U.S.A., Washington State. USDA zone 8a. Sunset climate zone 5

Monday, August 18, 2014

Garden of the Villa del Balbianello (Lake Como, Northern Italy)

 I loved this panoramic terraced garden on Lake Como the moment I saw it. 
As a lover of the color green, I appreciated its color minimalism: it doesn't have a palette of vivid bright colors, extravagant plantings  and luscious flowerbeds. 
What it has are the dominance of green and the structure, the rhythm created by rows of trees, garden urns and statues. 
The garden invokes a feeling of harmony and dynamism. Plus, location, location, location!
The garden was designed with stunning panoramic views in mind, and wherever you look you see water, cliffs, coastline...

Nowadays, Villa del Balbianello belongs to the Italian National Trust (Fondo Ambiente Italiano, FAI, private, non-profit organization). Previously, it had several owners.
Its last owner was Count Guido Monzino (from 1974 to 1988) who was an Milanese entrepreneur, art collector, Arctic explorer and mountaineer ( who led the first Italian expedition to climb Everest in 1973).
It was he and the landscape architect Emilio Trabella who molded the gardens into its present shape.

Plane trees (Platanus acerifolia, Sycamore) are pruned candelabra style.
Together with Italian cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens, Mediterranean cypress), boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) hedges, viburnum tinus, etc.,
they line the paths with gorgeous views of the Gulf of Diana and the Gulf of Venus.
The gardens also host magnolias, cypresses, holmoaks (Quercus ilex),
camphor laurel trees (Cinnamomum camphora), rhododendrons ans azaleas.
Hydrangeas, giant agave, mondo grass
Even the grass looks great, like a plush blunket.

You could see the Villa (built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery)  in Casino Royale (2006)
and Star Wars: Episode Two Attack of the Clones (2002).

Separate from the garden visit, you can buy a tour of the Villa. One of the Loggia's rooms:

Breathtaking views open from a grand Loggia which has two rooms connected by three arches and the roof.
The tree hugging the walls and the pillars on the Loggia is a Creeping Fig, and yes,
 it is one continuous plant that is, they say, about 180 years old:

Creeping Fig  is a relative to the edible fig,  with very little similarity to it. It is a great evergreen climber
native to East Asia, and it is popular as a landscaping plant in warm climate areas.
 It can grow vertically, using its aerial rootlets,  to a height of 3-4 stories and,
after reaching the top of its support, will form horizontal branches.
The plant bears pale green fruit.
Other climbers, as Star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), wisteria  and ivy are also important players in the garden. 

As a dog lover, I couldn't ignore this dog and had a conversation with its owner . 
It happened to be a wolf from one of the regions of former Yugoslavia. 
It was well trained, well behaved and had an official certificate. 

This is what's left from the Franciscan monastery.

I took so many pictures of these trees with branches trained to grow at almost right angles.
For me, they look like natural sculptures.

Is this a cousin of Bacchus from my own garden?

This garden reminds me of the importance of  repetition, mass plantings, using  contrast,
vertical elements, different shades of green, variety of shapes and textures, etc.

I'd like to see how they prune, by hand, this huge Holm Oak crown to a perfect umbrella shape
using huge ladders!
It takes two weeks each year to do the job by two gardeners.

The road back to Lenno from the Villa:

Town of Lenno:

We walked to the Villa from the lovely town of Lenno.
The other way, by a boat or a ferry, is more picturesque and will give you a chance to enter the garden by  a steep grand staircase and be met by a motto engraved on the floor of the portico "Do What You Want".
I loved the garden with its elegant simplicity, structure, majestic lake views,
ideal maintenance and peaceful atmosphere.
Thank you for taking a walk with me through this unforgettable place!

***Copyright 2014 TatyanaS


  1. Another gorgeous garden! I love how the garden takes advantage of the beautiful views of the water and mountains! How cool that your Bacchus had his cousin meet you there. What a great motto for a garden!

    1. Hi Peter! I think you'd love this garden.The rooms of the Villa are very interesting too, but we came late there and didn't have time to tour them.

  2. Memorable, indeed, Tatyana. One of my favorite captures is of the terracotta urn with the cliffs in the background (number 34). But every picture is stunning. P x

    1. Pam, thank you! I love that image too! Incredible place!

  3. They are so many gorgeous gardens in Italy ... Beautiful pictures, Tania ! Thank you !

    1. Dani, I love Italy, and its gardens are breathtaking!

  4. Wonderful pictures of again a beautiful garden in Italy! And that was certainly a well fed wolf.

    1. Janneke, ha-ha, she was so good, she deserves to be fed well! Thanks!

  5. Tatyana, the sensualist, the lover of beauty, who shares her experience through her incomparable photography...
    THANK YOU!!! :)

  6. Your photos make me want to hop on a plane and get over there to see the gardens for myself. So very beautiful!


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