I came across an article by Ippolito Pizzetti in the well-deserving online historical archive of the newspaper «La Stampa» which deludes us that we live in an organized country conducive to research work. The cultural insert “Tuttolibri” of February 18, 1984 gave space to an investigation into the relationship of writers with nature, and Pizzetti intervened with a pleasant thesis (at least for me): “There is no Italian writer where the things of nature rise to protagonists, have not the mythological force of an idea, but participate as subjects of a story, or constant parts or references of the discourse ».
It was, for him, a question of gaze, mainly, and of culture. A culture generated by a Christianity which, in Italy, has completely stifled its pagan roots. Hence the “fracture” and the distancing from a natural world no longer a familiar and daily reference system, nor the lymph of a “unitary” language. In Goethe, Shakespeare, Hardy or Lawrence, nature always maintains its “identity” – he wrote – “with us it constantly loses it”. Accomplice a school that too late took care to make the nature around us known by perpetrating a fabulous idea: for those who have never seen a toad it acquires the “same mythical significance of a dinosaur or a hippogriff” species – I add – in the “educational farms”.
The fact is that among Italian writers, albeit great and beloved, Pizzetti felt himself to be “isolated”; she found her “domestic world” not in their utilitarian descriptions (the vineyard, the olive grove, the orchard, the cutting of the forest: vegetables as “products”) but in the pages of very distant authors, such as Murasaki, the Japanese poet from the end of the 10th century, with which he shared the way of looking at life and approaching its elements.
It is certainly possible to disagree with Pizzetti’s radicalism, to oppose (the rare) examples of our own contrary to him, but at the bottom we feel that he is not completely wrong: no Goethe was born in Italy, a Goethe in whose work (and it is not the botanical writings) nature shows “deep roots”.
Ippolito Pizzetti (Milan 1926 – Rome 2007), son of the musician Ildebrando, graduated in 1950 with Natalino Sapegno by presenting a thesis on Cesare Pavese. Literate by training (translator and collaborator of the Einaudi publisher) naturalist and architect-gardener by vocation and by choice, class divulger and never banal, he therefore had all the qualifications to expose himself on such slippery ground. Of course, we Italians, even when we can boast a prominent personality in the naturalistic field where the British and the people of the north excel, are not able to impose it on public attention and cultivate its legacy and memory.
The annual horticultural vanity fair in the gardens of Corso Palestro has just closed in Milan, where the urban bourgeoisie goes shopping (at high prices) to embellish terraces and balconies with the latest nursery innovations or with the most fashionable varieties. As part of the flower-nursery exhibition, in the context of Outside Orticola and in collaboration with the Braidense National Library, an initiative entitled: 1931-1984. Written gardening. The chronological gap defines two noble dates for our journalistic publishing: the birth of the first thematic magazine of the genre, “Il giardino fiorito” founded and directed by Mario Calvino (Italo’s father) in tandem with his wife Eva Mameli, and the closer one of the first issue of «Gardenia», founded and directed by Francesca Marzotto Caotorta who, at the time, deservedly availed herself of the precious collaboration of Pizzetti.
It is difficult to resist the reproduction on the Braidense poster of the magnificent cover designed by the great John Alcorn for the volume of Vita Sackville-West, Of the garden , published by Pizzetti in 1975 (his introduction, translation by his wife Andreola Vettori) and incunabulum of his platypuses. Therefore, I crossed the threshold of the ancient Maria Teresa Room and, in the display cases, I admired the first gardening books of the 1920s, the issues of the Calvinian magazine (refined in their glaucous guise), the first edition of the Private flora of Capri by Edwin Cerio (Editrice Rispoli Anonima, Naples 1939, later taken up by a platypus from Pizzetti), the Hoepli manuals of floriculture and horticulture, the guides of the REDA editions (Ramo Editoriale Agricoltori di Roma) on the cultivation of gladiolus by Eva Mameli-Calvino or on the remontant carnation by Giacomo Nicolini preceded, moreover, by the archetype of 1928 by Domenico Aicardi (for the editions of the Experimental Floriculture Station “O. Raimondo” in Sanremo), the refined editions of the Polifilo with the tables of the most beautiful Italian gardens in villa. In this intoxicating walk on the edge of the Italian editorial bed, the landing place could only be the Landscape and aesthetics by Rosario Assunto, the first Italian philosopher to theorize a landscape aesthetic.
But the most popular paper gardens were those of Ippolito Pizzetti, duly celebrated by Francesca Marzotto Caotorta in the presentation of the book exhibition. Of course, the title of the initiative does not suit Pizzetti’s pen and hoe who considered the garden, rather than a practice of “gardening”, an exercise with aesthetic-ethical-philosophical implications. But anyhow, and at the paint on Monday 5 May elderly ladies (myself included) sat waiting to swarm from Friday to the following Sunday in the enclosure of Corso Palestro in search of chlorophyll rarities or, on the contrary, of humbler plants (but equally care) like the cornflower, which disappeared from the fields along with the fireflies. It is unthinkable that the ladies in question try their hand at seeds at lower prices and, in any case, completely neglected by events of the kind of Horticultural .
Instead, below, Pizzetti’s work peeked out of the display cases suggesting something else, especially in the three volumes (written in collaboration with Henry Cocker) of the Book of Flowers published by Garzanti in 1968, and in the many books of the incomparable series The Platypus (43 publications by Rizzoli between 1975 and 1986) with the beautiful covers designed by Enzo Aimini or Renzo Giust. In fact, Pizzetti’s platypuses nourished not only on flowers and trees, but on insects, birds, animals, landscapes and natural environments: because living the relationship with nature is not for Pizzetti to shut himself up as a hobby in a piece of land to be filled. like a nursery or a sample exhibition of flowers and essences in vogue. Living nature is observing, investigating, learning from stone, from feathers, from traces, from burrows, from barks, from larvae, even more than from trees and flowers, from everything that lives with us and well before us in the environments. of earth, water and sky. To realize this, just browse the collection of covers and editorial aspects of platypuses published last year by Pendragon for the care of Antonio Bagnoli (with the introduction of Lidia Zitara, Ippolito Pizzetti, the “irregular”)
The books of the Platypus are now unavailable except (and hardly) on the antiquarian merchant, but all of us are allowed to have Ippolito Pizzetti in the house. With little money you can buy those masterpieces of advice, wisdom, doctrine and humor (cutting edge) that are in Garzantina Flowers and garden (in which the author recast the 1968 volumes) and in Green thumb (Rizzoli Universal Library), the anthology of the column held on the pages of “Espresso” in the decade between the seventies and eighties overlapping with the publishing adventure of the Platypus. For me they continue to be necessary books, reference points and sources of guaranteed fun.
Several times I have remembered Pizzetti’s words, as irreverent as they are true (he was not the kind of fuss) about Aucuba and on the leaves of the most common variety with yellow-green spots: “Every time I meet them (and often a lot) I can’t help but think of Jacovitti’s drawings where the very variegated white and red salami is never missing […] that the. it is so widespread precisely because it is able to thrive and thrive everywhere, like many other weeds (from an aesthetic point of view): therefore it seems to me – wherever possible – to be avoided ». For some time I had been aiming at the intrusive bush of Aucuba Japonica bicolor which choked the bank cultivated with lavender and Perovskia; I was held back by the fact that my old cat had chosen him as a shady summer shelter. But, at the beginning of the year, Ben left me. So I was able to get rid of the slices of Acuba salami, and to Ben I gave the shade and the scent of winter flowers of a more elegant Camellia sasanqua beside which, never forgotten, rests.
Taken from: Angela Borghesi, Paper Gardens and Platypus. Double zero