Lectures are in the Play House: 10.45 for morning members: 13.30 for afternoon members.

Thursday 21 March 2019

Steven Desmond


Historic Gardens of the Italian lakes

Hercules and the Lion, Parnassus and Apollo, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, religious allegories, representations of  the living and the dead  and  the political state of countries were some of the fascinating contents of gardens which were included in Steven Desmond’s humorous and captivating lecture.

The stunning gardens of Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore with its ornate baroque terrace designed to initially shock was  shown with  Parnassus and the nine muses who live there depicted living under Apollo’s protection. On the very top Pegasus kicks out and from here a spring of water comes into existence as depicted by Alexander Pope. The Borromeo family used south facing walls to grow lemons and in September the overwhelming burgeoning of plants can be viewed at their best. Statues in the terraced garden depict the four seasons with one of Winter shown holding mistletoe made of iron. In one of the lawns is a magnificent display of tulips and violets as well as a representation of the Borromeon rings. Rhododendrons flourish there.

Shelley has written about the Italian lakes and Steven illustrated the breathtaking scenery with pictures of chestnut forests, mountains and atmospheric light. Villa Carlotta on Lake Como was given as a wedding present to Charlotte, a relative of Albert and Victoria but, unfortunately, she died young so her heartbroken husband constructed a woodland garden with fountains and sculptures as well as terraces where blue and yellow flowers are planted in perfect symmetry. Other gardens were explored including that of Villa Melzi where a statue of Dante still stands which was used as an image by Mark Twain. There is a winding path around it, such as can be found in English country gardens, which shows the rise in English economy at the time.  Finally, dusk colours of blue and grey were shown.

Steven Desmond M.A. FIHort  FLS

Steven is a chartered horticulturist with a special interest in the historic gardens of Britain and Europe. He has a long and varied career during which he has been a professional gardener, lecturer, adviser, examiner and consultant. He now divides his time between writing for Country Life and leading garden tours across Britain and Europe.