandi viaggiatori inglesi da Kipling a Lawrens, è stata una figura leggendaria del nostro secolo per i suoi viaggi avventurosi nel Medio Oriente di cui ha lasciato appassionanti descrizioni nei suoi numerosi libri.
Fu portata ad Asolo, bambina, dai suoi genitori.

Legata alle personalità più in vista del suo tempo, da Churcill alla Regina Madre, dai Marescialli Montgomery, Allemby, Kitchener ed altri, al mitico Lawrence d’Arabia, svolse importanti missioni per il Foreign Office.

Crocerossina sul Carso durante la prima guerra mondiale, la Stark si recò in Oriente nel 1927, organizzando fino al 1937 spedizioni in Libano, Siria, Iraq, Persia ed Arabia. Allo scoppio del nuovo conflitto mondiale fu impegnata nello Yemen e in Egitto.Il dopoguerra la vide viaggiare in tutto il mondo; prima di ritirarsi definitivamente ad Asolo, fu capace di compiere un’ultima spedizione in Nepal all’età di 88 anni. La Città di Asolo le ha donato la cittadinanza onoraria e le chiavi della Città.

Morta nel maggio del 1993, pochi giorni dopo aver compiuto 100 anni, riposa nel cimitero di S. Anna, a pochi passi dalla tomba della Duse, assieme a Herbert Young Hammerton, fotografo e pittore.”

 

Villa Freya at Asolo. Photo Matteo Indri.

Villa Freya, Asolo. Photo Matteo Indri.

Dopo numerosi passaggi di proprietà, la dimora asolana di Freya Stark , oggi è di proprietà della Famiglia Carron, che ne ha curato il restauro e l’ha riportata in vita.

Fui contattato dall’attuale proprietà per restaurare il giardino, incolto da decenni.

Lo scenario che mi si presentò il primo giorno, varcato il cancello d’entrata, fu come di un pugno allo stomaco. Quando ti manca il fiato per il dolore, ma appena il respiro torna a riempire i polmoni, ti pervade l’energia di chi trova la forza per superare qualsiasi cosa. Rovi, vecchie rose sepolte da malerbe, alberi secolari appesantiti e pericolosi, muri pericolanti, cumuli di detriti e incuria.

Una desolazione edificante. Perché dentro a tutto questo esisteva già un grande giardino. Bastava solo farlo respirare.

Villa Freya path with iris.

Villa Freya, Asolo – Iris.

Tolti tutti i rovi, tolte tutte le malerbe, tolte tutte le essenze piantumate a caso negli ultimi decenni da persone non rispettose del luogo e della storia in esso racchiusa, tolto tutto il secco dai lecci secolari, potate tutte le alberature, abbiamo rinvasato ogni essenza esistente. Rosa per rosa, cespuglio per cespuglio. Catalogati e messi a riposo per l’inverno.

Grazie ad uno studio di alcuni storici, abbiamo recuperato dai vari scritti del tempo, tutte le varietà presenti in origine ed accumulate negli anni da Freya Stark nei suoi viaggi.

E la primavera successiva abbiamo cominciato le piantumazioni, rispettando le forme, gli spazi, le geometrie. Tutto questo in due anni di lavoro. Rispettando i tempi della natura e assecondando   i cicli di un giardino che non poteva rincorrere improvvisamente i tempi moderni. Nella zona del frutteto ho voluto un prato fiorito, visibile dalla strada di accesso alla città, per regalare ai passanti e numerosi turisti, una nuvola di colore naturale.

Roses in bloom at Villa Freya after restoration.

Villa Freya, Asolo – Rosa.

Nella zona dell’orto, le verdure sono state sostituite da perenni e aromatiche , intatto il glicine ed il melograno a ridosso della serra. Il vialetto che dalla villa porta al cancello inferiore, è stata recuperata con due spalliere di rose e da un percorso fatto di iris.

A maggio questo percorso porta il visitatore oltre ogni immaginaria aspettativa di benessere. E’ percorrendo questo viale che si torna a credere alle favole.

