Italian echoes in a grotto at Stowe Landscape gardens

During this Easter there has been much gardening and visiting of open gardens and National Trust properties. Some time ago, I heard garden designer Chris Beardshaw talk on Gardener's Question Time of his initial interest in gardens being inspired by Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire, and so went to visit last week.

The large proportions of the landscape are  brought into human scale by the follies, ornamental monuments and pleasure temples dotted around the estate. The naturalistic style of the landscape is punctuated by large trees and shrubberies of box, yew and mixed native species, within which the garden buildings contrast their geometric, architectural forms. This is quite reminiscent of the renaissance approach seen in some of the Bosco Sacro gardens in Tuscany, where the esterni design influences are well embedded!

Among these we came across an Italianate grotto, of which we may see other lovely examples in Monty Don's current programme on Italian Gardens.

The grotto is unusual in that it is a semicircular shape, and that it is reminiscent of a mosaic decoration as seen in the roman villas of Southern Sicily, but it is entirely made of coloured pebbles set in pale, old cement mix.

We propose it in our blog as it has a light contemporary feel, and it is something that could be included in the treatment of pebbled flooring...a contemporary approach to decoration-  coat of arms may also be applicable.....