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2016 Brochure on the way! - August 2015 eNewsletter

Tuesday 25th August 2015

Welcome to our August Newsletter Our 2016 brochure has just been “put to bed” and is with the printers as I type. You should receive your copy by early September and I hope you will find it full of exciting tours? Many of next year’s tours are already on our website and there you will find more detailed descriptions of each tour, including a day by day itinerary outline. We are about to upload to our website the remaining detailed itineraries for next year’s tour programme and these will be released onto the site over the next week or so. In the meantime, we do have a few places on some of the remaining tours between now and November of this year – I hope the brief details which follow might tempt you to travel with us over this Autumn? I will lead a group to Friuli-Venezia Giulia in a few weeks time Italy\'s Secret: Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Wednesday 30 September - Tuesday 6 October 2015 and I can warmly recommend this week-long visit. Your first question will undoubtedly be “where on earth is Friuli-Venezia Giulia?” Nestling underneath the Dolomite Alps and bordering both Austria and Slovenia, this largely rural area is a veritable cornucopia of artistic and natural treasures. Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Venetians and the inevitable Habsburgs have left fine buildings, many in superlative condition. Wonderful late Roman mosaics at Aquileia, marvellous frescoes by the Tiepolo family in Udine, faded Habsburg villas garlanding idyllic Trieste – all these and more await the connoisseur traveller. The area is renowned for its white wines, which together with the marvellous regional cuisine will amply complement the visual treats which await us. So, if you need cheering up after this most dismal of summers, this is the perfect visit! (Read more about this visit on our tour pages) The Medici family are synonymous with Florence and with the birth of renaissance art. We are indeed fortunate that Paula Nuttall, one of the acknowledged experts on Florence in the fifteenth century and the author of several acclaimed books and exhibition catalogues, has agreed to lead a Study Day on The Early Medici & Their Artists, Thursday 8 October 2015 looking at Florentine art and patronage via two morning lectures at The Linnaean Society, supported by a guided afternoon visit to the National Gallery’s early renaissance rooms. Read More Paula will also lead a five-day visit to Florence a few weeks later Patricians & Patronage: Florence & The Early Medici, Thursday 29 October - Monday 2 November 2015. Rising to power in the early 1400’s, thanks to the enormous wealth of their international banking network, the Medici were effectively the rulers of the Florentine republic. The list of the architects, sculptors and painters employed by the family is astounding. So too is the variety of buildings in and around Florence which either they directly funded, or contributed to in some fashion. These include Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy at San Lorenzo – a family mausoleum; Fra Angelico’s mystical frescoes at San Marco, the friary funded by Cosimo for the salvation of his soul; the Medici Palace, the first domestic building to revive classical forms with Benozzo Gozzoli’s jewel-like chapel of the Magi within; Donatello’s bronze statue of David, which once graced its courtyard; and Botticelli’s lyrical mythological paintings The Birth of Venus and Primavera. These are just a handful of the masterpieces that we shall encounter on this five-day visit, specifically designed to bring some of the best-loved works of the renaissance into sharp relief. (Read more about this visit on our study Day pages) Ravenna is surely one of the most exciting small towns in Italy? It has the largest concentration of mosaic art from the late antique world, a “must see” destination for anyone interested in the rise of Christianity and its visual expressions. We are very lucky that our visit Imperial Splendour: The Mosaics of Ravenna, Thursday 15 - Sunday 18 October 2015 will be led by Charles Freeman, one of the most authoritative experts on the subject. Charles’s recent books, A New History of Early Christianity and Holy Bones & Holy Dust, A History of Relics (both published by Yale University Press) contain a wealth of material which he will weave into the tour. Ravenna came to prominence in the first century AD when the emperor Augustus founded a port for the Adriatic fleet at Classis, a few miles to the south of the city. Then, in the late empire, the emperor Honorius withdrew here from Milan and this meant that Ravenna became a showcase of imperial building, just when a sophisticated Christian imagery was being expressed in the visual arts, but most particularly in mosaics. This short four-day visit is designed as an introduction to the world of the late Roman Empire, brought vividly to life through a series of guided walks around the splendours of ancient Ravenna, complemented by visits to nearby Pomposa and Faenza. (Read more about this visit on our tour pages) May I say a warm “Thank You” to all who were in touch re the transformation to our garden, following the loss of our apple tree. I am delighted to be able to report that we have rechristened the affected area “Lazarus’s Bed” given the number of plants, long thought dead, which have reappeared with the twin stimuli of light and moisture – so horticulture mirrors life after all! Finally, some of you may already know Coton Manor, one of one of the best gardens in our part of Northamptonshire? It is truly spectacular and well worth visiting throughout the year. The owners, Ian and Susie Pasley-Tyler, also run a series of Garden School Talks and I shall be giving a talk at Coton on Wednesday, 16 September. The subject will be “A Cavalcade of Colour” and will look at the plants I have incorporated into the various beds in the garden here at Aynho. Full details can be found on the Coton website (www.cotonmanor.co.uk) and I hope you can come along for what should be a stimulating morning, ending with a delicious lunch. Until September, when more anon… Tom