Sotto gli alberi hanno trovato posto Buxus sempervirens , Camellia japonica ‘Alba Simplex’ , Helleborus niger , Hosta sieboldiana  e Vinca major.

Tutte le aiuole raccolgono oltre cinquanta varietà di essenze, fra queste: Acquilegia vulgaris ’Alba’ , Allium tuberosum , Campanula persicifolia ‘Alba’ ,Paeonia officinalis ‘Alba Plena’ , Rosa ‘Gloire Lyonnaise’ , Vitis vinifera , Acantus mollis ,Clematis montana ‘Alba’  e molte altre.

Villa Freya ruins before restoration

Villa Freya ruins before restoration

Villa Freya ruins after restoration. Photo Matteo Indri.

Villa Freya ruins after restoration. Photo Matteo Indri.

La zona archeologica, dove sono presenti dei resti romani, è stata rispettata totalmente e ad essa vi di accede grazie ad un vialetto che conduce all’anfiteatro romano, dove il prato rustico consente di essere spettatori liberi.

Qualche rosa rampicante avvolge le statue e gli alberi che, seppur morti, avrebbero con la loro dismissione, cambiato le forme del giardino originale. La carpinata, ordinata e composta, ha creato un viale ombreggiato che consente di raggiungere l’anfiteatro godendo sempre di ombra e frescura.

La luce, il silenzio, la musica del leccio grande, la voglia di percorrerlo a piedi nudi, la sensazione di essere lontani dal tempo e da ogni luogo, fanno di questo giardino un vero dono per chiunque lo viva.

Lo, che l’ho vissuto giorno per giorno, che ho visto ritornare le rose a sbocciare e il kako a dare numerosi frutti, penso sempre che certi luoghi abbiano una loro forza e che l’unico modo che abbiamo per rispettare il nostro percorso su questa terra, sia quello di tramandare alle generazioni future questi giardini.

In essi è scritto tutto quello che serve per essere cittadini del mondo.

 

 

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Kristian Buziol

About Kristian Buziol

Kristian Buziol is an Italian garden designer with a wide botanical knowledge gained through professional travels abroad, collaborations with landscapers of international fame and endless correspondences with Nature. Buziol’s gardens are an embrace of nature and culture, filled with perennial plants, because they always return. Gray textures play games with light; scents change with the seasons; and white blooms make the garden glow after dark. Buziol has a passion for sharing ideas with other professionals, working with designers and landscapers like Paolo Pejrone, Alex Shigo, Ippolito Pizzetti, and also with Luciano Giubbilei in the Martini Award for Landscape, organized by Great Italian Gardens, establishing a strong relationship that continues in new projects throughout Italy. He has also worked with Kent Gordon England in California. Kristian Buziol

8 thoughts on “Villa Freya revealed: the lost garden of Britain’s great adventuress

  1. Bellissimo lavoro Kristian, ad majora semper!
    Tra l’altro credo che abbiamo la conoscenza di Laura Rangoni in comune.
    Bravissimo!

  2. Kristian Buziol on said:

    Grazie Carlo ! Sono felicissimo del tuo commento, ho guardato i tuoi lavori. Quando sei in Italia dovremo organizzarci per fare due chiacchiere. Con Laura ci sono moltissimi interessi comuni. Dal Giardino al bel vivere. Grazie mille e buona estate. KB

  3. How exciting to restore a historical garden. It looks stunning, Kristian!

    • Kristian Buziol on said:

      Thank you very much for your comment
      It a pleasure that you like it.
      K

  4. Heather Miles on said:

    Beautiful story and such stunning restoration work. I particularly appreciate your comments about observing the rhythm of the landscape and seasons. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Kristian Buziol on said:

      Thank you Heather
      In our work is important to read, feel, understand the nature.
      I try to do this in every work.
      It a pleasure to share with Garden lovers
      KB

  5. Lovely work Kristian; you’ve led us on a mighty journey, and maybe one day we’ll get to visit the destination too.

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