The Italian Renaissance Garden was a style of garden which became popular in the 15th century and tried to reflect the restoration ideals of order and beauty. After they began cropping up in villas around Florence and Rome, the style became the go to for the aristocracy and fashionable home owners. The style would often move away from the previous style of gardens being closed off. Instead of the Italian renaissance garden being devoted to the growing of vegetable and fruit, the new style would break down the walls between house, landscape and garden, often incorporating built structures into the garden itself. The Italian Rennasiance Garden was inspired by the writings about Roman Gardens, which saw the area around ones living space as an area devoted to reflection and leisure. Thus, the garden became a luxury space incorporating architectural and artistic thinking as opposed to a purely practical working space. The Italian Garden therefore incorporated fountains, geometric shapes and stoned walls around tailored green areas. Leon Battista Alberti was the first person to write about Italian Gardens, believing a villa should be an area to btoh look at and look from, indicating the need for an all-round good view incorporating the garden into both a piece of art and a space for leisure and relaxation.
The Italian Garden’s history
The Italian Garden is almost a stone’s throw from the Grand Park Lancaster Gate Hotel. Found in Hyde Park, it is a 150 year old space which incorporates many of the ideals set out by Alberti. Created by Prince Albert for his wife, Queen Victoria the Italian Garden’s design was inspired by Osborne House on The Isle of Wight. Prince Albert was a keen gardener and took charge of the gardens at Osborne House. This was one of the houses at which the royal family spent their holidays. Albert decided to introduce an Italian Garden with large raised terraces, fountains, urns and new geometric flower beds. After the first one was created in the Isle of Wight, the Kensington Gardens Italian Garden was built around 1860. Designed by James Pennethorne, many of the Osborne garden’s notable features could be found in the Kensington Garden version.
The north of the gardens holds the Pump House. The building used to be operated by a steam engine, keeping the fountains running. The pillar on the roof was disguised as a chimney and a stoker, the old fashioned word for a steam engine operator, was employed on Saturday nights to keep the engine running and pump water into the Round Pond. This meant that on Sundays there was enough water stored up to run the fountains without the use of the engine. It is here in the Pump House where you can find Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s initials on one of the walls.
The garden itself is situated near the Serpentine Lake which can be found between Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. This is an area where people can feed the lakes many ducks, swans and geese as well as use rowing boats. The garden itself adds a great figurehead to this beautiful area.
What to find in the Italian Garden
Due to the age and the technical complexity in regards to the fountain area of the Italian Garden, many recent renovations have taken place so as to keep the scenic area in good condition. The beautiful stonemasonry had carved into it eight life-sized swan heads and necks, as replacements for several of the Urns. The Tazza Fountain, which had suffered serious deterioration, required fine carving on-site. This was undertaken to conserve the acanthus band and mermen supporting the bowl. Carved marble was used to replace the central rosettes in the four main basins, which required a lot of cleaning. A display of aquatic plants around the fountains basin was introduced by the Royal Parks’ ecology and landscape architecture teams so as to resemble what the fountain may have originally looked like. This idea of recapturing the Victorian essence of the garden was furthered by the use of vintage postcards which showed how the basins original planting looked. This also encouraged the water to keep at a high quality. Native water lilies, yellow flag iris, flowering rush and purple loosestrife are rooted in cages just below the water. There is also a new walkway for birdlife to safely enter and exit the basin.
The Italian Gardens in Hyde Park has also been a setting for several films due to its beautiful surorundings, Wimbledon starring Kirsten Dunst depicts a scene in which she and Paul Bettany’s tennis professionals take a tour of London, which includes Hyde Park’s Itlaian Garden. A famous scene in Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason depicts two of the male characters fighting over Bridget Jones, played by Renee Zellwegerin the Italian Garden’s fountain.