Classical Gardens


The formal gardens of ancient Rome and Greece were the inspiration for the impressive palatial and villa gardens of France and Italy in the 17th and 18th centuries. The essential qualities of these classical gardens are their strong symmetrical and architectural designs, which closely follow the scale and proportion of the building that they adjoin.

Italianate gardens are often set on elevated sites, with terraced gardens and flights of steps leading to long, shaded walks, cascades, fountains and canals. The cooling effects of water and avenues or canopies of trees are all part of the pleasures of these gardens, especially in the hot, Mediterranean climate.

The terraces might contain parterre designs with symmetrically positioned topiary pyramids or obelisks and box-lined scrolls of flowerbeds. Other typical features include balustrades, statuary, and well-proportioned vases or urns for ornamental plants.

Colour is generally limited to the dark green of the plants, the pale colours of the stone and gravel, and the white waters.

Many of these classical features may be integrated into contemporary garden designs to create a sense of grace, formality, and ordered tranquillity. Even in a relatively small area, the careful consideration to proportion, scale, balance, and harmony seen in classical gardens may be reproduced to create a simple, effective design.