Combining simplicity and elegance, classic Italian landscaping has its origins in ancient Rome and will never go out of fashion. Based on the house design, the front yard may also be formal and symmetrical, with powerful architectural attributes, or thicker and more masculine, with off-center plantings. Many times, grounds influenced by people in Italy have little or no lawn. Cheap and versatile pea gravel might function as a walkway or cover much of the surface that isn’t planted.
An entry courtyard with a fountain is a really Italian scene. The focal poitn is surrounded by potted evergreens, like boxwood (Buxus japonica “Winter Gem”), and at least one little potted tree, like sweet bay (Laurus nobilis) cultivar “Saratoga,” a Mediterranean native with leathery, aromatic leaves that could be used to flavor sauces and soups. 2 juniper (Juniperus) spiral topiaries, placed on either side, focus on the door. For much less formality, big containers of peonies (Paeonia) provide fragrance as well as visual attractiveness, like hybrids white “Festiva Maxima” and peachy-yellow “Misaka.” All of these plants thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 10a.
Tall, narrow trees lining the sides of walkways or driveways are signatures of Mediterranean style. Two favored Italian cypresses, Cupressus sempervirens “Glauca” and “Tiny Tower,” possess a definite blue tinge that contrasts well with the warm colors generally found in Italian architecture. While “Glauca” rises rapidly to its adult height of 60 feet, “Tiny Tower,” a dwarf conifer, just reaches 8 feet high and 2 feet wide after ten years and will continue to climb gradually to its eventual 25-foot height. Other columnar trees to think about contain Japanese yews (Taxus cuspidata) and olive trees (Olea europaea). The yews grow in USDA zones 5 to 9 and the other three fare well in zones 7 to 10.
Flowering vines climbing up stucco wall accentuate their Mediterranean grandeur. Evergreen clematis (Clematis armandii “Avalanche”) creates masses of snow-white flowers on dark-green leaf. As roses are part of the Italian flowery legacy, red scaling hybrids, like “Altissimo” or even “Don Juan,” would work nicely here, also. Trellises or arbors could be set up if the house or courtyard walls do not encourage climbers. Citrus or fig trees espaliered against the walls provide fascinating and traditional patterns, as well as edible fruit. Any of these plants may be grown in USDA zones 8 to 10.
Italian gardens often feature herbs in mattresses or as ground covers. Most lavenders, like sweet lavender (Lavandula x heterophylla) adore the sunlight, however, the “Goodwin Creek Grey” cultivar can withstand shady spots. Lavender’s family members, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and oregano (Origanum) provide spring blossoms, fragrance and leaves for cooking. Another plant useful in the kitchen is fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), also called finocchio in Italian. Fennel attains its summit in the summer, when its lime-green flowers host swarms of bees. These herbs, all native to Mediterranean areas, grow best in USDA zones 8 to 10.