Villa Pisani Scalabrin

Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin’s tulip meadow

Every April the meadow behind Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin, near Padua, is bright with wildflowers and tulips. Words Clark Anthony Lawrence, photographs Jason Ingram

Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin is approximately five acres in northeast Italy and is filled with over 120 tulip cultivars. It is  ten per cent formal garden, 20 per cent open flower meadow, and 70 per cent wooded area.

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Forde Abbey's tulip display
© Jason Ingram

In 2016, Mariella Bolognesi Scalabrin had 50,000 tulips planted in the meadow behind her 16th-century villa located between Ferrara and Padua. Thirty thousand more bulbs were added the following year, and every year since then. The result is one of the most spectacular spring garden sights in the Veneto region.

Villa Pisani Scalabrin - Tulips
© Jason Ingram

Above  Designer Jacqueline van der Kloet prefers working with perennial tulips: ‘Unique de France’ (deep, scarlet-red Triumph class), ‘Exotic Emperor’ (a double Fosteriana tulip, white with green) and ‘Ollioules’ (satin rose-pink Darwin Hybrid, fading to white edges).

The love of tulips has a long and fascinating history at Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin, beginning in 1852 with the arrival of Evelina van Millingen Pisani, who used to refer to her favourite flowers as her children. Evelina was born in Pera, Constantinople in 1831 and arrived in this part of Italy through her marriage to Almorò III Pisani. Her villa and garden in Vescovana were frequented by the most famous intellectuals and writers of the time, including Henry James. Exactly which tulip cultivars were planted in the 19th-century garden remains a mystery, but where and when they bloom today is the work of designer Jacqueline van der Kloet, who has collaborated with fellow Dutch designer Piet Oudolf on plant schemes for spring-flowering bulbs for the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park, Chicago, as well as Battery Park, New York.

Villa Pisani Scalabrin
© Jason Ingram

Above ‘West Point’ (yellow, lily-flowered tulip with pointed petals), the yellow ‘Golden Apeldoorn’ (a Darwin hybrid crossed with the wild Tulipa fosteriana)
and ‘Flaming Purissima’ (a Fosteriana tulip, creamy-white with pink).

Jacqueline designed the tulip meadow at Villa Pisani Bolognesi Scalabrin four years ago. “The idea was to have a naturalistic field, a flower meadow, combining different groups of long-lasting tulips with wildflowers, in various colour combinations per area,” she says. “In November 2016, we planted around 50,000 tulips, facing difficult conditions because the soil was quite heavy and we had to plant in an established meadow. The climate worked well, though, as we could plant late and the first tulips started to bloom in late March.”

Villa Pisani Scalabrin
© Jason Ingram

Above ‘Ronaldo’ (deep maroon-purple), ‘Mistress’(soft pink) and ‘Shirley’ (white, edged with purple). There are no hard lines or surfaces ; no fences, bricks or cement to stop visitors from stepping where they shouldn’t

Villa Pisani Scalabrin
© Jason Ingram
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Above ‘Rosalie’ (a pastel-pink Triumph cultivar), ‘Design Impression’ (slightly deeper, Darwin cultivar, salmon with gold flushes and striped leaves) and ‘Purple Pride’ (violet-purple blooms above grey-green foliage).

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