Robert Redford too, but Monty is rather special. Anyone who gets emotional about gardens is a man to love, in my opinion.
Tall call Mont. Raised eyebrow there. But as the show went on, I had to agree with him. It did indeed look fairly magical. Perhaps even more than Sissinghurst.
The Gardens of Ninfa are in fact a ruined medieval town, which once consisted of a castle, 7 churches, 14 towers, mills, 150 houses and 2000 villagers. Ruined by plague and malaria it was left abandoned for six centuries. Six centuries. Then, in 1905, it was saved by two dedicated gardeners: an Italian price and his sister-in-law Marguerite. Together, they cleared the undergrowth and set about creating an idyll in the Italian countryside.
You can still see the ruined remnants of the village – the "melancholy decay" as Monty calls it – but it's part of a wider, horticultural mise-on-scene of lovely rivers, dangling wisteria, spectacular roses and wandering paths. And views. Views that will make your heart stop. Views that will make you believe God really does exist, there among the climbing roses and the stone archways.
"I think that the secret of Ninfa, as with all truly great gardens, is that it enlarges us. You go to admire and enjoy, but you come out with a whole new set of parameters with which to measure life. It is, quite simply, completely life enhancing". Monty Don.
Now I haven't been to as many gardens as Monty, but here are my favourites, out of the few I have had the privilege of visiting.
1. Villandry, France. The most extraordinary garden I've ever seen. (I shall look forward to seeing whether Ninfa is as good.)
2. Prieuré d'Orsan, France. Another beautiful, beautiful garden. The garden architecture in this garden alone is worth the trek down to Berry.
3. Sissinghurst, Kent, England (above). The history of the Sackville-West and Nicholson families is as extraordinary as the garden.
2. Bunny Williams' Connecticut Garden. I flew across the world to see this garden. It was worth it. (See the post from earlier this year.)
3. Barnsley House. Rosemery Verey's former home and garden, which you can now stay in. The Potting Shed (a luxurious hideaway) is one of the prettiest places you will ever sleep in. It even has its own small garden, and is also attached to the famous potager so you can wander around that in your PJs at twilight after the crowds have left.
4. The gardens of Lake Como. I'll try and do a post on these in the next few weeks.
I'm considering organising a garden tour next year, perhaps in May? I thought it might be a lovely way for garden-loving bloggers to get together? Do email me if you're interested and I'll try and set something up. Several extraordinary Australian gardeners I know have expressed interest, so perhaps we could bundle a group of lively, fun-loving travellers together and use our collective contacts to see a few of England's most glorious gardens?