Traditionally, Italian gardens are "green' with few flowers. The plants are mainly evergreens, manicured into geometric hedges or topiaries. However, the evergreen foliage of these shrubs or trees offers a wide array of shades, ranging from gray to silver, bronze to gold, or simply from light to dark green. They are displayed in a variety of shapes that bring interest and energy such as clipped topiary, balls or cones. Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), boxwoods (Buxus spp.) and junipers (Juniperus spp.) are commonly used to delineate the various parts of the garden. Other green plants are massed within the borders of the geometric beds.

Not to forget pergolas smothered with fragrant climbers such as jasmine, wisteria, roses. Filling the air with their wonderful fragrance, they are also underplanted with scented herbs such as rosemary or lavender.

To achieve harmony, limit yourself to 1 or 2 shades of flower colors. For instance, pick bright red geraniums (Pelargonium) for their stunning contrast against the greenery. 

Great plants to consider for an Italian garden:

  • Acanthus mollis (Bear's breeches) with toothed, dark green leaves and long mauve and white flower spikes in summer 
  • Buxus sempervirens (Common Boxwood) - a large, slow-growing evergreen shrub, compact in habit, with small, glossy oval leaves
  • Clematis armandii - evergreen climber with strongly scented white flowers atop a dark green foliage
  • Cupressus sempervirens (Italian Cypress) - adds height and drama to the garden. Dark green, slender evergreen tree
  • Daphne mezereum (Daphne) with sweetly fragrant, white or purple flowers in early spring, followed by narrow, green leaves
  • Eucryphia x intermedia 'Rostrevor (Eucryphia) - evergreen tree with glossy, dark green leaves and white flowers in late summer
  • Ilex aquifolium (Holly) - evergreen glossy, dark green, spiny foliage with tiny white or pink flowers followed by attractive, red berries in winter
  • Jasminum officinale (Summer Jasmine) with abundant clusters of delightfully scented white flowers
  • Laurus nobilis (Bay Tree) - lovely glossy green leaves great for use in the kitchen. Versatile plant that needs no watering in summer and is highly resistant to shade and salt spray.
  • Myrtus communis (Myrtle) - aromatic shrub with shiny leaves and fragrant white flowers.
  • Osmanthus fragrans (Fragrant Olive) - vigorous, upright, evergreen shrub with leathery, glossy, dark green leaves and clusters of small, strongly fragrant, white flowers in fall with sporadic bloom throughout the year. The flowers are followed by blue-black berries
  • Pittosporum tobira (Japanese Pittosporum) - dense, broad, slow-growing evergreen shrub with leathery, glossy, leaves, and large umbels of sweetly scented flowers opening white, and turning yellow, in late spring and early summer
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) - quick growing evergreen, aromatic and pretty in bloom.
  • Santolina (Cotton Lavender) - with fine-textured foliage and yellow, button-like flowers.
  • Taxus baccata (Yew) - medium-sized bushy evergreen tree with narrow, leathery, very dark green leaves, and fleshy red fruits
  • Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) - a vigorous evergreen twining woody climber with glossy dark green, oval leaves, often turning deep red in winter and clusters of very fragrant white flowers
  • Viburnum tinus (Laurustinus) - a vigorous bushy evergreen shrub with dark green ovate leaves and flat cymes of white flowers in late winter and spring, followed by blue-black berries

Add sun-bleached terra-cotta containers, garden urns or statues from Roman mythology to complete the Italian look!