On November 21, marking Italian Arbor Day, the American Academy in Rome planted a new tree in the Triangle Garden and issued a new mission statement for the gardens and land that AAR takes care of. The planting will become an annual tradition.
“In an 1873 essay, Henry James describes the Stone Pines as a kind of bridge between Italians and Americans,” said President Peter N. Miller to assembled AAR community members, gardeners, and other staff. “By planting trees we are renewing for the future the bond between Italy and the US.” Reading the new mission statement, Miller stressed the value of nature to creativity and the life of the mind, an idea famously championed by Henry David Thoreau. He outlined the key values of AAR’s garden management, including a commitment to supporting the ecosystem in the most sustainable way possible.
Shovels met the dirt and a narrow-leaved ash tree, known as the Southern ash tree (Fraxinus angustifolia), became the newest deciduous resident of the Triangle Garden. The variety, called the Raywood, is native to the region and thrives in urban environments. Sometimes called “Flame,” the tree features dark green foliage that turns a beautiful fiery red every autumn.
The planting of this tree is the culmination of a fall filled with musical, artistic, scientific, and historical dialogues on the umbrella pines of Rome (Pinus pinea). The conversations responded to the recent devastation of these trees, which are dying or being felled amid an infestation of an invasive pest, an insect known as the pine tortoise scale, that sickens them. On October 26, AAR had hosted a concert at the Villa Aurelia featuring music composed by AAR Fellows. Several works were directly inspired by the pines. Last week, AAR developed the theme further with a workshop in which art historians, botanists, educators, and landscape architects asked the question haunting Rome right now: What is the future of the Pines of Rome?
The Triangle Garden, where children play and gather, is a meeting point for the community and made a perfect site for this week’s planting, representing the sense of belonging we hope to instill at the Academy as a place where artists, scholars, and visionaries of all ages can find a place at the table, shade under a tree, and inspiration for their lives and work.
This summer, a tree that was too weak was removed from the Triangle Garden. “This narrow-leaved ash tree is our promise that we will continue to protect the gardens and ensure that they persist as a vital, vibrant, living part of the American Academy in Rome,” said AAR Director Aliza Wong.
Planting trees is a critical part of the solution for some of the most threatening issues we face: pollution, species extinction, climate change, desertification, deforestation, and floods. Over the course of the 2023–24 academic year, AAR will plant more trees in the Bass Garden, Triangle Garden, and Villa Aurelia, choosing varieties for their beauty, resiliency, and ability to thrive on their own.