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Italian Garden

A stunning blend of formality and colour ​

The Italian Garden is Bicton’s world-renowned centrepiece. It is almost 300 years old, and still provides the park’s most famous view, across vast terraced lawns to a tiered fountain, standing directly in line with a distant obelisk. The stone obelisk was built on a hill outside the park as per Le Notre’s designs in 1743 to form a focal point for the gardens central axis. In the foreground, smaller fountains are ringed with flowerbeds. Specimen trees, planted urns and elegant statues complete a memorable panorama.

The Italian Garden, so-named because its style originated in Renaissance Italy, was designed by the French designer Andre Le Notre (1613-1700), who created the gardens at Versailles for Louis XI.

Every summer, more than 15,000 plants are used for bedding schemes and containers. Salvias, geraniums, begonias, marigolds, and petunias are among the most popular. Thousands of pansies, polyanthuses, wall-flowers, forget-me-nots and tulips form the basis of the winter and spring displays.

Red brick walls laden with fragrant Exmouth Bay Magnolias surround the Italian garden and are fronted with deep Herbaceous boarders, filled with rich aroma and colour. The boarders have been carefully curated to allow the colours to change subtlety from deep reds all the way to blues and purples. Where possible, plants on display are also available in our garden centre providing an opportunity to see what your plant will look like in years to come.

In the 1730s, when the first terraces were being levelled at Bicton, formal gardens were already going out of fashion in England. They were making way for the more naturalistic parklands typified by the designs of Capability Brown. As the landscaping revolution gathered pace, most formal gardens, built directly in front of their associated mansions, were replaced by wooded greensward and informal lakes.

At Bicton, however, the formal gardens were out of view from the big house, so there was no need to destroy the garden for the sake of fashion. It was spared for posterity, while a landscape more in keeping with the tastes of the time was created around the mansion. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, the Italian Garden would have been a conversation piece for visiting nobility. Today, it is a living monument of Bicton’s important place in gardening history.

There would have been little floral colour in the original design of the Italian Garden. Some of the statues may have provided coloured highlights, but otherwise it would have been a study mostly in shades of green, relying for its visual impact on geometric balance, long vistas, wide open spaces and the elaborate patterns of box-hedge parterres.

Bedding plants only became popular in mid-Victorian times, and the beds in front of the Temple Orangery were probably not added until the late 19th century. Today, these beds are among the park’s most eye-catching attractions. Their flowers include many old favourites, often growing alongside new varieties in combinations that have inspired visiting gardeners to try similar ideas at homeat

Italian Garden Gallery

The Gardens Await

ABBA and Fleetwood Mac

Thursday – August 1st

Bohemians + K2

Thursday – August 15th

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