The gardens of the American Academy in Rome express a rich and layered historical heritage that goes back in time and is the result of a unique fusion between Italian and American landscape culture. The Academy is the custodian of a precious site and a rich garden tradition and has the responsibility of fostering it for future generations. The gardens express profound understanding of the art of gardening, of the aesthetic and the ethos of landscape and nature, and of the value of landscape and nature to the life of the mind. The gardens, with their immaterial heritage, cultural significance, and environmental value, give enjoyment and spiritual fulfillment through sustainable horticulture.
The gardens must provide an oasis of beauty, inspiration, and tranquility, while furthering the appreciation of the historical environment to the community at large of the American Academy in Rome. Our landscape is an indispensable and lasting feature of life at the American Academy, providing the community, staff and visitors with positive impressions and rewarding experiences, fostering an appreciation of the natural world, and stimulating environmental awareness and intellectual engagement.
The gardens are maintained with careful and sustainable horticulture practices, focusing on the well-balanced development of its various areas. Community, visitors and staff alike experience the gardens’ beauty, enjoying their soothing quality while gaining a better understanding and greater appreciation of our corner of the natural world and its connection with the historical development of the city.
The gardens support the community kitchen providing fresh vegetables and fruit, and teaching volunteers and staff the horticultural techniques for growing an organic vegetable garden.
The Academy gardens provide many cultural, environmental, social, health and economic benefits. Because they are made up of living matter they require constant, qualified, long-term management to ensure their survival. The garden management must seek to direct the evolution of these complex cultural and natural heritage sites to pass them to the future generation. Evolution is the key word: it must be understood that a garden is never finished and never stops. Management must be imaginative, operational and flexible, and it needs to be constantly projected into the future. Part of the job is organizing daily, monthly and yearly gardening routines, with many tasks that need to be performed within a given time frame. Then there is the strategic planning of the gardens’ future: assessing needs, visualizing results, developing long term strategies.
Skilled and careful maintenance is the key to healthy and thriving plants. A well-trained, motivated, and adequately supplied gardening staff is the essential factor in historic garden management. We want our gardeners to be committed, to care, to feel responsible, and to be ready to go the extra length to assure the well-being of the gardens. We train our staff to make them understand the values of our gardens and develop the necessary skills. As skilled gardeners, their mission will be to adhere to the philosophy and structure of the gardens, respect their genius loci, and bring them into the future.
Restrained, tasteful horticultural display conveys a sense of harmony and elegance. Our gardens play in a subtle way on all our senses, enhancing for each garden area its own special qualities and atmosphere. We strive to create serene beauty and avoid self-conscious designs, just as we avoid garish effects and unnatural planting schemes.
The passage of time is a fundamental feature of gardens. In the contemplation of a well-balanced garden, we are made aware of seasonal changes, and we come into contact with the deepest rhythms of nature. The Academy refrains from ready-made gardens, full-size transplant and all other shortcuts that aim to bypass the need to accept time: plants are given the necessary time to develop.
Past and Future
Respect for traditional elements and historical legacy are fundamental, but they must be studied, understood, and adapted to the new demands and awareness of our age. They should not become an ideology that freezes the garden in the past. We must learn from the past, respect its legacy, and bring it to the new generation, making judicious use of modern technologies and discoveries, conserving our natural resources, and modeling best practices in environmental sustainability.
Our gardens support the ecosystem, strive to make as little negative impact on the earth as possible, and work with nature instead of against it. We avoid, or limit to a minimum, the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and work to improve the health of soil. We are concerned about water conservation and so use non-potable water in irrigation. We use environmentally friendly tools and try to support wildlife and beneficial insects.