Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Gardens of Castiglion Fiorentino

On perhaps the most fun field trip yet, we took a walk through Castiglion Fiorentino and stopped to look at the many residential gardens on the way down the hill. I saw many different plants that I wouldn't have otherwise seen growing in Texas, including various food crops and flowers. 
The people here grow all of the vegetables that you would associate Italian food with, including tomatoes, garlic, onions, artichokes, and herbs. They actually plant garlic near the other vegetables because their pungent smell keeps away harmful insects, providing a smart, simple alternative to pesticide. 
Many residents of Castiglion have their own vineyards and bottle their own wine at home. It seems that anyone with enough land to plant a garden can be nearly self sufficient and grow all of the fruits and vegetables present in Italian cuisine. 
Many of the gardens had beautiful flowers growing in them too, but the flowers that stood out to me the most were the peonies. 
Peonies have blooms so big and heavy that they fall to the ground. We learned that they are commonly sold in wedding bouquets, and require lots of care and attention to turn a profit in the wedding season. Typically, one would cut a peony stem when the flower is still just a bud so that it can bloom without falling into the mud. Some growers even use greenhouses to alter the temperature and light exposure to ensure the peonies bloom in time for the June weddings. 
After walking through the gardens, I found a new respect for the diligent gardeners who grew these beautiful flowers and fresh vegetables. It made me want to start a garden of my own-if only I could get something to grow in Texas!

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