I recently visited the renowned Italian garden ‘La Mortella’ meaning place of the myrtles on the Isle of Ischia in the spectacular Bay of Naples! In 1949 this exquisite coastal residence became the home place of the famous British classical composer William Walton and his Argentian wife Susana. She was a passionate and gifted gardener who with the aid of the well-known designer Russell Page created this incredible inspirational space. I was so captivated by its beauty it brought tears to my eyes! This wonderful garden reveals a heady mix of plants, music and art; all things I love!
It encompasses practically every garden feature imaginable and is home to a fantastic collection of plants – everything from orchids to Japanese maples. There are a series of amazing ponds and fountains both inside and outside. These display cheerful water lilies; one being the largest tropical variety, Victoria amazonica whose giant lily pads supposedly can float a baby. Strangely this pink lily only flowers by night. The garden is constructed on many different levels; the rambling pathways and steps are planted with many striking foliage varieties – too numerous to mention. The meandering style of the garden leads one through a variety of well-crafted structures from arches to bridges to pergolas!
My favourite plant had to be Passiflora ‘Incense’. This evergreen climber has large exotic lavender-purple flowers whose intricate design just took my breath away, another love affair began and I just have to get one! Its cousin P. caerulea has blue and white flowers and grows happily here in Kerry once provided with a south-facing wall.
A Greek theatre nestles neatly amongst this green paradise; a panoramic sea view forms a living backdrop. Symphony concerts are staged there during the summer and I sense the spirit of William Walton wafts through the pine trees on those occasions! There is also an indoor recital hall and museum where we met the sound technician as he was tuning up the grand piano for that evening’s concert. With dedicated reverence he led us to the sanctity of a secret room to show us the original piano used by the composer; it is not on public display, we stood in silence touched by its humility, it was by no means a grand piano!
The final highlight for me was ‘The Temple of the Sun’ which is an awesome, artistic tribute to this great composer. Gold bas-relief adorns the white walls with angels and phrases from William’s music. Rays of sunlight danced through the circular, ceiling windows and I felt completely captured in this ethereal world! However a cup of gun powder tea in the garden café brought me quickly back to earth! I could write forever about this most beautiful place. I would recommend anyone to visit – for me it was an elevating experience one which has enriched the archives of my memory!