Hortus Horrei

After the Earthquake 2012 232After the earthquakes of May 20th and 29th, 2012, the Castle of Galeazza was declared uninhabitable. I could no longer live there, and the seat of the assocaition would have to move with me. With the help of three friends (Ella from Australia, Takumi from Japan, and Shoshana from America) as well as locals from Finale Emilia and Crevalcore, I began moving my belongings to my neighbour’s storage space. Luciano Bonsi had hundreds of square meters empty and was kind enough to share them, so we filled the place – first with 200 contemporary artworks, and then thousands of books. We also moved bikes, beds, tables, chairs, and furniture that we could carry, leaving behind pianos and bigger pieces. We had no idea where we might go, but we knew we had to move. Then we began removing the plants from the garden – flowerpots first, followed by plants from the flowerbeds, shade garden, and pond. These were divided between Luciano’s place and Maria and Marco’s, neighbours in Renazzo, who offered me their wooden garden shed as a temporary home while they slept in their camper. Stacey, an American friend, arrived in July from Morocco, and together we transplanted more than 1,000 plants of over 100 species. We took whatever wasn’t crushed under the rubble, only avoiding plants directly under walls or ruins that looked like they could fall any minute. Digging them up was normally done with the supervision of firemen, because the castle and garden were all part of the “red zone” and we could no longer enter legally without them accompanying us. July and August might be the wrong time of year for such work (both for the plants and the humans who had to deal with 40° temperatures) but everything now in the barn was dug up and re-potted during the hottest days of the year, and the plants (and people) are still alive and well.

DSCN3983“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” Life gave us an earthquake and the Galeazza Garden was forced to move, but the Morelli Coghi family of Milan offered us “sugar” – their custodian’s house and abandoned cow barn, so our association now has a new home, and our Hortus Horrei (Garden of the Barn) can house many of the plants that were “gardenless” because of the earthquake. The barn’s roof collapsed a few years ago, and the entire structure is in need of restoration, so at the moment it is not open for visitors, but maybe by autumn of 2013 the work will be done and you’ll be able to come inside.

The plants in pots are just parked here temporarily to give you an idea of what it could look like with the troughs full of soil and plants growing out of them. The two central “naves” and cow-standing areas would be left as they are, but vines could cover the walls and ceiling and plants could one day cascade down from the troughs and windows. The low light is perfect for our shade-loving ferns from the Galeazza woodland.The south-facing wall gets the most sunlight and the troughs could be home to some grasses or light

Maeve's Last Day 012shade plants, but the inner walls are darker, and ideal for our Japanese plants, including several varieties of ferns, Japanese primroses, ophiopogon, Japanese anemones, Saxifraga stolonifera, Iris japonica, Japanese pachysandra, and, at least for 10 years or so, even our small trees like Cercidyphyllum japonicum and Japanese Umbrella pine.