In Search of the Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden, Venice
Little could John Ruskin have known, when he described Venice as the 'paradise of cities', that one day the city would have its very own garden of Eden.

In 1887 an Englishman by the name of Frederick Eden bought an abandoned garden/orchard on the Giudecca. Frederick and his wife Caroline, who was the sister of the celebrated garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, set about creating their very own garden of Eden. In addition to planting flowers and fruit trees the new owners introduced a small herd of cows. In 1903 Eden wrote a book about their horticultural exploits, rather prosaically entitled, A Garden in Venice. 
The Garden of Eden, Venice
Frederick Eden died in 1916 and Caroline in 1928. The garden was bought by Sir James Horlicks for Princess Aspasia of Greece. She gave it to her daughter Alexandra, who briefly became a queen when she married King Peter II of Yugoslavia. In the early 1950s the ex-queen was abandoned by the ex-king and came to live in Venice. Alexandra acquired a reputation for being a little strange and her garden began to acquire an air of mystery.
In 1979 it was bought by the eccentric Austrian artist, Friedensreich Hundertwasser. Hundertwasser had a preference for wild plants and duly allowed nature to take its course. The garden quickly became a romantic ruin. Since his death in 2000, ownership of the largest private garden in Venice has been uncertain, which only further adds to its mystery. 

The Garden of Eden is situated between the churches of the Zitelle and Il Redentore and this afternoon, with Venice veiled in light rain, I set off in search of it. I knew that it was closed to the public, but had read that parts of it could be glimpsed, beyond the surrounding brick wall, from the Fondamenta Rio de la Croce. I discovered that the garden, which is dark and full of trees, is flanked by a canal and can only be accessed by a private bridge. It seemed a long cry from paradise.