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.

fortress view

The fortress seen from the south

 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. 
path to belvedere

Graceful Stipa tenuissima spills onto the path inset with Philla nodiflora

 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

FSG path at dawn

Aromatic planting frames the path to the Belvedere

 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.
planting fortress path

Planting plan for path along south-east of fortress

From ground level this results in definite masses of colours and shapes, as happens in the local habitat.
FSG parking oleander

Oleanders, Bouganvillea, and Leontis leonurus screen the parking lot

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.
waiters path

The setting sun plays with tall grasses


Large lichen-covered rocks were brought in to provide sculptural relief, and establish a link to the wilder landscape outside the boundaries.

FSG path before planting

The site was as flat and bare as a pool table

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. 
FSG rock planted

Succulent Bulbine frutescens (left) and ground cover thyme thrive in near-desert conditions



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