The recent tour to Italy, my second this year, was beyond all expectations. Though you might think it strange, I truly enjoy seeing a place time and again, and often find a second or even third visit more illuminating than the first. With gardens in particular, it’s impossible to take in everything on a single visit. Plus, experiencing a garden at different times of year affords a broader perspective.
The June tour (my third trip to Italy but first Hortitopia garden tour) provided a firm understanding of the traditional Italian garden — linear spaces dominated by green plants pruned into hedges, cones, balls, and other shapes, and accented by terracotta containers, which are arranged symmetrically at regular intervals and filled with citrus or herbs such as rosemary or scented geraniums. This month’s visit provided an opportunity to examine details — the iron gates that mark entrances and exits, the grottos and nymphaeums provided for entertainment or respite from summer heat, and the fountains and statuary that serve as focal points.
The design feature that captured my imagination most, though, was the reflecting pools that mirrored surrounding plants and structures, or even better, the cerulean blue autumn sky. Large or small, these shallow bodies of water added a measure of mystery and tranquility that made any garden special.
I was especially taken with the Spanish Pool Garden at Giardini della Landriana, a lovely country garden roughly 35 kilometers south of Rome. Designed by Russell Page (British garden designer and landscape architect, 1906-1985), this slender canal, offering a mirror image of surrounding hardwood trees, made me wonder if there’s room for a similar feature in my own shady haven.