Now that the renovation of the home has been completed, it is time to turn our attention to the exterior of the house. At present it is a bit too austere for our tastes. The former owner purchased the house in 2002 as a ruin. There was no electricity until 2008 and he had to run the house on a combination of a generator and solar panels. Initially water was stored in a well that still exists in the front of the house and was pumped into the water system. The water pipes came a year later with the help of a neighbor who participated in the cost of construction. We take our hat off to him for his tenacity in preserving the home and all the hardships he must have endured during the process. We know all to0 well how difficult it is to maneuver within the Italian bureaucracy when making renovations and improvements.
My husband, ever the romantic, decided that it would be a wonderful gesture to plant cypress trees on the property for ourselves, our children and their children. A nod to the continuity of live, growth of our family and love for the Italian countryside.
Cypress trees are among the oldest trees in the world, dating back over 150 million years to the late Jurassic period. They include the tallest and largest trees in the world, the coast redwood and the giant sequoia, respectively. Not only are they among the oldest trees, but this native conifer of the Easter Mediterranean is also among the longest living trees.
Fast growing they can grow up to 36″ in one year. And as we are planting them symbolically for our family, it helps that we can measure the growth of the tree against the growth of our grandchildren each year and that they will grow up to 20-30 feet tall. Much taller than any human to be sure!!
An iconic symbol of the landscape of Italy, they are able to endure harsh climates, poor soil, flood waters and otherwise poor growing conditions. For this reason alone, they are an ideal plant for expats and fits nicely into my approach to gardening which I call – benign neglect.
In other symbolic significance the cupressus sempervirens encompasses multiple meanings including death, life and afterlife. In fact, the essential oils from the tree takes many years to decompose and so makes it the ideal wood for coffins. It was believed that supernatural powers and the strong, fragrant essential oils could also ward off demons and insure a safe passage into the after life.
One difficulty in adding large scale landscaping to your property is how to transport the trees to the house. When we initially purchased our first cypress trees (to symbolize my husband and myself) the proprietor of the nursery laughed herself silly as we stuffed the two trees into the back of our FIAT Punto. Quite a sight!
This time we enlisted the help (and truck) of our caretaker to find just the right nursery and to transport them.. It was still an amusing sight as the trees bowed and swayed in the back of his pick up truck as we bumped along the dusty road back to the house.