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Monty Don's 'Great Gardens of Italy'


If you never have the chance to travel in Italy, don’t worry! Monty Don’s new book ‘Great Gardens of Italy’ brings the treasures to your armchair. 

There is a pile of gardening books on my bedside table that entices me to crawl into bed after a bath and a cool day in the garden. On top is my garden diary where I make notes of ideas, planting schemes and interesting quotes. This from Monty Don - ‘tended with an exceptionally subtle, light hand’ -about Villa La Pietra, reminds me that we can overwork our gardens and destroy much of their natural charm.

You may have watched the ABC television series from 2011, which featured the gardens that inspired the book. The book is much more than a list of great gardens; Monty challenges the reader in his provocative way, but is always engaging.

Some of the gardens he writes about have influenced generations of landscape designers who have translated them into contexts all over the world. For example I have seen a replica of Villa Lante’s famous water chain in Allerton Gardens on Kaua’i, one of the Hawaiian islands, and also at Villa Farnese at Caprarola. ‘Manipulating water was considered the highest of arts within the gardens of the high renaissance,’ writes Monty. ‘It was channelled into torrents, fountains, elaborate jokes and tricks and spouted from the mouths of incidental sculptures.’

And I love Monty’s description of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore: ‘its true public face screams across the lake, a tipsy drag queen of a garden ready to party all night long and the next day too. You leave exhausted and smiling. It is unparalleled, incomparable and truly wonderful.’ 


Text: Sandra Ross 

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Author: Sandra Ross