Who cares about a spot of rain? Well certainly not the fearless Garden Club members! We all crowded onto the ferry and sat on the few (nearly) dry seats to admire the loveliness of lake Como wreathed in the mists. We arrived at Villa Carlotta, one of the Grandi Giardini Italiani, to be greeted by Dr.Tantardini a phytopathologist who accompanied us round the garden. History, anecdote, advice, dripping magnolia trees, it was a fascinating walk until he said that it might be best to shelter in the villa, perhaps the rain would stop or taper off. So we had an extra opportunity to look around this lovely place with its reproductions of romantic Canova statues, Psyche and Eros of course. The rain did let up and we continued our explorations: he showed us how NOT to prune azaleas, told us which soil improvers to use for which plants and answered the many questions that we all had to ask him .What was extremely interesting was the kind of housekeeping he envisaged for a park like this. Little or no attempt had been made to prepare substitute trees should they die or get blown down; apart from the obvious danger of an old tree blowing down, the hole it leaves and above all the disappeared foliage, will completely alter the ecosystem that was there before. Tender plants will be left without shade or their windbreak so they will suffer too. We saw places in the garden where the azalea trees were old and destined to die or fall, leaving that particular space quite empty. It’s so much more complicated and linked in than I imagined. Another particularly fascinating insight was his aversion to irrigation systems. Apparently ,after time ,they tend to make the soil too lime-y and thus unsuitable for azaleas and rhododendrons. After a pretty decent lunch we tramped round the rest of the garden and then made our way home. A very succesful if wet day, there’s so much to learn.