Isola Bella is an Italian Baroque Garden built in the late XVII century on a small rocky island of the Lago Maggiore. Retaining walls and terraces allowed the planting for this garden that 300 years later is still one of the most spectacular in the world and an extraordinary example of the Italian creativity.
Every time I visited Isola Bella I have been deeply charmed not only by the idea of transforming a sterile land in a lavish garden, but also by the architecture, the decoration and the variety of plants that are overwhelming.
So, when I was hired for designing the garden of a house in Toorak renovated by Stephen Akehurst Architects, because the land was a steep slope the only way to make it usable was by creating terraces. Immediately my mind went to the several visits I paid to Isola Bella, so I borrowed from that magnificent garden a few elements.
This garden has also represented a transition regarding the way I use plants: from a background in formal gardens I went to a mix of formal and informal. In the front garden I created a pattern of Buxus balls, and planted in between Dichondra repens ‘Silver Falls’). Iris pallida ‘Amthystina’ provides movement with its vertical and narrow leaves, while a profusion of seasonal bulbs bring colour at the end of Winter/early Spring.
Baroque gardens like Isola Bella were designed for being amusing and surprising: that’s why in the back garden I designed a raised pool decorated with a polka dots Bisazza mosaic that I thought it was brilliant. A high timber fence surrounds the garden: while the plants will grow it will be soften by the vegetation.
The lowest section of the garden is planted with trees and shrubs like Magnolia, Pyrus, Viburnum and Acer that are meant to grow in their natural shape and create several textured layers.