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LIKE FATHER AND GRANDFATHER: Mr Passerotti (above) comes from a family of gardeners and he grew up reading and hearing stories about plants, water, nature and the sun. The Italian will be taking part in the Singapore Garden Festival, which runs from July 23 to 31 at Gardens by the Bay. Some of his recent accolades include a gold medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2014, and a silver gilt medal at the same show in 2015.
BT_20160618_SCSTEF18IU55_2339491.jpg
LIKE FATHER AND GRANDFATHER: Mr Passerotti comes from a family of gardeners and he grew up reading and hearing stories about plants, water, nature and the sun. The Italian will be taking part in the Singapore Garden Festival, which runs from July 23 to 31 at Gardens by the Bay. Some of his recent accolades include a gold medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2014 (above), and a silver gilt medal at the same show in 2015.
BT_20160618_SCSTEF18IU55_2339491.jpg
LIKE FATHER AND GRANDFATHER: Mr Passerotti comes from a family of gardeners and he grew up reading and hearing stories about plants, water, nature and the sun. The Italian will be taking part in the Singapore Garden Festival, which runs from July 23 to 31 at Gardens by the Bay. Some of his recent accolades include a gold medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2014, and a silver gilt medal at the same show in 2015 (above).

Happy feet

Landscape architect Stefano Passerotti enjoys walking barefoot in gardens so as to get a feel of the place.
Jun 18, 2016 5:50 AM

IF you spot a Caucasian man with wavy hair in a suit walking barefoot at Gardens by the Bay or the Botanic Gardens, it could be landscape architect Stefano Passerotti.

The Italian enjoys walking in gardens in his bare feet, "feeling the vibrations of the grass and the soil, and the sun on my face".

When he is not travelling, he is up at 4am each morning for a walk in his garden at his home in Florence, without shoes, of course. This is also when he tends to his garden.

He does the same when he takes on a new project, as "walking on the ground gives me a feel of the place," he says.

Mr Passerotti, 53, will be participating at the Singapore Garden Festival (SGF) which runs from July 23 to 31 at Gardens by the Bay. He will be competing in the Fantasy Garden category, and it's his first time participating in a garden show in a tropical environment.

Some of his recent accolades include a gold medal at the Hampton Court Flower Show in 2014, and a silver gilt medal at the same show in 2015.

For his Fantasy Garden at SGF, he doesn't want to give away too much, but says he will be creating a garden that shows "the importance of nature, or the sun and the moon throughout the day and night".

His recent visit marks his first time to Singapore, where he found the weather a little too hot compared to Italy. "But at least it is always hot and humid here, so I'm relieved that the plants I'm using for my garden will survive," he says, unlike in Europe, where the temperatures can vary greatly throughout the year, and sometimes can be tough on plants.

He says he enjoys taking part in garden shows not for the awards but so that his gardens can be enjoyed by a bigger audience. "It is a great way for kids to learn and respect nature, and in turn they can tell their friends about nature too," he says.

Mr Passerotti comes from a family of gardeners, following in his grandfather's and father's footsteps.

"There was no pressure on me to do the same, but it was natural for me to be a gardener too," he says, having grown up reading and hearing stories about plants, water, nature and the sun.

He recalls planting his first plot of grassland when he was seven. This involved picking up pieces of grass and then manually transplanting them on another part of the land. It wasn't an easy task, "but to me, I saw that as a game, and I knew then that this was what I wanted to do for life," he says.

From his father and grandfather, he learnt lessons such as education and respect for nature. By that, he means that he doesn't abuse nature, "no chemicals are used in my gardens, and I don't abuse the use of water too," he explains.

Just as important for him is a "respect for the place", he adds. For example, if he is doing a project in Tuscany, he would follow the Tuscan style of gardens rather than try and create something totally foreign.

Most of his projects, be it private or public gardens, are in Europe, and he favours plants that do not require too much watering. Olive trees are another favourite, especially because both his father and one of his sons are named Oliverio. "It has become like a family heritage for me to use olive trees in my projects," says Mr Passerotti.

The Italian media has nicknamed him the "Brave Gardener" because of his knowledge and respect for nature, and for sticking with traditional gardening methods. For example, he still practises marcotting when he wants to reproduce a plant. Marcotting is a form of vegetative reproduction that consists of inducing rooting of part of a tree branch. After rooting is induced, the branch is cut and put in a nursery to develop buds and become an independent plant. Mr Passerotti explains that marcotting is a traditional Tuscan way of gardening.

He has also created an eco-friendly way of watering his plants. Rather than depend on a water source, he uses natural dewdrops. This requires moving the plants every day so that the dewdrops fall off the leaves and onto the soil. "It has to be done daily, but this way, less water is needed," he says.

Perhaps it is a job hazard, but Mr Passerotti truly enjoys visiting gardens, and always makes it a point to visit them when he is in a new location. He is hard pressed to name his favourite, but says: "Every garden is fascinating and worth visiting. There are always stories behind them."