I have been in Italy for a family wedding and was charmed by the Italian gardens. The terrain there is often steep and requires some terracing and most gardens in this hot climate do not rely on flowers because of the extreme heat. When flowering annuals are used they are mostly planted in pots or in a special cutting gardens. I saw plumbago cascading down balconies along with walls covered in bougainvillea.
The four plants that are the staple of Italian Gardens are: Cypress, Stone pine trees, boxwood and olive trees. The towering Cypress seems to rocket you straight to heaven- at least that’s how they work on me. The Italians love to repeat cypress trees in lines to frame a view and line the roads to their Villas. Stone pine (Pinus pinea), also called Italian stone pine, umbrella pine and parasol pine provide much needed shade for most of the day. It was near 100 degrees most days during my visit and under these pines was the place to sit and wait for a breeze. Olive trees besides providing an important crop, also add a whimsical element to the garden with their grey leaves and weeping habit. Their texture, in contrast to the evergreen of the pine and cypress, brings a light poetry to the scene. Boxwood hedges frame paths and borders and create the bones of these gardens. Rather than looking at flashy colored flowers the Italians appreciate the structure these 4 plants provide in the strong Mediterranean light. I marvel at the simplicity of just how few plants are needed to make a garden!
I did notice other plants including Mimosa trees, Oleander shrubs, and lots of lavender, sage and red geraniums in pots. I think we can learn a lot by looking at the small number of plants that make up one of the most beautiful landscapes on this earth.