How to Create a Quintessential Italian Garden

Italian-style gardens, inspired by classical ideals of order and beauty, are some of the most majestic gardens in the world. The gardens at Villa Lante in Viterbo, Villa d’Este in Tivoli, and Villa de Costello in Florence are just some of the world-renowned grand Italian gardens that have captivated travellers and fascinated landscapers across the globe.

However, while the idea of creating your own version can feel a little daunting, it is still a very achievable ordeal at a smaller, residential scale. Certain kinds of décor and plants, combined with hard work and an understanding of Italian landscaping principles, can help you create the same luxurious effect in your own garden.

So whether you are a beginner in gardening or an experienced green thumb preparing for your next big project, here are some ways to create your own quintessential piece of Italy in your own backyard.

Isola del Garda

The basics

Choosing a good location and proper timing for plants can go a long way in ensuring the success of your Italian garden. Our beginner’s guide on planting outdoors here on Panoram Italia highlights the need for plants to have around six to eight hours of direct sunlight everyday, making your choice of site a vital decision. Pick the sunniest area in your garden or backyard to begin.

Timing is also very important. Although majority of the plants in traditional Italian gardens are evergreens and fragrant climbers, it is still good practice to time the planting process. This is to prevent seedlings from getting covered up in winter frost or drying up in harsh summers.

The best time to plant trees and shrubs for your Italian garden is in late fall or early spring. But if you can’t wait for summer to be over before beginning your garden project, you may plant your seeds as well. Just remember take extra care in watering your plants. 

Choosing your plants

Italian gardens are typically green gardens that do not have a lot of flowers. That’s not to say, however, that there is no variance in terms of colour and shade. Evergreens and shrub foliage come in a wide range of colours – from greys and silvers, bronzes and gold hues to an expansive array of light and dark greens.

Some commonly planted trees are Italian cypresses, eucryphias, holly trees, bay trees, and yew trees. These add height and vertical layers, while also holding the structure in winter, since most are evergreens.

The usual Italian garden herbs, on the other hand, include the common boxwood, myrtle, fragrant olive, and the laurustinus. Organic Authority recommends adding plants that you can use for your kitchen as well, such as oregano, parsley, basil, and thyme. 

To achieve a distinct Italian look, Gardenia suggests manicuring evergreens into geometric hedges. In the Renaissance tradition of showcasing man’s control over nature, these hedges are made to be square, spherical, or cone-shaped to add energy and interest to the landscape.

Plant upkeep is especially important during summer, when the roots need more watering on top of manicuring. For gardeners with busier lifestyles, it’s worth considering investing in tools that make the process more efficient. For instance, Screwfix shows a programmable digital water timer among its lineup of garden hoses and mentioned features such as various cycle settings and a rain delay function to conserve water. Taking advantage of devices like this ensures that your plants never go without water even if you’re too busy to squeeze in regular watering sessions.

Form and function

Lastly, two indispensable principles in any Italian garden are balance and symmetry. The Royal Horticultural Society relayed that Italian gardens are known to be highly stylised, symmetrical, and functional. All of these traits emphasise Renaissance ideals of man-made order and beauty in nature.

Manicured evergreens, hedges, and geometric beds create clean and balanced structures, with designs typically mirrored from one side to another. Moreover, grand Italian gardens would normally have distinct sections such as patios, ponds, or orchards for garden viewing, contemplation, and quiet conversations.

Of course, not everyone has enough space and resources to make a grand Italian garden, but even home gardeners can achieve the same feel and beauty. Look for precise designs and symmetrical layouts, which you can adapt and combine with your own style for a personal touch. Moreover, ornaments like columns, pergolas, frescoes, statues, and stone basins with Florentine motifs or classical shapes are enough to suggest an Italian influence on your garden.

Do you have more tips for creating an Italian garden? Feel free to share them with us in the comment section below.

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