Three borders for Giardino Torrigiani

The historical Torrigiani garden of Florence has undergone an ambitious renovation, restoring its historic greenhouses, and opening up part of the garden to the public for events and classes.

Alongside the traditional activity of the plant nursery, the Torrigiani Garden will offer courses in gardening and garden history, cooking, flower arranging, and painting.

Border 1 Torrigiani

Two years from planting, the borders are overflowing with colour

 The three rectangular borders were originally cold frames for the nursery, functional and marginal to the garden. They are now directly in front of a new entrance opened in the garden walls, alongside the lawn used for weddings and social events. The brief was to convert them from a functional feature into a decorative feature, matching their new prominence in the garden.  They must be decorative during the summer months, for social events and painting classes, and during the rest of the year they also provide material for gardening, flower arranging and other classes.

torrigiani borders

Three Mixed Borders for Giardino Torrigiani, sketch plan

 In keeping with the nineteenth century gardens, we created a mixed herbaceous and shrub border inspired by the English garden tradition. The formal accents of topiary, in keeping with the Italian garden, echo the adjacent box-hedged Rose garden. The plants chosen have a long period of interest, determined flowering, foliage color and contrasting shapes. They are drought tolerant and low-maintenance, offering inspirational planting combinations to the clients of the Torrigiani nursery. Keeping the ground mulched and choosing largely Mediterranean plants are some of the ecological solutions suggested in these new borders.

backlit herb border

Tall feathery plants come alive when backlit by afternoon sun


Many plants have decorative seed-heads or fruits which can be left on the plant as a winter feature.

Each border has a similar layout of shrubs and herbaceous plants, arranged in a centrally symmetrical pattern, behind a front row of box topiary. They are not meant to form a dense hedge, on the contrary they include transparent and mobile plants such as Perovskia. Light and movement are also ensured by Gaura lindheimeri which, joined to Phlomis fructicosa and trailing Rosemary, is repeated on the side of each border, linking the three flower beds and bridging over the path.

helleborus corsicus and ballota

Helleborus corsicus and Ballota offer contrasting textures in soft shades of green

Many of the plants used have with the silver-gray foliage, and the small flowers, as is typical of drought-tolerant plants. Many are scented, and the central border is devoted to medicinal and aromatic plants. After an initial period supported by an irrigation system, they should be able to look after themselves without additional watering. Gardening students and clients of the nursery will be able to see how plant combinations suited to the local climate can be both attractive and ecologically sound. Plants such as Alchemilla mollis, Stachis byzantina and Thyme make a pretty ground cover, soft and foamy, with the ecological role of protecting the soil from drought and erosion.

planting out

Planting out the central herb border

The borders are low-maintenance, requiring only tidying up and pruning at the end of winter and after the flowering of some plants. Many plants have decorative seed-heads or fruits which can be left on the plant as a winter feature.

Border 3 torrigiani 2012

Small-flowered, light plants give movement to the border, larger leaved plants and compact box balls give it solidity

 The geometric shape of the box balls are in contrast with the softer lines of the leaves surrounding them. Seasonal colour is ensured by Rose, Lavatera, Iris and other large-flowered plants, as well as by the colourful fall foliage of Bergenia and Sedum. Instead of large flowers, many plants offer interesting inflorescences and foliage.

Copyright © 2018 Anna Piussi. All Rights Reserved. Text and images belong to Anna Piussi unless otherwise stated.