There is always the garden …

People are already talking about autumn, but here in the South we’ve got a good six or eight weeks left to enjoy what’s growing in the yard. And I imagine in Morocco one needn’t worry about it at all.

That’s where Marella Agnelli—widow of former Fiat magnate Gianni Agnelli—now resides. And where she gardens.

An old family friend, Sandro d’Urso, used to say to me, “Why make one’s dreams come true when the best part of any project is just dreaming about it?” He was right, of course, when it comes to making a house or writing a book. But with gardens it is different. And, like all living things, they grow and change. That is a fascinating process to experience.

Putting my energies into making homes and gardens—imagining how they would turn out and finding ways to improve them—has been a central part of my life. Of all the gardens I have created, I would say that Ain Kassimou is the one that comes closest to my idea of happiness. Sometimes, as I wander here alone or in someone’s company, my imagination flies back to the garden of my childhood, in Florence. I used to sneak out of my bed at night and wander down to the end of the garden. Just for the thrill of it. In the darkness I could hear all the invisible presences. That’s when I first became aware that gardens breathe and are alive, just as we are. One is never really “done” with a garden, just as one is never “done” with life. Day by day and step by step, one just keeps on finding new and clever ways to make them flourish, both in sunshine and in storm.*

I love the image of a garden in darkness, living and breathing! Agnelli has lived a glamorous life and yet … it’s in a garden where she finds joy in her late years.

Agnelli collaborated with garden designer Madison Cox to create that Moroccan garden. He is profiled in this Wall Street Journal piece (in which you can see some photos of Agnelli’s garden—look for the slide show). “Good gardens demand a lot of research and patience,” Cox says. “Along the way there will be amendments, detours and, sometimes, reversals. There’s no such thing as a beautiful ‘instant’ garden. The most important [thing] is to slow down, watch and wait.”

It’s true. Be patient. You’ll be rewarded. 🙂

Some old faithful rudbeckias in my late summer garden.

Some old faithful rudbeckias in my late summer garden.

* This excerpt is from a Vanity Fair article, “Becoming an Agnelli,” which was adapted from Marella Agnelli: The Last Swan, by Marella Agnelli and Marella Caracciolo Chia, to be published in October by Rizzoli; © 2014 by the authors.


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