Articles by: Jonathan Fargion

  • Life & People

    Quarantine Plant Care

    There is an incredible amount of activities offered on line, home exercise, yoga, self care, and home cooking, the list goes on.

    Caring for plants can be a creative activity that helps us to get by this trying time. What is nice about growing plants is that it takes time and its slow and fascinating evolution can be closely witnessed while we are home. Seeing a seed sprouting will be a new learning experience and can heal our relationship with nature.

    As a landscape designer I would like give a few advice on how to grow something in your apartment even in times where it’s not easy to retrieve garden material and tools. 

    The easiest and most obvious option is to buy all sorts of seeds if you can find them or your next run to the grocery store.

    If you can't find seeds, there are many alternative ways to find something to grow without purchasing seeds.

    If you are able to go for a walk at the park (keeping the social distancing rule, 6' away from anybody) look around the ground and try to find Oak tree acorn, If you look closely you should find those acorn that are slightly open and might have already sent out a root. That means that the acorn is about to sprout.

    You can collect a few of those. Once at home wash them and place them at the top of a glass filled with water. I used a rectangular vase where with a tape I created a grid to place the acorn with the root immersed in the water. With time and patience you'll slowly see the cotyledon (embryotic leaves come out).

    The result is very beautiful and can be then displayed in your apartment. You can also purchase a special glass vase that was designed for exactly this purpose >>

    Fun fact: squirrel are nature's gardeners, because before the winter they collect and hide acorns often forgetting their locations, therefor the acorn hidden underground will in spring sprout into a new oak tree.

    You can also collect seeds from common fruits you consume at home; the best seeds are the one from organic produce.

    Seeds can be collected from for example lemons, apples, oranges, bell peppers, tomatoes, and avocado. For the avocado use the same technique of the acorn.

    It is also possible to plant a garlic clove, which will give a beautiful flower later in the season, you can plant a few of them in the same pot, it will grow into a nice lush bunch.

    Remember to keep the soil moist at all time when planting the seeds. You can mist the soil surface every six hours or so.

    If you don’t have soil you can start collecting coffee grind after you brewed your coffee, the only down side is that seeds have a lower probability of sprouting because of the acidity of the coffee, but it’s worth the try. For small container you can use eggshells or their paper or plastic containers.

    Growing life can be a very therapeutic experience that helps calming our nerves and relax our thoughts. Wishing all to stay safe and get through these harsh times in the best mental and physical conditions.



  • Art & Culture

    Ninfa, a Beautiful Garden Amidst Roman Ruins

    The garden, set in a small agricultural town founded by the Romans, is called Garden of Ninfa because historically it was the site of a roman temple dedicated to the ninfas (nymphs) on a tiny river island not far from the property. 

    Nymphs are mythological figures, connected to natural forces, water, wind, soil, and were often invoked by travelers who would cite a blessing to get permission to touch nature and gather valuable resources from a particular place. 

    The garden you would visit today has greatly changed throughout history, what makes this place so special is its location, which allows a great variety of plants to thrive (native species and not) and the presence of natural resources like water streams and fertile soil. 

    The garden is one of the most successful English Gardens. An English Garden is a style of landscape that emerged in England in the early 18th Century. Its central idea is an idealized view of nature drawing inspirations from paintings. It often includes bodies of water, sweeps of rolling lawns set against trees, and classical architectural elements, such as old ruins or Greek and Romans temples. Generally speaking, English Gardens are a very well done juxtaposition of a manicured naturalistic landscape set against ruined or ancient architecture. They never reveal themselves at once, they need to be walked through and discovered. 

    In this sense, the Garden of Ninfa is the epitomy of an English Garden. 

    At the beginning of 1921, the owner Gelasio Caetani decided to restore the architectural structures of the town and to have an English Garden planted all around it. 

    The garden has been called the world’s most romantic garden. It is near a WWF preserved natural area.

    It boasts a unique setting made out of the medieval ruins. The site itself possesses a natural grace, it seems like time has stopped there. There are over a thousand variety of plants and trees, keeping the garden interesting throughout all four seasons. An effortless beauty withstanding since roman times.

    The Garden of Ninfa is open to visitors from April through November. 


  • Art & Culture

    Thomas Heatherwick’s Pier 55 . Waiting for a New Exciting Green Space.

    There is no doubt that New York City is experiencing an exponential transformation in terms of architectural and urban development. 

