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Tuscany, in the central part of Italy, is famous for its great natural beauty. Blessed by a benevolent climate, it is home to a large number of beautiful and useful plants. Fruit trees and evergreen trees and shrubs are characteristic of a Tuscan garden, as are cooking herbs and multitudes of colorful flowers and climbing vines. When planning a new garden or renovating an old one, a Tuscan theme is easy to achieve with plants that are available from local nurseries or home centers.
Italian cypress trees and evergreen shrubs, such as juniper and boxwood, should be featured in a Tuscan garden. Tall, slender Italian cypress trees can be tucked in almost anywhere. Even courtyard gardens have room for them because they can grow against a wall or fence. A row of Italian cypress trees across the back of the property or down a side boundary will afford privacy and noise control while firmly establishing a Tuscan theme.
Fruit trees are common in a Tuscan garden, especially citrus varieties. A local garden center can offer advice on selecting the correct variety for the area. If citrus trees are not an option, substitute fruit trees that grow well in the area; any type of fruit tree will provide the Tuscan look and ambiance. Residents of warm planting zones can consider planting one or two olive trees which are staples of Tuscan gardens. They require weather similar to their native Mediterranean regions.
Herbs are signature elements of a Tuscan garden. Number one on the list is fragrant rosemary, which seasons so many savory dishes. An attractive evergreen shrub with needles similar to those of a pine tree, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) will grow three to five feet tall and can spread out to a similar width. Rosemary is easy to grow and drought tolerant, which makes it an ideal choice for a novice gardener. A patch devoted to companion herbs basil, oregano and thyme will reinforce the garden’s Tuscan feel while providing useful seasonings for the cook.
Any flowering vines will contribute color and casual charm to a Tuscan garden landscape, but wisteria, bougainvillea and climbing roses are particularly good choices. Old World gardens are filled to overflowing with vines and flowers climbing on trellises, arbors and pergolas and the houses themselves. Select hardy varieties — preferably a few fragrant ones — and plant with abandon. Exuberance and a touch of horticultural chaos will add to the lush look that captures the vibrant spirit of a Tuscan garden.