Gardeners’ World: Monty Don praises Clare Austin’s knowledge

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Gardeners World’s favourite frontman Monty Don will be presenting a new series on BBC2 tonight at 8pm, seeing the gardener travel down the Adriatic Coast. The first episode of the series starts in Venice, where Monty will marvel at hidden gardens behind the floating city’s palazzos. If you’re inspired to bring a touch of old Venetian charm to your garden, here are some simple ideas to create an Italian-inspired outdoor space.

Italian gardens bring to mind grand Renaissance landscaping, such as the Roman Villa Borghese or Villa D’Este in Lake Como, which set the trends for some of the most famous gardens across Europe.

Don’t be fooled into thinking without the Mediterranean climate you can’t recreate an Italian garden at home in the UK. is joined by Carol Adams, head of biodiversity and horticulture at the 725 acre Trentham Estate in Staffordshire, who has decades of experience as a gardener.

Carol shares how you can create your own Italian haven, and enjoy la dolce vita at home, creating the perfect space to pop open a Prosecco in the warmer months.

What are the essentials of Italian garden design?

Carol said: “Italian design is really big on unity, which is the repetition of materials and shapes, the simplicity makes the design bolder and more calming.

“The use of natural materials celebrates the beauty of controlled nature through evergreens, water and stone.

“There is really strong symmetry in the design of the space, which might be mirrored with just one line of symmetry running down the centre or can be more complex where it folds on itself in 90 and 180 degree angles.”

Sharp lines

Creating clean geometric lines in your garden can take some planning, but it’s far from impossible – no matter what the shape and size of space you’re working with.

You can create clean lines with rectangular planters, and sharp borders, or small hedges.

Carol said: “To create the feel in the UK we can borrow the idea of using evergreens as low hedges to borders or to create topiary notes combined with coloured gravels to create a rain permeable low maintenance garden.

“At Trentham we use Buxus sempervirens (Box) and Euonymus japonicus ‘Green Spire’ but also suitable for a sheltered garden would be Wall Germander.”

Sculptures and water features

Eye-catching features can also help create the Italian feel.

Carol said: “The Italians are normally big on linear shapes but using circles, particularly in pools or on plinth bases for sculpture, creates a full stop, and really strengthens the impact.

“It creates a pause in the view and holds the eye. If you are able to create a circular or linear pool, it will reflect the sky above and make the garden seem larger; a bit like putting a mirror up in the house.

“Avoid using actual mirrors in your garden though, as these are dangerous for birds who can collide with them.”

To add the Italian feeling to your garden, big, classically-shaped, Terracotta pots and planters.

Carol recommended UK manufactures, such as the Yorkshire Pot Company, whose terracotta is more robustly suited to hard UK winter frosts.

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Sheltered alcoves

Romantic hideaways and seated areas can be created with fragrant climbing plants, such as wisteria.

Carol said: “The use of plant structures to create shade and privacy is a typical feature of an Italian garden.

“At Trentham we have a 100 metre long iron framed Trellis Walk clothed with wisteria and climbing roses and we also have a hornbeam tunnel and hornbeam arbour over a love seat bench.

“But at home, these are an amazing way of creating physical screening from neighbours in a small garden by creating a feature that also provides height, shade and has the environmental benefits of cooling an urban garden, trapping dust and airborne pollutants.”

Carol explained these spaces are meant to be places for quiet contemplation and appreciation.

Therefore, there should be plenty for the senses to feast on.

Carol said: “This should be a place for appreciation of the scents of aromatic plants – citrus, cypress, violets, roses, jasmine, myrtle – sounds like bird song and water splashing in fountains or gurgling in a rill, and the feeling of light and shade, hot and cold, textures of plants and surfaces.

“We can also mimic the Italian use of Spring Flowering Evergreens to welcome in the new year using Camellia as long as we position out of the morning sunlight to avoid frost burn on the blossom.”

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