I was trying to figure out when I met the writer and garden designer Paul Gervais for the first time and really gave up because I couldn't remember. His partner Gil Cohen and I have been writing back and forth forever (he teaches English part time at a school). They both live in a beautiful 16th century hunting lodge on a hillside in Lucca called Villa Masei which they've lovingly restored, including the gardens. Paul is another gift of friendship and I'm so happy to share him with you this holiday season...
Villa Masei, home of garden designer Paul Gervais
Q: Paul, since you're a noted garden designer and have traveled all over, what garden would be wonderful to see in the winter?
A garden I love seeing under the snow is Chateau de Jonchet, the country home of Hubert de Givenchy. He designed the amazing parterre himself, a series of enourmous circles and in the snow it makes the most elegant impression. It's the great French garden reduced to essentials and it's almost zen in its peaceful simplicity.
Chateau de Jonchet
Q. Having lived in Italy for more than 20 years, what are some Italian Christmas traditions that you celebrate during the season?
Christmas in Italy is a bit more understated than it is on other parts of the world, but it's still a very festive time if not so decorated up as we do it. The evening walk through the narrow streets of Lucca, where I live, is a chance to see and greet all your friends and to stop together for an aperativo and an exchange of Christmas wishes.
Streets of Lucca
Q. Knowing that you grew up in the States, what are some personal Christmas traditions that you enjoy?
I always make my mother's lobster stew for Christmas eve and no one will allow me to give up the tradition. On Christmas day we have a long standing date at Villa Orlando and our great friend Marilu. It,s one of Lucca's most noble villas, an imposing 16th century house, and this is where we gather for a traditional capon meal with home made tortelli.
Q. What plants do you love to have in the house during the season?
While we always seem to have orchids in the house, at Christmas we fill vases with greens found in the woods. We pick myrtle and sweet bay and wild holly, with both white an red berries, and this is the kind of simple decoration that makes the season what it is for me.