Thoughts About Planting


I have written earlier that I would report on our planting process at Calboccia, but then I didn’t.  It took me some time to think about this because there is more to say than what  we are planting this winter and spring; it also involves explaining how we choose what we plant, and what Calboccia was before it was abandoned by the sharecroppers who used to live here.  We always wonder with what kind of plants these sharecroppers may have surrounded themselves.   Our sense is that, historically, the “Contadini”  planted what was useful to them, not what would please their eyes or those of a visitor. During the “Mezzadria” system (, no Contadino or Contadina would have planted elegant cypresses or fragrant roses; those plants were the luxuries of the privileged. Instead, in addition to the crops they delivered to the landowner in exchange for the use of the land and their humble house, they planted what would nourish them and their large families.

My family and I have chosen plants for Calboccia with that tradition in mind.  Therefore, we have augmented, and continue to augment

  • ·      The olive orchard
  • ·      The fruit trees and shrubs:  The orchard now includes apple, quince, cherry, pear, plum, mulberry, walnut, fig, persimmon, and apricot trees; and red currant, hazelnut, and elderberry shrubs.
  • ·      The stand of trees for firewood and other purposes:  The are many, many, fairly young elm trees which provide pleasant shade at Calboccia.  This spring,  for diversity’s sake, we are augmenting our  elm “Boschetto” with the local field maple, Italian maple, and Italian alder.

That said, we have also planted many, many roses and other Mediterranean flowering plants.  They are our concession to living in the 21st century and to not being Contadini.

One important note about planting fruit trees:  Recently, we have been introduced to Isabella Dalla Ragione, the “Fruit Tree Archaeologist.” We were left with a deep impression of the importance of her work of discovering ancient fruit varieties in old, abandoned orchards and of promoting their importance for biodiversity (  You will find some fruit trees in our orchard that Isabella has propagated herself.  In addition, our family has adopted a tree of ancient fig variety that remains at Isabella’s San Lorenzo di Lerchi’s orchard, but we get its harvest!

Please, feel free to harvest any fruit while staying at Calboccia!


About christinemargerum

As a part-time community-college instructor, I have a double life: working and living a wonderful life in the U.S. 's best town ever (Berkeley); and living and working in the wonderful Umbrian countryside whenever I can. Husband Terry and daughters Ingrid and Nina play along.
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