Garden trees and tree-climbing
The care of the trees is entrusted to Paolo Carrara, an expert tree climber, who, together with Andrea Michelucci and Deniel Balestra, and in constant dialogue with the creator of the Dello Scompiglio Project, Cecilia Bertoni, follows the development of the landscaped area. It is a work that starts from the lower part of the estate, extending to the agricultural areas, continues to the upper part, right up to the crown of the forest, creating a single large garden.
These activities are also related to the life of the Cultural Association, at times when the artists engage and interact with the external spaces of the estate to create their own works, and on guided tours, thematic walks and events open to the public.
Cecilia Bertoni explains, “In the choice of plants to colonise the estate, different points of view converge. Paolo’s particular perspective, which comes from working at height, is in dialogue with Andrea’s keen observation. On the other hand, my gaze is oriented more towards choreographic and aesthetic elements. From the meeting of all our visions, which do not always coincide and are therefore even more interesting, and through this broader viewpoint we try to understand what physiognomy to give to Scompiglio.”
Tree climbing, used in the management of trees, allows a non-invasive approach, more attentive to the plants and in general more respectful of the environment. This operating technique, which only involves the use of ropes, pulleys, friction brakes etc., allows all pruning, maintenance and, if necessary, controlled felling operations to be carried out without resorting to aerial platforms raised by mechanical means. This avoids excessive compaction of the soil, which is harmful to lawns and to the roots of trees, and makes more accurate maintenance possible within the foliage. By its very nature, it can even be employed in confined spaces where mechanical means could not be used.
“I’ve been doing rope work since 1985.” explains Paolo Carrara. “At university doing Forestry Sciences I had the opportunity to study plants and I became passionate about their world. From there, it was just a short step to the idea of working on trees with ropes.”
“I had experience in climbing and rope work in my twenties,” adds Michelucci, “and subsequently I became involved in the conservation of green spaces and pruning according to conventional methods. I got to know the tree climbing techniques here and I was immediately able to appreciate both the considerable commitment and knowledge that it requires, and the great sense of harmony that it achieves.”
With this method, it is possible to carry out pruning with the aim of predicting and accelerating the processes that occur spontaneously in the plant, respecting its balance. The result of the work is barely noticed by an inexperienced eye, because it is in profound harmony with the natural structure of the plant itself.
“It’s a matter of observing the evolution of the tree,” explains Carrara, “and anticipating it. To give some very concrete examples, a branch that doesn’t get any light over time will dry up and fall. Thus, it is necessary to quickly identify these branches and cut them off before they fall by themselves. In the same way, if there’s a branch projecting out too far, we already know that it will be blown off by strong wind, so we cut to give a more compact shape to the crown and prevent this from happening.”
It is a work that requires careful observation of the trees, since each one, over time, has found its own particular way of balancing and orienting itself in space.
“For several years the property was in a state of neglect,” explains Cecilia Bertoni, “and this has meant that, for a long time, various species such as poplars, wild cherries and many others have found their own way of balancing and growing, even in the middle of weeds, which does not always follow a logical symmetry and proportion that would occur in a situation of greater freedom. This has led to the plants taking on very unusual shapes, but which are functional in the context in which they were living. Once an area is progressively freed from unwanted vegetation, it is necessary to intervene to give the trees a shape more suitable for their new relationship to the surrounding space. It is not always possible to do this and sometimes the plants are unable to adapt to the changed situation. To achieve a new equilibrium, a very detailed and very sensitive reading of the context is needed, because you need to understand what the tree is trying to do and give it the opportunity to continue doing so.”
On this warp, the arboreal fabric develops and progressively transforms, as in a slow moving choreography, the face of the estate. At the same time, people are given the opportunity to grow within their work and in their personal vision, developing new methods of intervention and points of view.
