I’ve just returned from a lovely month in Sicily. Whilst, there wasn’t exactly an abundance of gardens to visit in the area I was staying in, here are some design tips I picked up…

1. Shape and Form

Of course, we can’t all grow cacti, but even so, take a look at how their form and structure really bring clarity to the planting scheme…

So regardless of the actual plant types, you are using, always pay attention to shape and form if you want success. There are plenty of plants other than cacti that have an ‘architectural’ quality. Make sure to add them throughout your planting scheme.

2. Structures

From the wild garden in Taormina to the formal pool in the Botanical Garden in Palermo, the structure of the walls is another way to add a form of clarity.

The wall grid inside the formal pool was a great design idea, it really kept the clarity and order that a formal setting requires, whilst allowing for multiple water plant varieties. And it probably makes maintenance easier as well!

Another way to add structure is with trees, and let’s face it the world desperately needs more of them. I loved the weird tree walk – normally tree avenues are perfectly upright specimens so it was nice to see the Ceiba trees (false kapok) quirky shapes.

Sadly that was the only part of the Palermo Botanical Garden I really liked – I do NOT recommend visiting, it was more like a plant graveyard than garden, a thoroughly depressing place!

3. Flower Power

I’ve always loved the way Italians use geraniums to great effect in their gardens and in Sicily they were equally revered…

The simplicity and effectiveness of using just one kind of flowering plant throughout a garden are very impactful.

Your choice of flowers doesn’t have to be bright colours to be effective. It does take a lot of restraint to use a single plant like this, but I think you’ll agree, it can look wonderful, especially if you happen to have a gorgeous landscape to look out to beyond your garden!

Meanwhile, back in England…

Looks like the UK might have had a spot of rain while I was away, judging by how lush everything is looking!

If you’d like to learn more about garden design, signup to watch one of Rachel’s free fast-track garden design web classes





Rachel Mathews
Rachel Mathews

Professional international garden designer for over 30 years. My mission is to de-mystify garden design and make it easy for people to successfully design their own garden - without needing to spend a fortune!

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