Renaissance Fortress garden on Tuscan island (part 1)
The ramparts of a Renaissance fortress in Tuscany are framed by a garden of drought-tolerant and wind-proof plants
The location is unbeatable: a Renaissance fortress perched on top of the cliffs on an island in the Tuscan archipelago. The brief has been to frame it with gardens which have to be drought-tolerant, deal with considerable wind and require low maintenance once established. The vision developed with the clients is for an informal garden, with naturalistic planting using mainly native Mediterranean species, with an emphasis on summer interest. The long garden which borders the fort on the South-East side is inspired by the local landscape of low macchia, as is suitable for an area which was never originally a garden. At the height of a torrid summer, the borders are bursting with scented helicrysrium, lavander and santolina of different varieties. As they spill onto the path through which plants are encouraged to grow, the garden already aquires a settled, ancient appearance
Low shrubs and perennials are contrasted with airy grasses to give movement and direction to the planting, and plants are arranged in large drifts for visual impact, forming an abstract picture when seen from overhead, from the fortress itself. From ground level this results in definite masses of colours and shapes, as happens in the local habitat. Climbers and taller shrubs have been planted along the street side, screening the parking lot and providing some privacy, but there has been no attempt to enclose the garden in actual walls of hedging, which would block the views from within the garden and block the racking light of sunset.
Large lichen-covered rocks were brought in to provide sculptural relief, and establish a link to the wilder landscape outside the boundaries. Ground-hugging shrubs and flexible grasses which let the air through are at a low risk of being uprooted or defoliated by the ever-present winds.