Harmonizing Planting in Italian Gardens
The effect of light and shade is a major component of Italian garden
design and is known as the ‘Chiaro-scuro’ effect. As one passes under
a dense tree canopy or under a pergola, smothered in wisteria, one experiences
differing concentrations of light. This light to dark effect can be
underlined and enhanced in the Italian garden by using intelligent planting
Dark evergreens, like cypress trees and box (xus sempervirens) provide
great structure in the Italianate garden and they also provide a very
dark green backdrop. This dark green, however elegant can also rob valuable
light from the garden and should therefore be compensated with lighter
touches that will illuminate dark corners and pick up on that essential
Plants with silver-grey foliage provide the garden designer with
the ideal colour tone to lighten the darker areas of the garden and
create an alternating tonal effect that will harmonise and pull the
whole garden design together- creating harmony.
The light greys of Teucrium fruticans, Salvia officinalis (sage),
Santolina chamaecyparissus and Stachs lanata possess the lightest, most
metallic of garden colours and their shimmering foliage colour adds
a nuance of the Mediterranean, where this colour foliage is very common.
Silver-grey is a colour that enables the plant to resist the blazing
Mediterranean sun and is therefore a fundamental element in Mediterranean
Silver-grey foliage suggests heat and it’s very presence will subconsciously
make one feel warmer and closer to the Mediterranean as a result! Silver-grey
plants also possess some important qualities that can have several different
effects upon a planting scheme within the Italian garden design. Firstly,
they possess a rare harmonising quality that will bind a flower border
with a predominantly pastel colour scheme.
Blues become dreamy against a backdrop of silver-grey and soft pinks
are granted the sophistication they deserve, when combined with silver
greys. However, silver-greys can also act as a sort of launch pad for
hot colours, like oranges or deep yellows and a flower border using
the this combination can become electric indeed. therefore this colour
combination should be used with discretion – to say the least!
There are many differing tones within the silver grey range and when
these are combined intelligently within a design they can become a striking,
yet relaxing feature in their own right, even without any other colours.
An area of greys will create the perfect pause in a colour scheme and
can allow one to change a colour theme from hot to cool, without disturbing
the overall harmony of the garden.
As a garden designer, I would be hard pushed to design an Italian
garden, without using grey-leaved plants, so essential are they in creating
a classical, Italian garden feel.
By Jonathan Radford