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Flo­wers alo­ne don’t cut it for the Ita­lian land­sca­pe ar­chi­tect. His works are roo­ted in de­si­gn and re­spect Mo­ther Na­tu­re’s ti­me

2019 ri­sks being a gol­den year for Luciano Giub­bi­lei. In clo­se suc­ces­sion, he will si­gn off: his fir­st pu­blic park at Ra­by Ca­stle (nor­thern En­gland), set in­si­de mo­nu­men­tal th­ree-hun­dred-year-old hed­ges; a «ma­jor co­he­si­ve de­si­gn» that will bring to­ge­ther lo­ts of small plo­ts at a pri­va­te foun­da­tion in Dal­las; an esta­te among the rol­ling vi­neyards of For­men­te­ra; and a re­si­den­ce for ce­ra­mi­cists in Ma­jor­ca, ai­ming to en­cou­ra­ge dia­lo­gue bet­ween crea­ti­ves and, as a bo­nus, to en­han­ce his green thin­king. Then, in Sep­tem­ber, he will ta­ke over re­spon­si­bi­li­ty from Piet Ou­dolf for fit­ting out Piaz­za Vec­chia for the Mae­stri del Pae­sag­gio (‘Ma­sters of Land­sca­pe’) fe­sti­val in Ber­ga­mo, «brin­ging woods and un­der­gro­w­th in­to the ci­ty». A re­si­dent of Lon­don sin­ce 1997, af­ter gra­dua­ting from the Inch­bald School of De­si­gn, Giub­bi­lei com­pe­ted wi­th his Bri­ti­sh col­lea­gues Dan Pear­son, Tom Stuart-Smi­th and An­dy Stur­geon for glo­ry on the Eu­ro­pean gar­de­ning sce­ne. The dif­fe­ren­ce is that Giub­bi­lei is from Tu­sca­ny, and brings wi­th him the great tra­di­tion of Ita­lian-sty­le Re­nais­san­ce gar­de­ning. «They we­re born and brought up in the coun­try­si­de, whe­reas I co­me from Sie­na, whe­re the­re are no flo­wers to be seen, apart from ge­ra­niums on win­do­w­sills», the de­si­gner re­coun­ts, wi­th a Bri­ti­sh ac­cent. Af­ter ope­ning his stu­dio mo­re than fif­teen years ago, he de­si­gned sculp­tu­ral spa­ces wi­th pre­ci­se li­nes, mo­re ar­chi­tec­tu­ral than hor­ti­cul­tu­ral. Im­ma­cu­la­te la­wns wi­th no cur­ves in sight, den­se, nea­tly ar­ran­ged flo­wer­beds, se­ve­re­ly pru­ned trees, ma­je­stic to­pia­ry, cour­tyards and glit­te­ring pools. Open-air li­ving rooms wi­th the pro­por­tions, forms and even the co­lour com­bi­na­tions of in­door spa­ces, but whi­ch left the sen­sa­tion of being in a na­tu­ral en­vi­ron­ment in­tact. Then in 2011, at the height of his suc­cess, he had a cri­sis. «I had lo­st my di­rec­tion. In spi­te of all the work I was doing, tra­vel­ling from one pro­ject to ano­ther, I felt stuck». He de­ci­ded to wri­te to Fer­gus Gar­rett, the vi­sio­na­ry head gar­de­ner at Great Dix­ter, a fi­ve-acre oa­sis in Ea­st Sus­sex, whi­ch gai­ned fa­me in the 1970s and 1980s for its loud flo­ra – gi­ving le­gi­ti­ma­cy, among other things, to the ‘ga­ri­sh’ da­hlia, whi­ch un­til then had been snob­bi­shly as­so­cia­ted wi­th the wor­king clas­ses – and whi­ch pro­vi­ded the hip­pie re­spon­se to the un­sha­kea­ble fa­shion of the ti­me for pa­stel sha­des. And in this cult lo­ca­tion, Gar­rett ga­ve the de­si­gner a small area of his own to ex­pe­ri­ment wi­th, «to get back to ba­sics», he ex­plains. «I mo­ved away from a mo­re for­mal ap­proa­ch and be­gan to ap­pre­cia­te the chan­ges of the sea­sons. I un­der­stood that plan­ts can exi­st on­ly for a par­ti­cu­lar, short mo­ment in ti­me. They are not li­ke a pho­to­gra­ph, but are a form of pro­gres­sion. In other words, I lear­ned the so­le key vir­tue eve­ry gar­de­ner mu­st ha­ve: pa­tien­ce». Eve­ry­thing he has do­ne sin­ce, Giub­bi­lei con­ti­nues, he has loo­ked at th­rou­gh the lens of Great Dix­ter, whi­ch kick­star­ted his re-edu­ca­tion. For so­me, this has co­me as a shock. At the 2014 Chel­sea Flower Show, the jour­na­li­st co­ve­ring the event for the In­de­pen­dent wro­te that she wan­ted to pick up and ta­ke ho­me the “crea­my lu­pins”, blue iris and “green-yel­low [...] spur­ge”. His fir­st flo­ral work, whi­ch won him his third gold me­dal at Chel­sea, was, in his words, one of his mo­st sa­ti­sfy­ing. Sin­ce then, from Mo­roc­co to Ida­ho, the ‘new Giub­bi­lei’ has be­co­me ac­quain­ted wi­th ro­ses, cac­ti, hy­dran­geas, peo­nies and sce­nic um­bel­li­fers. «I don›t want to ma­ke for­mu­laic gar­dens any mo­re», he con­clu­des. «I li­ke what I›ve do­ne and I›m proud of it, but I want to im­pro­ve in an au­then­tic man­ner. This means using the sa­me vi­sion and sa­me cla­ri­ty of de­si­gn to crea­te en­vi­ron­men­ts that mat­ch the spi­rit of pla­ces, kee­ping the ove­rall com­po­si­tion and va­rious view­poin­ts in mind at all ti­mes. As Gar­rett says, the flo­wers by them­sel­ves don›t do any­thing: the de­si­gn is the mo­st im­por­tant thing.

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