As writer and philosopher Herman Hesse would say, designing a garden is as difficult as governing a kingdom. It requires a skilful balance of colours, terrain, strategies, and season-conscious planning.
Anyone who has visited one of the ADLER resorts will know: the attention to nature and green areas is one of the cornerstones of the ADLER philosophy. From the Tuscan hillside to the Renon high plateau above Bolzano, and from Alpe di Siusi to the pastel-coloured facades of Ortisei, each of the ADLER resorts sits in continuous dialogue with its surroundings, becoming part of one global architectural being. Sometimes, all it takes is a window that frames a panoramic view as extraordinary as that of Mt. Sassolungo. At other times, it is a harmonious blend of shape and essence, masterfully combined by Andreas and Klaus Sanoner’s vision, that creates an impressive framework of lawns, flowers and leaves.
In his 50-year career as a gardener, Martin Messner has designed countless green areas. But at the ADLER resorts, his work goes far beyond that. “The Sanoners have a gift: they can look ahead and imagine the final result. They can apply the sense of attention to detail that goes into every room and common area and visualise the shape it will take in the outdoor areas.” How long it is going to take is of no consequence – as long as the goal is achieved using local plants and in such a way that human intervention is virtually invisible. Sometimes, this requires very hard work. The hardest project of all? Martin has no doubt: the green areas of the ADLER THERMAE resort in Bagno Vignoni. “I had no idea which local plants would be best suited in that context. Additionally, the clay soil looked a bit like a stone-dotted sea of mud.” Better acquainted with the Alpine pines, birches and larches, Martin set off to study the Tuscan vegetation to be able to arrange the plants in their most natural position, as Andreas and Klaus required. He was not new to this kind of endeavour: “Now, I’m already devoting myself to the study of the Sicilian flora, as the new ADLER resort is situated in Sicily. We are even working to establish a symbiotic collaboration with some innovative farmers in the immediate vicinity of the resort. Our objective is to implement a permaculture project, with a view to blending the resort seamlessly into a completely natural environment of rich biodiversity, as well as offering the guests natural, genuine zero-miles produce.”
To achieve a final effect of creating an effortless blending of natural indoor spaces and surrounding landscape with no visible sign of human intervention, the design needs to take into account a variety of important details. Trees, shrubs and plants cannot be conceived as separated from the bigger picture – from the paths connecting the main building to the green areas, and from bodies of water such as ponds, fountains and brooks that will also have their spaces. In other words, the choice of plants is the result of a careful assessment of space function (e.g. the passage of guests and staff) as well as sun exposure, season,
position and terrain layout. At the ADLER THERMAE resort, for instance, there were travertine boulders so beautiful that it would have been a shame not to use them for the landscaping. So, they found their place as key elements in the setting up of the pool and sauna areas. Lively, fruitful exchanges and comparisons, sketches drawn on paper – a garden is a living world it its own right, which requires lucid and agile planning. “It’s important to invest in the plants,” says Martin, “but it’s just as important to consider the guests’ perspective: their eye must be allowed to linger on a flower, but also to appreciate a leafless twig, carefully placed where winter will emphasise its beauty.”
On the Renon high plateau, where the latest ADLER resort is situated, the focus was on conveying the idea of sloping ground by placing the trees (hundreds of trees were planted for the project) in such a way that they wouldn’t obstruct the spectacular view that can be enjoyed from the rooms and common areas. During the construction phase, it was also essential to adopt specific strategies to protect the plants already on site from damage. The majestic lime tree soaring in front of the Lodge entrance wasn’t part of the existing flora – Martin had it delivered, together with its soil, on a huge trailer. Now, the tree welcomes the guests with an immediate sense of togetherness, making them feel part of an environment where nature is the key to mental and physical well-being.
Aldo Aldosser starts working at 5 a.m. in summer and an hour later in winter. There are countless plants of many different species in the park surrounding the ADLER DOLOMITI resort: birches, willows, larches, vines and wild cherries. Hidden from sight, there’s even a bamboo tree – a little whim, and the only exception to the rule of keeping things local and indigenous. “Over the years, the gardener’s work has changed quite a lot,” Aldo says as he takes his usual tour of the park. “In the past, we tended to force nature, bending it to the latest trend, for example by pruning or trimming trees into the desired shape, or by using exotic plants. We no longer do that.” Nowadays, it’s all about respecting the local flora and its natural cycle and rhythms. “This has become an imperative in the ADLER parks, and for us gardeners it’s a source of great satisfaction. Our job is much more enjoyable this way.” Aldo loves his job, even with all the challenges a garden may pose during
the bright autumn and idyllic winter months.
When Gani Makoli first arrived in Bagno Vignoni, the park was still just an idea – the gentle rolling landscape of the Tuscan hills, the silvery green of the olive leaves, the scent of wild herbs and the air filled with thermal vapours. “The soon-to-be resort and its park had to blend harmoniously with the stunning natural context of the area, so as to offer the guests a seamless continuum.” So, Gani set off on foot to explore the area, draw an articulate map, geolocalise the various locations and assess any difficulties in reaching them. As a result, diverse walking and mountain bike routes were created, each well marked with information on travel times and distances. “It was very fulfilling, as was creating the hotel’s green areas from scratch – spreading the earth and planting the trees under Martin’s supervision. He designed it all to be in complete harmony with the environment.” As wavy and gentle as the rolling hills, the green areas were smartly designed to conceal the resort’s facilities and car park. “My favourite month is January. That’s when we sow the seeds that will
give life to something new.” The lawn in front of the Lodge ALPE chalets is like a flowery carpet lying at the foot of two majestic mountains, Mt. Sassolungo and Mt. Sassopiatto. In winter, it rests under a snowy duvet. In summer, it invites barefoot relaxation.
Besides taking care of the lodge, Francesco Nonne is also in charge of the lawn – not an easy job. A flowering lawn requires constant and meticulous care, albeit invisible. The beginnings were not easy, either: “To the Sanoner family it was very important that the lawn be absolutely natural and reflect the floral diversity that is so characteristic of the Alpe di Siusi, and part of its charm. So, things like turf rolls, chemical fertilisers or other treatments that could alter the natural state and biodiversity of the lawn were out of the question.” Francesco saw the lawn grow from scratch, and he can tell at a glance whether the grass and plants are in good health or special care is required. It takes perseverance, love and dedication to get there. Because a lawn, like a garden, is an expression of nature, and just like nature it lives and evolves.