A Visit to Bruno’s Garden

On a hot summer day last July, I discovered one of the most amazing gardens I’ve ever seen. I was invited to the home of Bruno Garofalo by his daughter who had contacted me when she heard about my interest in Italian American gardens.  Even as I approached a side door toward the back of the house as advised, there was no hint of what lay behind the large two-story residence in a city neighborhood of Pittsburgh. It wasn’t until rounding the back corner of the house that it was clear that a little piece of paradise had been transplanted here.

bruno garden

Above is one of several garden areas.

 

bruno

Bruno is a semi-retired contractor who, at the age of 81, still takes on construction jobs and tends a garden that fills every square inch of the two properties behind his own home and the one next door which had been his parents’ and where his daughter and her husband now live.

 

bruno house

Bruno doubled the size of his home with an addition he built. A balcony spans the length of the back of the house like many of the private homes and apartments in his native Italy.

 

balcony

The balcony is filled with vegetable plants and potted oleander, a common flowering shrub in Italy.

 

fig canopy

Looking down on a canopy of leaves of three large fig trees. These are the same trees that Bruno unwraps in the video at the bottom of this page.

 

walkway

This walkway leads down to the garden under a canopy of leaves. The fig tree on the left is over 50 years old and was brought as a small rooted shoot, hidden in his coat when Bruno came to America in 1961.

 

secret fig

Fruit of Bruno’s ‘secret’ fig tree.

 

apple tree

Apple and other fruit trees can be found throughout the property.

 

eggplant

Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini are among the many vegetables.

 

tomato

and not a weed in sight…

 

pepper

Bruno starts many of his plants from seed brought from Italy.

 

roma bean

Roma pole beans, another staple of the Italian American garden.

 

rain barrels

Several sets of rain barrels collect water from the gutter systems of his garage and shed.

 

hundred figa

Hundreds of figs were ripening on Bruno’s many trees.

 

scarola

‘Scarola’ (escarole) was recently planted where onions had just been harvested.

 

bruno2

Bruno enthusiastically shared his gardening wisdom.

 

grape vines

Grape vines snake throughout the gardens.

 

old grape vine

This grape vine was planted over thirty years ago.

 

terraces

Bruno transformed the sloping backyards into level, terraced gardens using his knowledge of stonework and masonry.

 

wooden boards

Wooden boards become impromptu sidewalks between garden rows.

 

tomato flower

One of the many tomato plants beginning to flower.

 

worn tools

Well worn tools and garden stakes speak to a consciousness of resources.

 

bruno took

Bruno shows a ‘bidente’ (two toothed hoe) that he brought with him from Italy.

 

two madonnas

Two Madonna statues look out over the garden from the porch.

 

In this video, produced by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Bruno and his sons-in-law unwrap a fig tree from its winter protection. The video will play following the advertisement. Click on the “Full Screen” button to view it larger.

You can read the full Post-Gazette article here.

Learn more about Bruno Garofalo  by clicking on this name here.

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Comments

Brent

I was wondering what kind of grapes Bruno and others are growing. Are they concord grapes or some kind of vinifera that is more suitable for making wine? I was thinking of planting a vine myself and just wondered what others are doing. Thanks for doing this website, I love seeing other people’s gardens and getting ideas.

Reply
Mary Menniti

I spoke with Michele Vaccaro who said that the majority of the grapes grown by Italian Americans in the northeast are Concord grapes and generally not used for winemaking because of the low sugar content. California grapes are preferred for wine. They have a higher sugar content necessary to produce alcohol. Concord grapes are often used to make jams and jellies or are eaten fresh. He noted that Concord grapes are also grown in Italy in mountainous areas where the elevation creates a colder climate not conducive to growing other grape varieties. He recalled that his grandfather used these grapes for wine as well even though it made a wine of low alcohol content.

Reply
Ann Tommasino

Hello, I look forward to following Bruno for his knowledge of gardening. I grew up with a huge family garden. My Mom canned and froze everything we grew. I helped my Grandmom can 200 quarts of tomatoes each summer. I am now 54 years old and can finally plant a garden in my yard. We cleared over ten trees from our 1/2 acher lot so that I can have a garden. The trees were a danger during hurricane season. I will be starting a notebook and rely on Bruno for expert advice.

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