Building an Italian Parterre Garden in Your Home
Italy has been such a dominant force in several fields of design that it’s really no surprise that its influence is also apparent in professionally designed gardens and landscapes. During the renaissance, Italy’s gardens were famed for their elegant designs, masterful attention to detail, and unique use of hardscape elements like statues, grottos, and water features. In recent years however, the interest in classic Italian garden designs has been rekindled.
Today’s landscaping experts look to the unique charm of Italian gardens for some of their more traditional design elements. For example, these gardens often make use of restricted plantings, controlled shapes, and a very strong axis. They are often built on a flat surface and make use of symmetrical plant beds, which are connected and separated by gravel paths.
Renaissance style gardens often feature a theme regarding humanity’s control over nature. Because of this, Italian gardens traditionally have solid-looking structures and use symmetrical layouts and paths. While some grandiose designs may not be applicable in small residential gardens, the same symmetrical effect can also be achieved through other means like building a straight stone pathway bordered by various shrubbery.
Another way that the theme of control is emphasized by skilled landscapers is by incorporating clear-cut and discernable shapes into the design. To achieve this look, you don’t need to go over the top. Simple shapes like rectangles and squares will already give the holder the impression of a controlled and organized landscape. Moreover, this concept is not limited to the shaping bushes and other greenery, it is also applicable to the overall design of the garden, including its divisions, furniture, and hardscape elements.
Similar to gardens in other Mediterranean countries, Italian gardens generally have specific areas designed to shield you from the harsh midday sun. There are several ways to achieve this. While one of the most popular methods is by building a pergola or arbor to encourage the growth of beautiful and fragrant vines, you can also plant hard pruned and large leaf trees like the common lime. Aside from being able to provide the perfect amount of shade, these trees are also easy to shape and grow.
Lastly, to complete your Italian garden, you’ll also want to install water features to provide an element of sound and movement. Rills and spouts made of steel, which direct a steady stream of water onto a bed of pebbles will be sufficient for most home landscapes. Although most gardens won’t be able to accommodate the large grottos and fountains that were prominent in the Renaissance, just having a simple water feature should be enough to preserve the central theme.