Horticultural News - July 2015 eNewsletter

Friday 17th July 2015

Regular clients who have received our Christmas Cards in recent years will have realised that they always feature a view of our garden here in Aynho. Some weeks ago, the whole nature of the garden changed when our only tree came to the end of its life. A venerable apple, it succumbed to a combination of age plus the intolerable burden of keeping aloft a particularly vigorous and handsome rose, Paul’s Himalayan Musk. Much of the tree collapsed under the weight of the rose and there was no option other than to take it out. The accompanying photos chart its recent history from full magnificence a few years ago to its sad end in May.(If you would like us to forward you a copy of this eNewsletter, with all the images, please let us know and we will happily do so!) However, “every cloud …” That part of the garden which sat under its shade has burst into life and we have a lot of plants which require dry shade now wondering what has happened to them. We have decided not to plant another tree. I have led quite a few tours in recent months with a strong horticultural theme and I also went on a particularly interesting research visit to Galicia in northern Spain to see the famous Camellias which grow so luxuriantly in that part of Europe. I mentioned in an earlier newsletter that we would offer a tour to visit Galicia next March and it precipitated a huge level of interest. We alerted via email all those who had expressed an interest in joining the tour and to our astonishment it sold out in less than a day! I am sorry if you were not quick enough to secure a place but we will certainly run it again in March 2017, the dates of which we should be able to confirm this Autumn. The 2016 tour itinerary is now on our website and it will give you details of the likely 2017 itinerary as gardens which specialise in Camellias are usually not subject to a quick “makeover”! Italy will feature strongly in next year’s programme and we have three tours which have a horticultural theme: Villas and Gardens around Florence, The Italian Lakes and Villas and Gardens around Rome. OTIUM! THE RENAISSANCE VILLAS & GARDENS OF FLORENCE, 19-23 April 2016 is a new tour for us. It will look at the manner in which the Medici family revived the ancient idea of escaping to the countryside to enjoy some rest and relaxation, what the Romans called otium. We shall visit a number of renaissance gardens around Florence associated with the family – Poggio a Caiano, Artimino, La Petraia and Castello. In the late nineteenth century a small group of cultured expatriates from Great Britain and the United States such as Bernard Berenson and Harold Acton bought and restored some of the villas in and around Fiesole such as La Pietra and these will be the other focus of our tour. Many of them employed the peerless Cecil Pinsent and we shall encounter his work at, for example Le Balze and Villa Capponi. No visit to these gardens could be considered “complete” without including Villa Gamberaia. Not only shall we visit this remarkable place but we shall also be entertained to lunch in the villa’s garden. It is sure to be a memorable week and I much look forward to leading it. Our most popular garden themed tour remains HORTICULTURAL HEAVEN: GARDEN & VILLAS OF THE ITALIAN LAKES, 30 April - 6 May 2016 and we shall offer it again next Spring. Lakes Como and Maggiore are garlanded with some of northern Italy’s most atmospheric villa gardens. Who could resist the combination of historic villas surrounded by wonderful gardens set against the backdrop of these famous lakes with the Alps close to hand? With three nights spent on each lake it means there is ample time to enjoy the gardens in an unhurried fashion, guided by Sylvia Richards who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the horticulture of Lombardy and Piedmont. The villas to be included encompass a wide range of dates and styles, formal and informal, none more so than the two Borromeo gardens on Lake Maggiore