200th anniversary of the Italian Garden at Chiswick House

Written by Geraldine King, Garden Estate Manager

Designed in 1814 by Lewis Kennedy, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, went about commissioning the young landscape gardener. Kennedy drew up a semi-circular ‘Italian Garden’ in front of the Conservatory (that had been completed a year earlier).

History of the Italian Garden

To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Italian Garden, 4,500 bedding plants have been planted by the garden staff alongside our enthusiastic volunteers. Geraniums, Cosmos, Petunias and Begonias along with 300 scented shrub roses are all establishing successfully, creating a sea of white, pink and blue.

Previously, Kennedy had been working for Empress Josephine at Malmaison. This could explain the influence of roses being planted forming the structure of the Italian Garden.

The gardener also re-introduced bedding plants into the planting plan, reversing the famous move at Chiswick to landscape the formal areas to informal areas. This happened 100 years prior, under Lord Burlington’s stewardship and with the help of landscape designer, William Kent. The informal English Landscape was pioneered at Chiswick House and Gardens by Kent. Kennedy’s design was one of the first in Britain to move back towards formal planting within the garden.

The garden’s semi-circular design relates to the dimensions of the conservatory with a central axis dividing the two parts. The beds were laid out in geometric patterns. In 1880 the then Head Gardener, Michael May, simplified the layout of the garden, mainly for economy of maintenance. This is the design that we see today.

In 2010, a generous donation from the late Miss Phyliss Bishop allowed Kennedy’s border to be faithfully restored and planted with China roses and mophead robinias. To compliment the planting, the borders were backed by Camellias and other evergreens.

With the support of all the team at Chiswick, our planting of the bedding and roses have successfully enhanced the Italian Garden. Some may say that the Garden is fit for a Lord or a King!

Geraldine King
Garden Estate Manager
Chiswick House and Gardens Trust