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Wise Coastal Practices for Sustainable Human Development Forum

Re-establishing native horticulture / Sardinia Island-Italy.

Posted By: Maria Luisa Gentileschi
Date: Saturday, 26 June 1999, at 12:54 a.m.

Key words: economic ripple effects, traditional practices, tourism.

INTRODUCTION: Italian horticulture was for a long time dominated by the English style. Even in the Mediterranean, where the temperature and humidity conditions sharply differ from those in England, both in private and in public gardens, an effort was made in order to reproduce the English garden, with its typical luscious emerald greens.

However, since the 1960's horticulture in Sardinia has been gradually influenced by the landscape planning of the Costa Smeralda Gardens in the province of Sassari, a world famous tourist resort.

On one hand, the idea was to save as much as possible of the original natural landscape, through the preservation of plants, rocks and natural morphology. On the other hand, the aesthetic value of Mediterranean species was discovered, promoting a new horticultural philosophy: private gardens as well as municipal parks and commons should use local bushes and trees, like Romarinus, Arbutus, Genista, Quercus, Laurus, etc., as well as flowering plants like Pancratium, Saxifraga, etc. Slowly alleys and parks are changing their aspects in towns and cities so that less foreign species are now present (Ficus, Eucaliptus, Sophora, and others used to be very popular), as local species fare so much better under the Mediterranean sun. Near the sea, the Mediterranean garden is a must.


LONG-TERM BENEFIT: A permanent change in the cultural landscape is introduced in this way; besides, some local species are far more durable and stress resistant.

CAPACITY BUILDING & INSTITUTIONAL STRENGTHENING: Preference for local species had a positive impact on small local nurseries, gave more scope to the Regional Forest Office nurseries and to the Botanical Garden and Institute of the University of Cagliari.

SUSTAINABILITY: The introduced change lowers gardening costs, because prior to this, exotic plants had to be imported.

TRANSFERABILITY: The promotion of local vegetation anywhere is not difficult, but it needs a demonstration of its aesthetic value and decorative potential.

CONSENSUS BUILDING: The Mediterranean plants can always be transplanted from the wilderness and therefore gardening becomes less expensive and more affordable.

PARTICIPATORY PROCESS: The involvement of the general public was fostered by the Regione Sardegna through the publication of books and posters on local vegetation (ancient trees, woods of Sardinia, natural landscapes).

EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT COMMUNICATION PROCESS: Knowledge of plant names is rare in Italy, since the school system gives little space to Botany. On the other hand, in the countryside the knowledge of wild plants is part of the popular wisdom as regards to health. Learning Sardinian plant names and their medicinal, religious and esthetic virtues is far more important in these areas than in the more advanced regions of Italy.

CULTURALLY RESPECTFUL: Special programs were implemented in schools in order to strengthen sensitivity for local plants and flowers.

GENDER AND/OR SENSITIVITY ISSUES: Communal administrations are beginning to promote prizes for the most attractive village garden or courtyard. They are directed at housewives and seek to valorize women's efforts to embellish their homes.

STRENGTHENING LOCAL IDENTITIES: The choice of local species in gardens in tourist resort areas gives them a far more typical local flavour.

REGIONAL DIMENSION: The Regione Sardegna is financing the participation of local plant nurseries to garden festivals in Europe.

DOCUMENTATION: The promotion of Mediterranean flora is fostered by botanists and landscape architects, at the Universities of Cagliari and Sassari.

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