Roof garden in Casa Guidi

Unobstructed views over Florence and surroundings are framed by tall grasses and Mediterranean plants.

panoramic carmine

Winter sunset tinges the view

 On top of Casa Guidi, the famous Florence residence of Robert and Elizabeth Barret-Browning, is a spectacular roof terrace. The planting of the roof garden was designed to set off the landscape of Florence. The eye sweeps over the city and surrounding hills, reaching as far as the Appennine mountains and the Arno floodplain.

grasses spirito

Tall grasses frame the view and provide winter interest

There is an unobstructed view on the Oltrarno, including Palazzo Pitti, the church of Santo Spirito, and Santa Maria del Carmine. The terrace needed major refurbishment, an injection of colour and form to suitably frame the unique environment. 

casa guidi roof view

One year after planting the terrace is filling out

Such an uninterrupted view of the city means an extreme exposure to the elements, especially sun and wind, which restricts plant choice. The limited roof load also made it impossible to use very large pots, as would be desirable in this situation.

guidi grasses olive

Feathery grasses contrast with the olive tree in vase

The wind tips over plants which are too tall and solid, and contributes to drying them out rapidly, hence the choice of tall grasses, which do not resist the wind, and small-leaved drought-tolerant plants. A few olive trees in pots were among the few survivors from previous planting, and they were offset by more feathery plants.

grasses pitti

The same plants in winter take on a whole new dimension

 The large surface of the terrace has been subdivided in more intimate enclosures, which offer priviliged views of the landscape without obstructing the whole view. 

olive spirito

Berries light up the Nandina in winter

 Colour is given principally by plant foliage, seedheads and berries.

grasses west

Calamagrostis and other grasses play with the winter light

Evergreen structure is given by Nandina domestica, Rosemary and Lavander. Scent is also important, and the Trachelospermum, or Fake Jasmine, bears sweetly scented flowers twice a year even in these harsh conditions.

miscanthus and trachelospermum pitti

Miscanthus and Trachelospermum are the foreground to Palazzo Pitti, in early summer.

 Most of the grasses are light green in spring, and will take on golden and red tones over the year, echoing the colours of the surrounding rooftops. They offer a changing panorama, dancing in the wind and producing inflorescences that persist on the plant throughout winter. Grasses include Miscanthus sinensis “Morning light”, Miscanthus sinensis “Yakushima dwarf” and Calamagrostis x acutiflora "Karl Foerster”. 

grasses 2 pitti

Two years after planting at its winter best

Even on a misty winter day this roof garden has a strong presence. The exposure and the restrictions of the site were considerable, but the plants chosen have stood the test of time. A lot of the credit must be given to the client, who was willing to try out new solutions and gave me her enthusiastic support. As for any art, the best projects are the result of a collaboration between designer and client.

Copyright © 2018 Anna Piussi. All Rights Reserved. Text and images belong to Anna Piussi unless otherwise stated.