Creating an Italian Garden

The garden was planned as an intrinsic part of the house, and the two were linked by a series of terraces and a ground plan based on symmetry. The garden’s main axis ran from the doorway in the center of the house to the end of the garden; the areas to right and left of this line were essentially mirror images.

Darin Engh, from Engh Gardens, shares several different ways to develop an Italian style garden, giving ideas and methods to try in your own yard.

Elements of Italian garden style

giardino segreto A “secret garden” adjacent to the house and part of the garden where most flowers are grown.

loggia Like the pergola and the arbor, the loggia may support vines, but its purpose is to protect not plants but people. A roofed gallery or arcade that provides shade from the summer sun and is used for strolling, with one or more of its sides open to the air.

pergola An arbor formed of plants trained over trelliswork, a pergola can be a freestanding covered walk or can be attached to the side of a building. Although it offers a shady spot in the garden, its primary function is to support vines.

balustrade Lovers in novels always wander out onto the terrace an lean against the balustrade, a series of short pillars or columns topped with a rail or coping.

column A slender shaft commonly called a column. The shaft rested on a base and was topped by a capital, which generally supported a railing or the decorative part of a building.

sala scoverta An enclosed courtyard or “uncovered room” that opened from the house and was treated in a similar style.

colonnade A series of columns set at regular intervals and usually supporting the base of a roof structure.

grotto Sometimes an actual cave or cavern, a grotto is generally a man-made retreat from the sun’s heat.


walls of green; one green room leads to another

framing space – in classical Italian style, low boxwood hedges frame potted lemon trees


stone arches, pillars, and urns

statues gleam white against a background of verdant boxwood in one green room after another

the secret hidden in the stone is that a garden not only needs general shape; it needs surprising details to draw the eye


water is renewal

the splash of water is part of the Mediterranean garden’s song

water is used to cool the gardens and courtyards and to create a contemplative oasis


the pot, a microregion where both soil and climate can be controlled; lets the gardener grow plants that won’t survive through the winter in the ground

a pot may be filled with flowering plants to add color to a courtyard or a garden room

a pot is not just a container to hold a plant; it’s an object made to admire

If you have any of the following already in your garden, use it as a starting point for an Italian garden:


Italian cypress

Citrus tree

Herbs or kitchen garden

Gravel or stone patio

Stone or stucco fountain

Large terra-cotta, stone, or stucco pots

Rustic arbor

For more information, contact Darin at Engh Gardens in Sandy or online at

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