TUSCAN GARDEN DESIGN: Plants that provide structure
Tuscan gardens and Italian gardens in general have been based on strong garden structure from their Arabic origins, where a strong emphasis was already being placed on geometric form.
If we take some of the more indigenous, evergreen, Mediterranean plants like rosemary, myrtle, lavender and evergreen oak we can establish strong structure and form in our Tuscan style gardens. Plants that can be clipped into strong forms have been utilised for centuries to provide hedges and topiary and have formed the basis of the geometric, Italianate garden.
The use of plants to form geometric structure in gardens was at its peak in the Renaissance period in Italy and saw geometry taken to an extreme in gardens like Villa Lante (Bagnaia) in Viterbo. This image of elaborate geometric garden design has remained as a strong symbol for anyone attempting to make an Italianate garden. Although maintenance costs inhibit the use of such elaborate garden structure it is still essential to base any Italian garden design on a strong evergreen structure. Basic garden structure can be achieved by using the same, classic Mediterranean evergreens.
With the minimum of planning from the outset we can ensure a rational and coherent base for our Tuscan garden, without incurring a Renaissance style maintenance budget.
Evergreen plant structure in the garden is best planned on paper using a scale drawing. This enables us to decide upon a balanced design, without incurring expensive mistakes, such as moving large trees and shrubs when the garden is finished. By using slightly more ‘modern’ plants, that were introduced during the Renaissance, we can apply at least some Italian form to our Tuscan style gardens. Plants like boxood (Buxus sempervirens) we can add a minimum of topiary structure, in the form of small spheres or spirals and by using old classics like the holm oak (Quercus ilex) we can form large cylinder shapes.
These topiary forms, when illuminated, can provide an Italian elegance that is well worth the investment! See some examples at www.lifeinitaly.com