• Katy Gardener

9 suggestions to bring Italian style into your garden

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

In this post I’m going to break down the 9 basic principles for adding a flourish of Italian drama into your garden scheme.

No matter your situation: giant estate, cottage garden or small balcony, these garden principles are valuable for any scale and work well when mixed with other styles.


When you google ‘Italian garden design’, you are met with grandiose images of Renaissance gardens from the 16th Century.

Renaissance Italian Garden
Symmetry, topiary, balance and order all key in Italian garden design

The men of the Renaissance were inspired by the Ancient Romans, who before that were inspired by the Ancient Greeks. So Italian gardens are inspired from antiquity!

It's unlikely you have the scale or budget to recreate the image above, but as with all good design, we should always remember the classics.


Read on for the 9 Principals

symmetrical topiary in an italian garden
No asymmetrical curves in sight!


Italians in the Renaissance wanted to portray their power over nature by creating man-made order with symmetry and balance. They used clean lines and geometrical shapes splitting different areas into triangles, rectangles, and squares.

By dividing up space into formal areas, the Italians wanted to encourage visitors to explore the entirety of the garden.

The Italian Garden in Hyde Park with a dramatic water feature
The Italian Garden in Hyde Park with its water feature


A water feature is important in an Italian scheme, not only does it create an interesting focal point, but the sound of water can be calming with a trickling fountain, or dramatic with a cascade!

Water provides both sound and visual cues to encourage you to explore the length of the garden.

Statue and topiary in an italian garden
A statue creates a focal point, and topiary creates order


Italians view their gardens as an extension of their homes, so they decorate them as such.

They add drama and style with statues inspired from classical antiquity.


Italians see topiary as another form of sculpture in their gardens.

They create spheres, columns and cones to provide balance and encourage the eye up and around the garden.

Topiary seems daunting, but if you have the time and space you should embrace you inner Edward Scissor-hands!

an italian pergola
A shaded pergola with fragrant citrus


Pergolas are often used to create intimate spaces in Italian gardens. They are designated areas to sit in the shade, take in the view and enjoy an aperitivo.

Pergolas are made all the more enjoyable by planting climbers such as roses, wisteria or jasmine which provide shade as well as fragrance.


Walls are often embellished with trellises that are abundant with vines or fragrant roses.

Points 5 and 6 could easily be recreated at home. Give it a go!

lemon tree in a terracotta pot
Lemon tree growing beautifully in a terracotta pot


The Italians practically invented terracotta pots, and no Italian scheme would be complete without a selection of elegant pots and urns.

For proper Italian points you could plant citrus or olive trees in pots either side of your door, or geraniums to decorate your balcony.


You rarely see green squidgy lawns in classic Italian gardens, instead they prefer stone promenades, paved terraces, stone temples and stone sculptures.

If you have a small courtyard garden, you are ticking the Italian box!


Traditional Italian gardens are mainly green with few flowers. Box hedging and Cyprus trees are popular and are used to create lines and narrative in the garden. Fragrant herbs and flowers such as rosemary and lavender are often used to fill the flower beds.



Did you know that Capability Brown, the Godfather of English garden design owes a great deal of his inspiration to the Italians? Can you count how many Italian principals he applied to this garden?

A Capability Brown scheme

No matter your budget, symmetry and order can be recreated wherever you are, so have a go and buona fortuna!

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