We visited Radicepura and discovered that taking care of a garden is an exercise in civic optimism

We went to Giarre, at the foot of Etna, for the fourth edition of RadicePura Garden Festival (open until 3 December 2023), the biennial of the Mediterranean landscape.

Cracks in the ground to observe the teeming liveliness of the subsoil, environments that stimulate privacy, inflorescences hidden from view by granite boulders.

We stroll through the gardens that have become permanent over time and in the new proposals for fresh planting.

Every step is an act of wonder, every square meter cultivated is a declaration of love for nature.

The story of Radicepura and the Faro family

The history of Radicepura is intertwined with that of the Familia Faro, of their marvelous nursery and of a vision towards the future guided by the desire to generate beauty and preserve the heritage of nature. A story that measures itself against climate change, with the fragility of biodiversity and promotes generative visions.

Making gardens is serious business, says Antonio Perazzi, artistic director

“Making a garden puts you in contact with a world that is made up of life, growth and the will to survive. - explains the artistic director and landscape architect Antonio Perazzi - Consequently, it is an exercise that calls for optimism, even when you get tired. At the same time making gardens is a very serious business: because it demonstrates the need to extend a sense of care and respect to the whole world. In a world that has become fragile we must combine ethics with aesthetics. With this new edition of the Mediterranean Garden Biennial, we want to draw attention to issues that are closest to our hearts: the culture of the garden, but also respect for the environment as an act of civil responsibility. ”

The carob tree, the symbolic plant of the 2023 edition of Radicepura

It is no coincidence that the symbolic plant of this edition is the carob tree, emblem of longevity and resistance to adverse conditions. And plants are the protagonists of this fourth edition.

It will seem trivial when dealing with gardens, yet it is a profound choice of field: starting from botanical varieties to design a garden means rooting poetics in the earth, declaring that ideas are born in contact with nurseries and getting your hands dirty.

The 8 gardens of Radicepura 2023

The 8 selected gardens - chosen out of 900 proposals from all over the world - recreate microworlds, allow you to immerse yourself in different stories, recreate in a small way all the richness of a fertile land between Etna and the sea. They are an invitation to embrace biodiversity with all the senses, they are corners of beauty and refreshment. But let's not take them as a selfie set, the Radicepura gardens want to remind us that we have a responsibility to create a synergistic relationship with nature.

We stroll through the gardens of Radicepura Garden Festival

Focus on the essentials

Let's start from the Wind and Water garden, attempts at resilience, created by master Paolo Pejrone. Go beyond the white lime walls, the garden welcomes you in its simplicity. Bignonias and passion flowers, jasmine and perfumed loncera frame a system that draws the strength from the wind to trigger a water purification process. From his garden Pejrone invites us to focus on the essential, on irreplaceable resources and on the need to protect the earth through virtuous systems of eco-sustainability.

Let yourself be captivated by the richness of the wild

The garden of Louis Richard and Etienne Lapleau plays with a single botanical family. Emblem of the Mediterranean, the Apiaceae give life to sculptural structures, in continuous transformation. From the dry to the rebellious seed that spreads out of the way, this garden also focuses attention on the importance of cultivating plants capable of adapting to periods of water scarcity and thus reducing our ecological footprint.

Lower your gaze

The idea comes from the botanist Noel Kingsbury who suggests lowering oneself to rabbit's eye view, that is from the visual perspective of a small animal, in order to understand the functioning of plant communities. The Di-Scendere garden designed by Marta Prosello, Andrea D'Ascola and Sofia Ronchini is a descent into the subsoil: a passage through a crevasse similar to a lava flow with windows to peek at the roots and enter in relation to plants in their entirety. An unveiling of what is hidden to awaken curiosity towards the infinite stories that the plant world can tell us.

A tribute to edible plants

We sit at the table of Mother Etna, with this environment Linda Grisoli and Gordon Goh celebrate man-landscape interaction. A tribute to the fertility of this piece of Sicily in which the relationship between the sea and the volcano generate an ecosystem rich in wild and cultivated plants, edible and medicinal plants.

Where habits meet

Shadow and Stone - conceived by Sara Stojaković and Ana Toth - celebrates the Mediterranean landscape and its history of travel and encounters: between peoples and plants. Walking along a dry stone wall, plants from the Croatian coast mix with perennial plants typical of the Sicilian flora. A play between sun and shade to make evident the adaptability of plants even in difficult climatic situations, to the point of surprising with explosions of colour.

Cultivate a sense of wonder

An enormous block of lava stone, split into four pieces, catches the eye. Color can be glimpsed between the cracks, as we get closer we are captured by a micro garden teeming with flowers and insects. Impassable with its bottlenecks between the stone yet exuberant. Where man does not enter, bees, wind and water intervene to shape this space eager to overcome the monolith that encloses it. Ufo, designed by Marialaura Calogero, Matteo Pennisi, Graziano Testa, poetically overturns perspective: the artifice is the frame of the garden, its interior is the realm of the wild.

Inviolable

A carpet of grasses and a closed circular shape that invites you to observe but does not grant access. The garden designed by Nicoletta Aveni invites aesthetic pleasure, binding the visitor to an observation experience and instead leaving the natural elements the possibility of shaping the forms of the garden. A bright pink circle stands out in the center, a symbol to affirm that the plant world does not belong to us.

A resting place

Shy Pavilion is Atelier NOT's invitation to create places also for retreat, rest, shyness. The project is based on Mimosa Pudica, a well-known plant that retracts its leaves once touched. Widely cited by Stefano Mancuso as a symbol of plant intelligence, here the Mimosa Pudica becomes an invitation to empathy and to indulge in a different time, away from social and productive commitments.

In the womb of Mother Nature

The Womb Garden - by Thomas Brown - symbolizes the protection and nourishment that Mother Nature bestows on human beings. The visitor follows a spiral that, from the austere and harsh exterior, leads to an oasis of dense vegetation that wants to embrace the different global landscapes, enhancing the beauty of diversity and the need to recognize the bond and the need for nature.

The walk also allows you to visit the homage to the Gardens of Kolymbethra and its ancient techniques of dry culture and water canalization, the permanent gardens created among others by James Basson, Michel Péna, Antonio Perazzi and Andy Sturgeon, the installations designed by François Abélanet and Kamelia Bin Zaal, the works of Emilio Isgrò, Alfio Bonanno, Federico Baronello up to Compito #1, the mosaic inaugurated last autumn on the citrus fruit terrace of Adrian Paci's artist residence.

However, do not leave these places feeling like spectators. Challenge yourself to bring the amazement, the scents and colors collected and the well-being stimulated by vegetable microcosms into your daily life.

Feel accomplices in a project that looks to the future with roots planted in the present. Because taking care of a garden is not just an aesthetic and formal act, it is a poetic form of stubborn resistance. It is a way of saying that our legacy is the fertile soil and biodiversity that we will leave to future generations.