“In time,” says Paolo Carrara, “the approach to plants has changed a lot for me. Before, I was probably more methodical. At the beginning, my work was limited to what, at first constituted the nucleus of the Park, with its huge and centuries-old plants, and subject to landscape restrictions. The recovery of this area has accustomed me to working with ‘surgical’ attention, always predicting, in the uncertain execution of an operation, the least favourable situation and thus maintaining a good margin of safety. In this area, the plants have an aesthetic purpose, so we work with extreme care not to cause damage and not be taken in by the considerable heights at which in general works are carried out on plants of this size. Then there was the safety of the monumental plants, which had not undergone any intervention for decades. It was a matter of thinning and lightening, even though the best pruning is the kind only noticed by a keen eye and not the sort that, unfortunately, one sometimes sees along certain avenues of the city!
Later, the activity moved to the Collina dell'Uccelliera (Aviary Hill), to free it from the weeds. We found plants that had often germinated and grown under brambles or pines, that managed somehow to survive and which were selected after a careful and shared appraisal of the aesthetics, functionality and above all, the future relationships and interactions between the plants themselves. Over time, the tree care has also extended to the wooded areas.
This work has made it possible to build a wide range of situations in which to operate, which even today proves to be very useful. If a complex case arise, in fact, I now have no hesitation or uncertainty about the technical procedures of an intervention, however complicated it may be.
Over time, experience and engagement with different people has given me a new approach to things, not necessarily oriented to taking action. From a broader point of view, the soil is the place where plants live; we assume that all soils are the same, but in reality, that is not the case. Similar agricultural soils, worked in different ways, give results that are different from each other. Then there are situations in which you understand that the best thing would be not to intervene, or at least wait and see how things evolve. It is about observing, and to do so takes time and calm. It is an action to be done several times, in order to arrive at conclusions in a reasoned way. Sometimes it’s just about changing something that maybe seems small, but which for the plant can mean a profound change.”
In the wooded areas, the plants are broadly allowed to grow freely, in tune with the nature of the forest itself. It may happen that there are trees that, observing a more distinctly aesthetic and landscape criterion, populate areas that have been designated for agricultural purposes, such as the vineyards. In this case their presence is inserted in the general context through pruning designed to allow the plant to coexist in harmony with the production works.
Even the pruning of the productive plants follows a principle of respect for the balance of the vegetation. One example of many is how the olive trees are pruned according to the polyconic vase method, a form of training introduced in Italy by professor Alfredo Roventini (1889-1950), which respects the plant and its physiological and productive balance.
“When I arrived at Scompiglio,” says Michelucci, “many of the olive trees were only a few years old. This gave us a chance to experiment with different ways and theories of pruning. The last one, following the Roventini method, which allows total respect for the plant and the flow of the sap, was an exciting discovery.
More generally, dedicating myself to different areas within Dello Scompiglio has led me to a personal evolution. Initially, for example, I saw the upper part, that is, the whole front populated by pines, as a forest, an area in itself. Then, over the years, the clearing work, the periodic planting of new seedlings, the continuous connection with the work of the other collaborators of the Project, the awareness that even that area will increasingly become part of a single large garden, have made possible a certain quality of relationship that has also extended to other areas, such as the olive groves themselves, the Uccelliera hill or other areas that are gradually recovered. With knowledge of the place, a relationship of continuous care has been established, so that plants are selected that are already growing, weeds are deterred and in general we try to give the young trees the opportunity to develop. In short, a daily relationship that opens up continuous spaces for growth.”
In future, the character of the Tenuta will have the features of the processes that were begun in these years with the planting and the definition of the purpose of the various areas.
Carrara explains, “In some areas, the planted trees will grow, in others where the soil is thinner, we will probably have a population of shrubs. In part, this is a process that has already started and will gradually lead to having a more diversified cover, that will give shelter and nourishment to different animals and that will make the landscape more and more varied and interesting. It is the part of my work that I most appreciate; setting up a wide-ranging work which will bear fruit over time and being able to imagine the advantage that certain plants can have in a certain environment, and go on to verify, as far as possible, the results of this approach, this vision”.
The work started in recent years will lead more and more to a unique garden in which different environments coexist, according to the principles of harmony and beauty. A place where one can lose oneself. And find oneself.