Enzo Enea, a Swiss landscape designer who has gone from being a tree collector to a tree curator with the opening of the Tree Museum on the banks of Lake Zurich, explains his unique view of trees as art.
Whereas the clients of the Swiss landscape architect Enzo Enea might collect Picassos and Warhols, the garden designer himself collects Japanese maples and weeping willows. And just as his wealthy customers might build a gallery for their collection of modern art, Enzo has created a spectacular open-air museum for his collection trees.
“I think they are natural pieces of art,” explains the go-to gardener of his love of trees. “For 20 years I have been collecting trees from all over Europe. I wanted to show how much beauty and power there is around us.”
On the banks of Lake Zurich in the town of Rapperswil, Enzo opened the Tree Museum on June 14. In an oval-shaped garden, he created a series of ‘rooms,’ a characteristic of all his gardens, which showcase over 50 trees and 25 species in a carefully constructed setting that allows them to be viewed from several angles. Surrounding what is the Louvre of landscaping are a further 2000 trees from Enzo’s personal collection, located on the site of Enea, his garden design company.
It is the success of Enea that has allowed Enzo to indulge his passion for this project. From its headquarters in Switzerland and a satellite office in Miami, Enea creates private parks for a certain demographic of the in-the-know super rich. Enzo is renowned not only for his ability to create modern-day Edens, but also his pioneering skills in replanting trees, as he does in clients’ gardens. Enzo has uniquely solved the root of the problem in transporting trees, which is the basis of the Tree Musuem’s existence.
What makes Enzo a curator rather than just a collector of trees? “Because it’s a collection. And you put things in museums which must be conserved,” he explains. “It’s not like a public park. Children can’t climb these trees – I would shoot them!”
Enzo Enea’s definition of luxury?
To have time - time for myself, my family and my friends.
If luxury were an object, what would it be?
An old Japanese maple tree.
If luxury were a place, where would it be?
A forest full of several hundred years old fern trees (dicksonia antartica) in Tasmania.
If luxury were a moment, when would it be?
Sitting with my familiy and my friends at a table; the sun is shining; fresh and simple food is served; and we all have a good time.
If luxury were a person, who would it be?
Two women - my wife and my daughter.
What is the Tree Museum?
For 20 years I have been collecting trees. I wanted to show how much beauty and power there is around us on a daily basis. And to show space, room and proportion. That’s why I did it. This museum is about trees that fit in the climate zone of where we are [on Lake Zurich, Switzerland]. Some plants were imported many years ago, for example from Japan, but they are now acclimatized because they’ve been here so long.
Where did the trees come from?
I have collected trees from all over Europe. It began with a client who was building a new house. There was a tree on the site and they wanted to cut it down. I asked if I could take it and they agreed. That continued to happen. They didn’t sell me the trees, rather I took them. I only paid for only a few of them and the bonsais. They’re all saved trees.
Why did you frame the trees with stone structures?
I wanted to create rooms and spaces to exhibit the trees. So I used the same stone from Palladio’s quarries that I use to make my pots to build stone walls that create the rooms. It’s interesting because some of the trees contrast with the stone but others, such as those from the time of Louis XIV that are cut with flat tops, complement the architecture.
What about the other pieces of architecture?
The connection between the modern part of the Museum and the ancient part is the Victorian orangery in the middle of the garden. Behind that, there is a wall from 17th century France, which I bought at Sotheby’s. The final structure is an old deer stable. One of my first clients for whom I created a garden was a man who had a deer park with a stable. It’s from Canada and his grandfather brought it to Switzerland. He gave it to me as a present.
How do you transplant the trees?
The roots of trees are generally very spread out. Normally, to transfer trees you need to go to a nursery where they cultivate old trees in a way that takes years. I tried a new technique that I learnt from the bonsais whereby I can see the proportion and weight of tree and also its roots. But I’m not going to tell how I cut the roots! That’s how I get the jobs. It works about 85% of the time.
How much do you shape the trees?
I don’t like to shape them too much but a certain amount is necessary. We cut them a little but if you don’t take care of them they get sick and don’t look perfect.
What would you say is the Picasso of the Tree Musuem?
There are Picassos, Miros and Hirsts in the Musuem! It’s not to do with their value but their beauty. There are eight or nine very impressive trees in the Museum. The gardeners who work here are aficionados and they’re freaking out at what we have.
Which trees are on your wish list?
I would like to have a really nice weeping willow. I have one on the site but I want another one, a little bit larger. It’s a beautiful tree and once it’s a certain size it moves so nicely in the wind. Also, I would love a nicely sized Lebanese cedar. I have one here which is the biggest I could move. But precious trees are not just big trees. It’s about a nice form, the way they move, the colour. I also particularly like apricot trees and maple trees are incredible. The trees in the museum are my favourite types.
Why is your collection of bonsai trees separate from the Museum?
I call it a forest of bonsais. It’s another collection. I found most of them when I was travelling, buying them piece-by-piece and then selling them on. If I buy four, I sell three. I always invest in trees.
On the site of the Tree Musuem there are lots of over-sized pots. What’s the story behind them?
These are like the history of Enea. When I took over my father’s garden decoration business, I took over these pots. We have a collection, most of which are 300 years old, which were used as containers for olive oil. They’re from Greece, turkey, Italy, Spain… There is one Medici vase that must be 500 years old. I started to collect pots first and then trees. What I started to do in parallel to my work with gardens was to create my own stone pots in proportion to the trees. I wanted to get away from the classical forms of pots and be more modern. I use the same stone from quarries in Verona that Andrea Palladio used to build houses.
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