and their near neighbour, Villa Taranto at Pallanza. Our base on Lake Como will be the delightful Bellagio from where we visit Villa Melzi, Villa Carlotta and for some the most beautiful of all, Villa Balbianello – as close to paradise as one could wish. As always on these visits we shall be entertained privately to lunch by the owning families at some of the villas. We have organised many tours in past years to Lazio and after a few years break we return there next May when I will lead a new tour of this interesting area. POPES AND PRINCES AT REST: THE VILLAS & GARDENS OF LAZIO Popes & Princes at Rest, 11-16 May 2016, will take up the theme which our earlier tour of Florentine Gardens introduced. The countryside around Rome was full of villas in antiquity, particularly in the hills to the south at Tusculum, very close to Frascati where we shall be based for five nights. During renaissance times the revival of interest in the “villa lifestyle” pioneered around Florence by the Medici family came to Rome. Popes, Cardinals and Princely families vied with each other to create lavish retreats, not too far from Rome. We shall visit some ancient villas such as Hadrian’s Imperial complex near Tivoli and also all the most important from the renaissance later periods. These will include the famous fountains of Villa d’Este, the splendid Villa Farnese at Caprarola, Villa Aldobrandini at Frascati and Villa Lante at Bagnaia. A special treat will be Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer retreat on Lake Albano which has only just been made available for visits. Contemporary gardening is flourishing in this part of Italy and we shall visit five remarkable modern gardens, including the celebrated Ninfa. Arabella Lennox Boyd will need no introduction to gardeners and we shall visit her childhood home, still used by her and her family where we see the gardens she has recently created and where we shall also be entertained to lunch – one of several unusual private visits to be included in the itinerary. Moving closer to home I am delighted to announce that after many years of planning, next July we shall introduce a visit to Ireland devoted exclusively to gardens. FORTY SHADES OF GREEN: THE GARDENS OF IRELAND Forty, 24 - 29 July 2016, should be a memorable six days full of amazing gardens. Some of these reflect the philosophy of William Robinson (who was Irish!) as they work with nature – Mount Usher and Dargle Glen in Co Wicklow are two superb examples. Ireland’s most influential twentieth century garden is without doubt Mount Stewart in Co Down, where Edith, Marchioness of Londonderry created an extraordinary oasis, full of invention, indeed genius. We shall spend a day there with the present head gardener, Neil Porteous. Contemporary Irish gardening can be summed up in one name – Helen Dillon. No one else in Ireland gardens with such skill and style, two qualities not often united with total success. Helen has influenced many of the best younger generation now coming along, not least the brother and sister gardeners, Jimi and June Blake. We shall visit all three of these exciting and creative horticulturalists, BUT, lucky us because both Helen Dillon and Jimi Blake have agreed to join me in the course of this visit as we explore Ireland. Their participation will enhance our itinerary and their knowledge and insights are sure to make it a truly memorable few days. Finally, if you have wondered to whom we send Christmas Cards, we send cards to all those who have travelled with us on a tour in that year and also for the previous year. So, this December we shall send cards to all those who have travelled with us in 2015 and 2014. We do not normally send cards to those who have been on a Study Day, unless you have also been on a recent tour. I hope this clarifies a query we sometimes receive? Happy gardening and remember that a gardener who looks only at her or his garden is someone who has ceased to be curious! With every good wish, Tom

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