The most eccentric of garden owners, over the centuries, have had fun in adding on architectural extravaganzas, from bridges that go nowhere to moorish kiosks bang in the middle of the English countryside; these structures are defined as ‘Follies’. Follies are decorative, ranging from miniature buildings to towers, chinese pagodas or even battlements completely out of context. Follies are expensive games for adults with a lot of imagination. Prince Vicino Orsini in the mid1500 filled his sacred wood in Bomarzo with elephants that carried pyramids on their backs, leaning houses and a gigantic stone mask with its mouth wide open as if it were to gobble you up. Tomaso Buzzi in1960 transformed a Franciscan convent into his ‘ideal city’ building seven theatres. His ’La Scarzuola’ is full of classical references, a mental doodle, fascinating and surreal. Sometimes follies are exotic, other times as at the Petit Trianon (Versailles) it is an excuse to create a farm in which to pretend to be a farmer’s wife, as was the case of Marie Antoinette. You can find follies all over the world; Las Pozas right in the wild of Mexico or Bruno Weber Park in the tranquil landscape of the Swiss manicured countryside. Here is a selection of the most bizarre and enchanting follies, where owners and architects alike have obviously had fun, and where we can let our imagination go free.
Discover these great gardens of the world
The Rock Garden, the world’s largest visionary environment, is a fantasy kingdom created by Nek Chand Saini (1924–2015). Originally built in secret in a clearing on the outskirts of the newly constructed city of Chandigarh, it eventually gained official recognition and was inaugurated in 1976.
Collodi is famous for having provided Carlo Lorenzini with his pseudonym: it was the birthplace of his mother and the childhood haunt of the author of The Adventures of Pinocchio, the most-translated and widely printed non-religious book in the world. Collodi consists of three major elements: the hamlet, Garzoni garden and Pinocchio Park.
Bomarzo, a village in Lazio at the foot of Mount Cimino, possesses a unique work, the Villa of Marvels, also called the Sacred Wood or Park of Monsters. It was designed by Prince Vicino Orsini and the great architect Pirro Ligorio in 1552.
A Franciscan convent founded by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1218, who planted a laurel and rose bush here and caused a water spring to gush, it is called after a marsh plant, The Scarza, which the saint used to build himself a hut.