Pistoia, in the heart of Tuscany and due west of Florence, has 90,000 inhabitants and the nursery stock industry is one of its most important economic assets. It is the foremost producer in Europe, with some gigantic enterprises producing and trading the widest possible assortment, from subshrubs to big trees. However, the economic crisis has also had a major impact on the Pistoia nurseries: the ‘big’ and the ‘huge’ ones survived quite well, exporting their products all over Europe and to emerging Middle East countries, Turkey, and former Soviet Union republics. The small ones have had to reduce their workforce, often only relying on family members, selling their products to the biggest producers resulting in much thinner margins. Those more affected were the medium-big enterprises, for which the Italian market was still important and those that made huge investments at the wrong moment. Therefore, in the last three years there have been huge takeovers that have deeply changed the ‘landscape’ of the industry.
Tree and shrub production in the area encompasses more than 5,000 ha with 1,200 enterprises and approximately 5,500 working units. The first nurseries were founded in the 19th century in an ideal location in terms of climatic conditions that enable growing both hardy and Mediterranean plants, protection from the strongest winds, fertile soil and abundant availability of water. The major transformation at the end of the 20th century was the increased use of container cultivation which enables the sale of plants all year-long.
The quality standards in Pistoia are very high and clients are happy to find excellent products in quantities they need, including large landscaping projects. Another feature is the ample availability of topiary plants, not only in traditional shapes (balls, trees, espaliers, etc.) but also the most unusual: all kind of animals, from elephants to dinosaurs, dolphins to horses, cars to bicycles to motorcycles, with endless possibilities.
‘Vestire il Paesaggio’ (‘Styling the Landscape’) was held for the first time in 2007, organized by Renato Ferretti and the Pistoia Province staff, followed by two other incarnations in 2010 and 2013. The next event was planned for 2016, however it was decided to postpone it until 2017 to coincide with the events of Pistoia Italian Capital of Culture, with a smaller version that took place at the end of 2015.
“The event was really successful,” says Mr. Ferretti. “We were able to introduce an international audience to the beauties of Pistoia and how strong our town is within the industry. The program was very diverse including an international workshop, visits to the leading nurseries and to other attractions of the town, for instance the ‘1000 flower tapestry’ and the embroidery museum and cultural events like concerts and performances.”