    The city's multifaceted crystal buildings are designed by the most prominent architects around the world.

    While strolling in the city, it is easy to perceive the astonishing architecture branding.

    You can find buildings designed by Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Erzog e De Meuron, Norman Foster, Richard Meyer, Diller Scofinido, Jean Nuvelle, the list goes on and on. 

    Non the less the green spaces are assuming a crucial role in New York, a recent study showed that adding green space in the city can reduce crime. 

    New York, just added the magnificent courtyard of Hudson Yards, with a contemporary walk-able sculpture called the Vessel as the center piece. This structure was designed by Heatherwick studio, and it can be considered as a contemporary version of the Eifel Tower.

    Heatherwick Studio has also designed a new park currently under construction, located at the historical pier 54 and pier 55. Pier 54 is one of the oldest piers of the city, it still features the old metal gate from which in 1911 the rescue ship sailed to save the passengers from the sinking Titanic.

    This is one of many other projects with the intent of utilizing the old docks, and transform them into green spaces. The historic Bleecker street pier is another example of a successful park on the water.  

    Park on Pier 55 is completely detached from main land, its unique design features lotus like leaf structure rising from the water surface of the Hudson River. 

    This futuristic and poetic structure functions both as an outdoor performance venue, a marine sanctuary for striped bass, and a guard for the city against storms, the park will include an 800-seat amphitheater accessible via two doc-like pathways connecting back to New York City shoreline. 

    The project is funded by Businessman Barry Diller, its cost is predicted to reach $250M.

    Barry Diller is also the man behind the development of the succesfull High Line.  

    This park will be a new "High Line" of the River, where trees, plants, water and the city will melt together in a striking inviting park. 

    As a New Yorker I can't wait to experience this new exciting green space.



  • Art & Culture

    Leonardo's Garden Comes to Life in Milan

    Orticola is an important organization that was established in 1854, and since then it has archived and transmitted the horticulture knowledge of gardens and plants of Lombardy.

    The Orticola flower show is the most important Italian show for national and international specialized nurseries. This year’s theme is “Companion Planting: Good Botanical Associations”

    In 2019 Milan is celebrating Leonardo da Vinci since 500 years have passed since his death.

    For this reason, Orticola has created what they called “Orticola per LEONARDO500”.

    In the Sforza Castle, there is a special room called 'Sale Delle Asse', that has been restored to its original splendor; this room is extraordinary because it was decorated by the Master himself, with a special trompe l’oeil effect of a trained forest embracing the room. The room is magical, it really feels like you are immersed in a marvelous green world.

    To celebrate the extraordinary opening of this room to the public, Orticola thought to recreate the room's wall decorations in real life in the Cortile Delle Armi, one of the castle's courtyards.

    They installed a beautiful wooden structure that will be supporting the growth of 16 Mulberry trees (Morus Alba).

    In the next few years we will see how the trees will be trained on the structure and become a vegetative room in the garden, mimicking the room designed by Leonardo da Vinci. The project is intended to spark the interest of the general public in the beautiful room, but also to show the old savoir-faire of antique horticulture techniques that were used in the past. It will be fascinating to see how the structure will grow, evolve and mature over time.  

    The project was designed by Landscape Architect Filippo Pizzoni and it was promoted by the Municipality of Milan.

    This is another wonderful example of how Milan is taking inspiration from its grandiose past and interprets it in a contemporary way.

    Milan was a city in which Leonardo da Vinci was incredibly active. It’s beautiful to see how the master is celebrated there in innovative interesting ways.   


  • Art & Culture

    Changing the Way We Live Our Lives. Stefano Boeri: Integrating Nature and Architecture

    Italian architect Stefano Boeri, designer of the “Bosco Verticale” (vertical forest), and Paola Antonelli, Director of the Architecture department at the MoMA and Curator of the XXII Triennale di Milano, “Broken Nature”, talked about design and environmental issues during a panel on Smart Cities organized by Gianluca Galletto and Dawn Barber in Brooklyn’s New Lab. We then sat down with Boeri to discuss the building of the “forest”, the challenges he faced, his view on environmentalism and how to sensitize people.

    How did you manage to convince your client to of this project?

    Stefano Boeri: When I was first approached by the client I wanted to build two towers in order to reduce the use of land in that particular area of Milan called Isola and I came up with the idea of creating the vertical forest. They told me I had to resolve a few issues before they could approve such a project. For instance, keep maintenance costs low, find an irrigation system that wouldn’t fail, figure out a way to build a structure that could withstand the weight of the soil at a water saturation point.

