Genius Loci

By Rob Dwiar

A grand tour of video game landscapes and gardens

Saturday, 3 June 2023

Shared landscape moments

Hello everyone,

Those of you that follow me on Twitter might have seen that in the middle of May, I said that I was going to Rome imminently and that this trip would lead to a cracking next book update. This is absolutely still true - but maybe not in the most 'obvious' way, or at least not yet anyway. It's going certainly still going to be excellent and interesting as always to pick out one (or several) places from the trip and draw some parallels for Genius Loci and wax lyrical about some astonishing gardens, but I wanted this first update post-Rome to be a little different and describe another side to my appreciation for all things gardens and landscapes, real and virtual.

My Dad took the below picture of me about 30 years ago. He captioned it in the family photo album with “Next generation’s Geoff Hamilton starts early” - or some other lovely words to that effect.

Broadly speaking, this marks the time when I became very interested in gardens and plants, and with Dad began to be more active and hands-on with both; every summer we would have a garden ‘project’ to do, such as making a miniature vineyard on one of the slopes, extending the pond, or removing big, past-it plants en masse. As a result, I feel quite indebted to him for beginning my horticulture and garden design journey - though I certainly didn't know that at the time of the above picture!

So, 30 years later, it was my pleasure to take Dad (and Mum) to two of the best gardens in Italy (maybe in all of Europe) during our trip to Rome, to 'return the favour', in a way. I’ll have plenty more to say on both in future updates, but capturing moments like the one below was a particular highlight for me on a deeper, more emotional level. As it happens, as my wife took the below picture, I was saying to Dad: ‘Who’d have thought: 30 years ago we were just cutting down old trees and watering the garden together, and now we’re here in Villa D’Este in front of the fountains...’. It’s not quite a ‘full circle’ moment, as more visits to gardens are coming, but it did feel wonderful and significant, and I'm very grateful to have it captured.

Dad’s guidance, garden time, and 'shared landscape moments' from a very young age, suggestion, encouragement, and help to study garden design at university, and now our 'grown up' shared passion for gardens and plants is something that is very important to us, of course. However, it is also something that has always informed and helped me in my approach to gardens and landscapes - personally and professionally. And it is still playing a part now, informing my approach to, and the content of, Genius Loci: analysing, appraising, and celebrating gardens and landscapes, looking closely at plants and horticulture in particular. Alongside my show garden in 2016, I would probably say that this book really is a tremendous 'epitome' and culmination of this shared passion, too, and I can’t wait to sprinkle some passed-down information from him into it for you all! Thanks again for your support, and keep spreading the word!

Here’s to you, Dad!

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