Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Gardens of Augustus in Capri, Italy

One of the fortunate changes in the itinerary of my recent trip to Italy occurred when high tides prevented an excursion to the Blue Grotto at the Isle of Capri.  Our tour guide substituted the Gardens of  Augustus (originally called Krupp Gardens), the only gardens we visited during the eight-day trip.

Established in the late nineteenth century by the German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp (1854-1902), the gardens consist of terraces which overlook the Tyrrhenian Sea and display much of the flora of Capri.  Although discussions of the gardens mention the prevalence of geraniums, dahlias, and broom, these specimens were not on display when I visited in mid-October. 
A short walk from Piazza Umberto 1 takes the visitor by olive orchards, grape arbors, and various evergreens in the adjacent gardens of the 14th century Carthusian Monastary, before one reaches the lower terrace of the Gardens of Augustus.  The colorful plaza here features walkways bordered with either bright-colored Begonia or brilliant Coleus intermingled with Chlorophytum comosum, also called spider plants or airplane plants.  I have seen similar color schemes created locally with Liriope muscari 'Variegata" (variegated liriope) in place of the spider plants.  There were no gardeners at work on the Saturday of my visit, but it was clear that someone had spent time trimming off the spiderettes and any brown foliage. Focal points were created by statues of satyrs and nymphs..  

                                                      Lining the back wall of the terrace are Brugmansia, with pendulous yellow or white blooms. I was unfamiliar with Brugmansia and had to seek help in identifying it and various other of the plants I photographed.  The blooms resemble those of the common trumpet vine, and its common name is angel's trumpets because of the shape.  The blooms can be pink, orange, green or even red!  I did not get close enough to verify that these blossoms gave off their reputed strong, pleasing fragrance.  Brugmansia blossoms attract pollinating moths in the evening, but the plants are tropical and not likely to flourish in our zone. 

At the western end of this lower terrace are spectacular views of what is considered Capri's most iconic sight: the Faraglioni, looming rock formations, which extend from the coast out into the Mediterranean. The one in the photo framed by various foliage is the middle of the three (or four) and named di Mezzo; it is 109 meters in height. Although there was mist over the water, one can see the faint outlines of its stone archway.  

Stairs lead to the upper terrace and many more views of the Faraglioni framed by

other plants, for example, the Opuntia cactus, commonly called a prickly pear. This plant is native to the Americas and thrives in arid or beach environments, but it is not uncommon in our parts.  The Pinus mugo (creeping pine or mountain pine) is native to higher elevations in Europe.

On the upper terrace the visitor is surrounded on three sides by the sea, with a spectacular view of the Marina Piccola (we arrived from Sorrento at the Porte Marina Grande) and the via Krupp, a zig-zag path connecting the heights with the beaches.  Everywhere--on the terrace, covering the cliffsides, and off in the distance are a variety of beautiful plants. 

One of my favorites is the Aloe arborescens  pointed out to me by a fellow Master Gardener from my North Carolina years. This particular succulent is described as multi-headed and sprawling.  I  have seen pictures of the cylindrical, vibrant red/orange flowers, but even without blooms, it was wonderfully exotic and apparently well suited to its rocky cliffside home.

Other plants thrive in the Mediterranean environment of the Gardens of Augustus--Arecaceae (palm trees), Rosemarinus officinalis (rosemary), Calluna vulgaris (common heather), EuonymusHibiscusIndigofera (indigo), Bougainvillea, and more.   

Enjoying the fashion streets and beautiful cathedral of Milan, the canals of Venice,  the shops and art of Florence, the Vatican museums and Colosseum and Trevi Fountain of Rome, and the ruins of Pompei, I could not have foreseen what a wonderful conclusion to my Italian trip was awaiting me on the island of Capri.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated and will appear as soon as they are approved.