    In the next couple of weeks I contacted some of the best consultants specialized in different areas and came back to the client with a plan that would overcome all of the challenges.

    One of the biggest challenges was the wind. I had to strategically study the location and size of each tree in order to avoid its destructive power.

    Have you found the magical configuration that you can apply for future projects?

    SB: Each project is different and has its own characteristics. What rules the rhythm of the façade is the three-dimensional trajectory of the growth of the tree. Most of them are native species.

    In choosing the species, I had to consider problems like allergies to pollen and it was crucial to avoid trees that produce large fruits since they could potentially be very dangerous if they were to fall to the ground.

    Does the presence of trees limit the height of the towers that you design?

    SB: No, in Beijing and in India we are designing some buildings that are well over 200 meters high.

    I worry more about the correct positioning of the trees on the façade. For instance, in temperate countries, where trees lose their leaves and where the sun shines low during the Fall and Winter months, we place deciduous trees on the North side of the building knowing that losing their leaves they will filter less light, while on the South side, where the intensity of the light is stronger, we have the freedom of also planting evergreen trees.

    If we lived in a world where we didn’t have to deal with climate change and environmental issues caused by anthropic actions, would you have thought to design a tall building with trees?

    SB: I have always been fascinated and obsessed with trees. I find them incredibly intelligent beings. As Stefano Mancuso (a plant neurobiologist) said, if an alien were to come to earth to reach out to the most sophisticated form of life, capable of surviving on Earth for millions of years, they would connect with trees and not with homo sapiens. Trees have been here for millions of years and will continue to thrive even when we will not be here anymore.

    I always wanted to integrate trees with architecture not only because of their aesthetic or ornamental characteristics. When we started to understand the incredible environmental advantages of trees in urban settings, it just confirmed how special and smart trees are.

    Do you consider yourself an environmentalist?

    SB: Rather than an environmentalist, I am someone who is very interested in ecology. I understand that the environmental issue is associated with the way we live our lives, and we need to change our attitude in many aspects.

    We can’t solve the problem just by planting trees, we need to rethink transportation, our diets are also part of the issue, it’s very important to create a system where we can educate the next generation to be environmentally responsible. It’s an issue that is strongly connected to the concept of community.

    If you were to suggest a book to educate and sensitize people towards nature what would it be?

    SB: (smiling) I would recommend reading “Il Barone Rampante” (The Baron in The Trees) by Italo Calvino.


  • Art & Culture

    Villa Astor. A Paradise Restored on the Amalfi Coast

    After the frigid temperatures that the US has experienced in the past weeks it is very understandable how one of the most eclectic and wealthy Americans was excited to spend his winters in the warmth of Sorrento.

    Villa Astor, is a newly restored villa on the Amalfi coast, named after William Waldorf Astor, the wealthiest and extravagant American in the world.

    Mr. Astor purchased the Villa and the surrounding land in 1905.

    The villa is located in one of the most spectacular view point of the Amalfi coast, inserted between Sorrento and Capri, the lush gardens spill down the rocky promontory dominating the bay of Naples.

    While restoring the main house William Astor purchased the adjoining property and the nearby monastery of S. Vincenzo to further expand the property and its gardens. In 1910 he also added the piece of land between his villa and the nearby Syrene Hotel, one of the jet set’s favorite hotels of the area.

    With such an extraordinary piece of land and its unique location, William wanted to add an extension to the villa so he designed a replica of a Pompeian villa that he later called Villa Florus, connected to his main garden through a long peristyle of iconic columns. Villa Florus was also decorated with artifacts pieces found in the Pompeii region.

    Mr. Astor, created an exceptionally elaborated botanical garden around his villa, adorned with a multitude of classical and renaissance sculptures.

    The garden’s wall protecting the numerous species planted in the gardens from harsh climate, are decorated with fragments of antique columns, statues and urns.

    Arched openings are strategically inserted in the walls to offer spectacular views of the Mediterranean Sea framing the marvelous nature of Vesuvius.

    The garden spreads over seven acres of olive and orange orchards.

    Monuments and vegetation intersected in the long alleyways and narrow paths that crisscross the property, shaded by pergolas were giant fragrant Wisteria intertwines, there is a multitude of palm trees, mimosa trees and dense flowering shrubs.

