Tuscan garden design can only be applied effectively if, when, and only when, we fully understand the symbolism of each of the many, typical Tuscan plants. These typical Tuscan plants have been used for so long now they have developed the typical Tuscan garden style, now known to us all as being “typically Tuscan”
The Mediterranean area is covered in scrubby woods, which have nearly always originated from the, so-called, “Macchia Mediterranea- an evergreen scrubland formed on hot, dry terrain by colonising Mediterranean plants.
These Mediterranean woods are made up primarily of evergreens between 50cm to 4m tall, such as oaks, Arbutus andrachnoides (the strawberry tree), cistus, bay laurel, rosemary, myrtle and many other plants, like Juniper- so typical of the Mediterranean area. Over the centuries, these indigenous plants have slowly been combined with the plants used in typical Renaissance Tuscan gardens, which were introduced mainly from the 16th century onwards; like boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), viburnum tinus and other, cultivated forms of the original macchia plants.
This combination of wild plants and new, cultivated introductions has formed a very distinct style, which is now known as “The Tuscan Garden style” and has yet again been shaped by social changes and mans use of the land. The oaks were fundamental for use as good firewood and building purposes, the culinary herbs, essential in the cuisine that has since changed the world’s eating habits and others both symbolic and aesthetic, like the magnificent cypress tree.
The modern Tuscan garden should aim to pick up on these nuances and should therefore have its styling strongly based around the plants that make up the macchia Mediterranean… mainly the evergreen structure plants that have been used for centuries now.
Hedges made from bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and box wood (Buxus sempervirens), tall shade trees made up of evergreen oaks (Quercus ilex) and dividing shrubs like Viburnum tinus, Arbutus, Laurus, Rosmarinus and Myrtle etc.
From this strong, evergreen base and symbolically Tuscan garden structure/theme one can then apply all the romanticism one desires, from classic, perfumed roses growing over pergolas with wisteria- to small, formal aromatic or vegetable gardens, which provide elegant order, fresh Tuscan herbs and a wonderfully tranquil visual display.