Just outside of Castiglion Fiorentino lives an artist, gardener, and new friend, Gabriele Menci. Visiting Mr. Menci and touring his kitchen garden has been one of my favorite experiences while abroad. We had the opportunity to walk through the entirety of his backyard garden, which took up every inch of usable ground space, and produced yields greater than he could ever consume on his own. During our tour we ate fresh beans and strawberries and saw countless different varieties that Mr. Menci grows annually. Most notable was his mini vineyard in the back portion of the garden. He utilizes soil and water conservation methods that require less input but produce beautiful, healthy crops. Mr. Menci’s garden is a prime example of my interests combined into one. He is able to grow all that he needs and do so in a sustainable, environmentally conscious way!
He also had beautiful ornamentals around his driveway and outdoor seating area. These include species that I learned about in one of my first class lectures while abroad. There are poppies (Papaver rhoeas) that grow wild and are native to the Mediterranean and bloom from late spring to early summer which means we arrived just in time to see them. Poppies range from red to white with black stamens but I have primarily seen bright red ones. Mr. Menci also had zonal geraniums (Pelargonium x hortorum) in pots and a rose (Rosa) shrub. Like the poppy, the geraniums were bright red and bloom from spring into summer. This herbaceous perennial is native to South Africa. The rose shrub had a single yellow rose when we first visited Mr. Menci but a week or so later when we returned it was gone. The rose bush is a perennial shrub and will therefore bloom annually.
- Kait Richter