    William Astor, was spending the winter months in this remarkable property until 1919, the year of his death. The Italian government declared this place protected, for its intrinsic artistic value.

    Thankfully the villa survived the intense bombing of WWII. It was purchased by the shipping magnate Mariano Pane. Under the new ownership the property became one of the most glamorous and popular spot.

    After the last purchase in 2012, the new owners commissioned renowned French designer Jacques Garcia, to restore the villa to its original splendor.

    Garcia, is known for his ability to restore historical rich interiors, like palace of Versailles, and other important masterpieces in Italy and France.

    He was perfectly able to bring back the exquisite interiors to their original splendor, utilizing the intense collection of antique pieces scattered in the entire property. He preserved the beauty of the past while bringing this space into the modern contemporary age.

    After more than 100 years later, the poetry of the place, the romantic feeling of the antique ruins and stone elements of the garden are well preserved as a botanical garden, a source of pleasure for visitors from all over the world.

    To celebrate the magnificent villa, a beautiful book about the history of this place has been published, with beautiful photos illustrating the before and after.

    Villa Astor – Paradise Restored on the Amalfi Coast, Flammarion publishing.

    Today the villa can be rented for private events.





  • The Labyrinth of the Masone is a cultural park built near Fontanelle, in the province of Parma
    Facts & Stories

    Franco Maria Ricci: Labirinto della Masone

    Parma is a city famous for its historical architecture, the Duomo and the Battistero, home of the most iconic Italian food products, Prosciutto di Parma and Parmesan cheese, is also home of the most famous pasta brand in the world, Barilla. Not far from this extraordinary center is a special place called Labirinto della Masone.

    Labirinto della Masone, or in English Labyrinth of the Masone, is a cultural center  located 18km away from Parma near Fontanello. It was designed by Architect Davide Dutto and Pier Carlo Bontempi, for Franco Maria Ricci.

    Franco Maria Ricci is a master of good taste who has perpetrated Italian esthetic values around the world through his sophisticated magazine FMR. He is an Italian art publisher and magazine editor, a well-rounded artist and philanthropist, and has also worked as a graphic designer. Showcasing his magazine in a living room means having a great understanding of good taste.

    As a philanthropist, Franco Maria Ricci wanted to create a place where he could showcase his private collection to the world. The museum he conceptualized is a stunningly elegant example of a simple architecture made out of red bricks inserted at the center of a star shape property.

    What makes this place so unique is the labyrinth that surrounds the building. It’s the largest labyrinth in the world, entirely made with bamboo plants; about 200 thousand plants in total were used. The circulating path of the labyrinth is almost 2 miles long (3km), inspired by the classical form of the Roman labyrinth, it includes small traps, crossroads and dead ends. The bamboo plant grows so tall that you are completely immersed in this green world where you can safely get lost. The labyrinth has a powerful energy which lets you leave behind everyday life thoughts and let yourself wander aimlessly through the greenery.

    Franco Maria Ricci fell in love with the bamboo specimen when he first planted a small grove in his garden in Milan. The bamboo grew so well, he fell for its simple beauty and elegance. He chose the bamboo as the dominant plant for this ambitious project; it was the perfect choice for a thick vegetative wall. There are approximately 20 species used, the main ones are: Phyllostachys bisetii, with dense and soft leaves, perfect for harsh winters since it is an evergreen. Philostachys vivax is a giant bamboo that reaches 50 ft in height (15m). Phyllostachys aureasulcata has an interesting zigzag stem at the base.

    Bamboo has a great high rate of photosynthesis, which means that the plant is able to absorb a lot of Carbon dioxide and releases high quantity of Oxygen.  This project is a kick start for the beautification process through vegetation. The foundation will help restore the Po valley landscape.

    The museum offers a rich showcase of Franco Maria Ricci personal art collection spread in 540 thousand square feet.

    It includes paintings, sculptures, and small artifacts, from XVI century to the XIX century, in total 500 pieces. There is also a library with over 15,000 volumes.

    This cultural center offers spaces for temporary exhibition as well as private events and concerts. For those guests who want to spend the night, there is the possibility to do so in two exclusive suits. You can also enjoy the coffee shop, the restaurant and the gift shop.

    Labirinto della Masone, is a successful example where, art, culture, architecture and nature go along together in a whimsical way. It offers a full experience where you’ll never stop dazzling.