The Q&A Archives: Italian plants in Ohio?

Question: Barbara

I am planning a large Italian themed garden in Cleveland, Ohio. But I do not know what plants would grow in my climate zone or where to start looking. Could you suggest any particular plants that are native to Italian villas, but would grow in our poor climate zone?


Alex Roy

Answer: This is a great project. Consider adding architectural features such as arbors, a long pergola (covered in wisteria or grape vine), flagstone patio, large urns and planters, balustrades, perhaps a central fountain. You could even add a few columns to simulate "ruins" depending on the era you wish to recreate. Generally you will want to use features and planting areas in pairs or in series or arranged geometrically to keep the overall structure very formal. Once you have the overall layout, you can start selecting plants. Use plants considered winter hardy into USDA winter hardiness zone 5 or colder. Consider ways you can achieve the look using hardy plants and possibly some container plants that you bring indoors during the winter as well. Smaller trees with naturally symmetrical and formal shapes could include ornamental pear, fastigiate hornbeam, and some of the crabapples such as "SugarTyme." For evergreens, consider the upright junipers for that cypress-type of look. Then you could use a few formal shaped shrubs such as the evergreen boxwood and clipped yews or clipped hollies (the Meserve or blue hollies would grow for you in a sheltered location with winter wind protection) to help build the foundation of the garden. Roses, both climbers and shrubs, have a place here as do the spring flowering bulbs. Perennial flowers for use in formal, geometrically shaped beds could include daylilies, bulb lilies, and absolutely some of the especially hardy varieties of lavender such as "Grosso" assuming you have a very well drained soil. Other herbs you might grow to fit the theme include thymes, oregano (the variety "Herrenhausen" is especially attractive) along with assorted basils. You could also include some (non-hardy) topiaries of rosemary in containers along with brightly colored potted geraniums, and possibly a container citrus tree or two such as Calamondin orange or even a bay tree clipped to a formal shape. These would need to overwinter indoors or in a cool greenhouse. I hope this gives you some ideas. Have fun with your project!

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