Participating in a garden contest means listening to the word, that of the theme designated by the organizers, and transforming it into a living form, where ideas and emotions are served by an impeccable technique. Less common is to let directly speak plants, to make them talk about themselves to an attentive and receptive public.

This is what Andrea Russo proposes, an architect whose passion for sustainable buildings is transmitted to the gardens that surround them, and Vincenzo Nardi, landscape architect, one foot in Italy and the other in London, between classicism and freedom. Finalists at the third edition of the Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur, entitled Jardins d’Artistes, Andrea Russo and Vincenzo Nardi intended to stimulate a dialogue between plants and visitors, proposing a very personal reading of Boccaccio’s Decameron.

Their garden, with the evocative title of Where the Plants Tell the Tales, is inspired by the suspended days that the cheerful brigade created by Boccaccio spent in 1348 outside Florence, in a villa with a garden, to escape the plague that rages in the city. Seven girls and three boys, ten young people in all, just like ten days they will spend telling each other stories, ten stories a day, a hundred in all. A hundred short stories to tell about society in danger, highlight its vitality and resilience, sing about the virtues of a humanism that opens the doors to Renaissance.

An ideal and idealized space, protected and yet open to the sky, the garden welcomes young people, kings and queens in turn for a day. It’s in the garden of the villa that Boccaccio imagined conversations were held, and it’s in the garden that our designers take the opportunity to let the plants talk to those who want to stop and listen to them. They wanted to design a space that invites you to listen, protects from the outside world and fosters a collected joy.

The medieval cross structure of the hortus conclusus seemed the most suitable, both for the references to the cloistered garden and for its ability to protect and contain. You enter another world, shielded by cypresses of Tuscan memory, which extend into boxwood borders. The geometric perfection of the perimeter and of the four parcels is softened by ten circular flowerbeds with perennial herbaceous plants that each surround a small tree or a bush, representing the ten narrators. These are authentic “narrative” plants that appeal to visitors, weaving tales, represented by copper spirals, which reach the audience in the center of the garden near the hexagonal fountain, the landmark of the composition.

Water of life, passing of time, light joy that restores, which symbolically flows from ten colored metal spouts that stand out and attract the gaze. It’s possible to sit at the fountain, to be crossed and enlivened by the stories, to regain strength and be able to return, refreshed, to the turmoil of the world.

The border plants are characteristic of the medieval garden and have been selected for their spring flowering, texture and shape of the leaves, in a constant search for harmony and balance, capable of suspending the anxieties of living and nourishing spirit and senses.

While avoiding an all too easy analogy between the plague of the 13th century and the current health difficulties of our times, the creators of the project wanted to highlight the therapeutic and soothing properties of the plant world, which speaks a crystalline, simple and accessible language, when stopping a little to listen. It is the invitation addressed to all of us, visitors, to stop and listen.

Where the Plants Tell the Tales garden was open to visitors in Nice, at the Jardin Albert 1er, from 9 May to 9 June 2021.

Narrating Roses:
Rosa banksiae ‘Alba Plena’ / Rosa ‘Comte de Chambord’ / Rosa ‘Cyclamen P. de Ronsard’ / Rosa ‘General Jacqueminot’ / Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ / Rosa ‘Leda’ / Rosa ‘Mrs. John Laing’ / Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard’ / Rosa ‘Sidonie’ / Rosa ‘Yolande d’Aragon’

Project details

Design: Vincenzo Nardi, Andrea Russo
Project Location: Nice, France
Typology: Ephemeral garden
Built: 2021
Client: Festival des Jardins de la Côte d’Azur – Jardins d’Artistes
Involved manufacturers and plant supplier: Innovero, Rose Barni, Iris Garden, Coplant, Costanzo Giardini, Fibre Verte

Vincenzo Nardi

Vincenzo Nardi

Landscape architect, specialized in garden design at London College of Garden Design. In his projects, he loves to combine the formality of classic Italian gardens with the harmony of the English naturalist style.

Andrea Russo

Andrea Russo

Graduate architect of the Polytechnic University of Milan, he designs and restores buildings. He combines architecture with the study of gardens and plants, extending the themes of sustainability and low environmental impact of houses on green spaces.