My recent summer travels took me to Portugal with a group of fellow Institute of Classical Art and Architecture members.* I was prepared to see plenty of sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth century houses and public buildings, but I was surprised by the immense and intact formal gardens I found. All the gardens were stuffed with English Boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) parterres and box balls with the occasional rambling rose. When the question was posed about the name of the rose, the answer was invariably “the Portuguese rose.” No more was known or told.
The Atlanta Botanical Garden does a very good job with their Korean Boxwoods (Buxus microphylla koreana) in the garden around the Chihuly Glass filled fountain. Mary Wayne Dixon, here in Atlanta, keeps up a delightful small knot parterre composed of English box and variegated American Boxwoods. Though, nothing in my town can compare to the tightly sheared and intricate ground patterns of the formal gardens of Solar de Mateus Vila Real pictured above or to Quinta de Bacalhoa Estate. The Palacio dos Marquesas has parterres so tight one can hardly pass through, although most of these gardens were not meant to be in physically, but to be viewed from the terrace or interior rooms. Often the patterns of the parterres were taken from the embroideries on the fabrics and upholstery.
A jolt of modern life came to me when I was strolling the garden at Paco de Calheiros (above). There, the parterres had become affected by Boxwood Blight two years ago. The blight, which is actually two separate fungus organisms that attack the leaves in a one-two punch, defoliates the plant stems leaving ghost-like forms of boxwoods. The Count of Calheiros tells me he is rescuing his plants with applications of the same fungicides he uses in the vineyards with equal success.
All of the gardens visited were attached to a vineyard of rigorously trained grape vines and wine production and storage buildings. Those were reminders that production and pleasure are equally important to the life in the garden.
* My trip was beautifully organized by Pamela Huntington Darling of Exclusive Cultural Travel Programs ([email protected]).
Marcia Weber, June 14, 2014