Being half Italian I have the pleasurable benefit of being able to visit my relatives in Tuscany on a pretty regular basis. This time, during our UK half term, I also took the opportunity of visiting Pistoia which is half way between Florence and Pisa. Apart from its renaissance cathedral, the city and area around it has another claim to fame - it has a multitude of plant nurseries covering the vast area to the city's south. Some of these nurseries are immense and world renowned. The plain that they lie on was originally marshland that was drained leaving the soil incredibly fertile. I arranged to visit Vannucci Piante which is one of the larger enterprises. Its premise cover over 500 hectares, they employ around 370 people and their markets are practically all export. It was simply eye droppingly amazing to be driven (yes driven !) around the nursery gazing at the spectacular and pristine specimens being grown there. I was looking out for a particular plant for a garden in Chipping Norton - Ficus carica 'Brown Turkey', a half standard tree. Back on the autostrada, driving to Lucca, the road is lined with plants in various nurseries in row upon row for as deep as you can safely see (without causing an accident !) What a fascinating place !
Rob Howard, Garden Designer