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.
Above is one of several garden areas.
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 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.
The balcony is filled with vegetable plants and potted oleander, a common flowering shrub in Italy.
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.
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.
Fruit of Bruno’s ‘secret’ fig tree.
Apple and other fruit trees can be found throughout the property.
Eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini are among the many vegetables.
and not a weed in sight…
Bruno starts many of his plants from seed brought from Italy.
Roma pole beans, another staple of the Italian American garden.
Several sets of rain barrels collect water from the gutter systems of his garage and shed.
Hundreds of figs were ripening on Bruno’s many trees.
‘Scarola’ (escarole) was recently planted where onions had just been harvested.
Bruno enthusiastically shared his gardening wisdom.
Grape vines snake throughout the gardens.
This grape vine was planted over thirty years ago.
Bruno transformed the sloping backyards into level, terraced gardens using his knowledge of stonework and masonry.
Wooden boards become impromptu sidewalks between garden rows.
One of the many tomato plants beginning to flower.
Well worn tools and garden stakes speak to a consciousness of resources.
Bruno shows a ‘bidente’ (two toothed hoe) that he brought with him from Italy.
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.