From a Renaissance Villa: The Italian Landscape Style in America

A Selected Annotated Bibliography


By Nancy Carol Carter




Attlee, Helena. Italian Gardens: A Cultural History. London: Frances Lincoln, 2006                                                                                                                             - A lavishly illustrated history of Italian gardens and the people who made them, beginning with Petrarch and reaching into the twentieth century.

Attlee, Helena, with photographs by Charles Latham. Italian Gardens: Romantic Splendor in the Edwardian Age, New York: Monacelli Press, 2009. [See also, Latham.]                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              -- Attlee’s book reproduces 200 of the famed Latham photographs with commentary placing the gardens within the context of Italian art and garden history.

Blomfield, Reginald. Formal Gardens in England. London: Macmillan, 1892.                                                                                                                       - Blomfield sets out the case for the architect’s role in creating gardens. He was the Victorian era adversary of naturalistic garden advocate William Robinson.                                                 

Blomfield, Reginald. A History of Renaissance Architecture in England 1500-1800. London: George Bell and Son, 1897.                                                             - Blomfield begins his story with the Italian workman brought to England during the reign of Henry VIII and follows through to the work of Sir Christopher Wren.

Davidson, Rebecca Warren. “Camera Bella The Printed Photograph and the Perception of the Italian Garden in America.” In Foreign Trends in American Gardens, ed. Raffaella Fabiani Giannetto. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press. 2016, 140-161.                                                                 - The invention of photography changed the way that knowledge about garden design was acquired and transmitted.  The seductive beauty of Italian gardens in photography helped to increase the popularity of the style.

Davidson, Rebecca Warren. “Images and Ideas of the Italian Garden in American Landscape Architecture.” PhD diss., Cornell University, 1994.       - Davidson argues that the influence of the Italian style on American gardens has been insufficiently understood and not well represented in garden history literature.

Davidson, Rebecca Warren. “Past as Present: Villa Vizcaya and the ‘Italian Garden’ in the United States,” Journal of Garden History 12:1 (1992), 1 28.   - Not examined.

Dobyns, Winfred Starr. California Gardens, 1931; reprint Santa Barbara: Allen A. Knoll, 1996.                                                                                                 - Using 207 black and white photographs and almost no text, Dobyns makes a powerful statement about the high art of garden design in California. Notable Italian gardens are included.

Donhardt, Christine. “Ferrell Gardens: A Designed Landscape of the 19th Century,” MA thesis, University of Georgia.                                                            - A study of “The Terraces” or “Ferrell’s Garden,” the life work of Sarah Ferrell who created the earliest documented Italian garden in the United States in LaGrange, Georgia.

Draper, E. S. “The Garden at Hills and Dales,” House Beautiful 71 (1932), 372-378.                                                                                                           - Landscape architect and college instructor Earle Draper brought a team of students to LaGrange, Georgia, to study Sarah Ferrell’s garden and record its Italianate layout. 

Dumbarton Oaks Colloquium on the History of Landscape Architecture, 1st, 1971. The Italian Garden, ed. David R. Coffin. Washington, D. C.: Dumbarton Oaks Trustees for Harvard University, 1972.                                                                                                                                                                 - The four papers in this work are: a three-century overview of the Italian Renaissance garden, an investigation of iconography and symbolism in the Italian garden, the gardens of Italian flower collectors, and a study of gardens in the Veneto region.

French, Jere Stuart. The California Garden and the Landscape Architects Who Shaped It. Washington, D.C.: Landscape Architecture Foundation, 1993.       - The publisher claims this as “the first truly comprehensive account of garden design in the Golden State.” It is strongest in tracing the Spanish roots of California gardens but has a short discussion of Italian influence. Several landscape architects are profiled.

Gebhard, David. “The Design of the Landscape in the Work of Reginald D. Johnson, Gordon B. Kaufmann and Roland E. Coate,” in Johnson, Kaufmann, Coate: Partners in the California Style, exhibit and book developed by Jay Belloli et al., essays by Lauren Weiss Bricker et al. Claremont, Calif.: Scripps College; distributed by Capra Press, Santa Barbara, 1992, 56-69.                                                                                                                                                   - This work is described as the definitive examination of Paul G. Thiene’s early work and the California context for his style.

Giannetto, Raffaella Fabiani, “The American Colonial Garden and the Garden of the Country Place Era: The Role of Ancient and Early Modern Italy.” In Foreign Trends in American Gardens: A History of Exchange, Adaptation, and Reception. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press2016, 113-139.         - Papers from a 2011 conference at the University of Pennsylvania examine the impact of foreign people, ideas, plants and ornament on American gardens.

Graham, Wade. American Eden: From Monticello to Central Park to Our Backyards: What Our Gardens Tell Us About Who We Are. New York:  Harper Collins, 2001.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  -  References to the Italian style are brief within this dense and illuminating cultural history, but provide a context for the Italian garden within the whole of American garden development.

Griswold, Mac K., Eleanor Weller and Helen E. Rollins. The Golden Age of American Gardens: Proud Owners, Private Estates, 1890-1940. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1991.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - The Italian Renaissance garden was a statement of wealth and power and was therefore an apt model for rich Americans during the great age of estate building. A variety of Italian gardens are included in this illustrated work.

Hanson, A. E.  An Arcadian Landscape: The California Gardens of A.E. Hanson, 1920-1932, ed. David Gebhard and Sheila Lynds (California Architecture and Architects, No. 5). Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1985.                                                                                                                                                           - Hanson provides an autobiographical chapter on his training and interactions with clients followed by chapters on the making of nine of his celebrated gardens, including the Harold Lloyd estate in Beverly Hills and the Italian garden of Kirk Johnson in Montecito.

Hawley, Henry. “An Italianate Garden by Greene and Greene,” The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 2 (Summer-Autumn, 1986), 32-45.      The author comments on the Italian design education of the Greene brothers and provides a full description of Il Paradiso, the Cordelia A. Culbertson House and Italian garden in Pasadena. Interior and exterior photographs of the house are reproduced.

Hobhouse, Penelope. Gardening Through the Ages: An Illustrated History of Plants and Their Influence on Garden Styles—from Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1992, 1997, 137-162.                                                                                                                                               - Chapter 5, “Gardens of the Italian Renaissance,” includes a description of the Elvaston Castle Italian garden in England that inspired H. H. Hunnewell to create his early Italian garden in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

Holliday, Peter J. American Arcadia:  California and the Classic Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016.                                                           - This charming book documents an omnipresent undertone of classical influence in California’s culture and development. One chapter is devoted to the notion of “California as Italy.”

Howett, Catherine M. “A Southern Lady’s Legacy: The Italian ‘Terraces’ of La Grange, Georgia.” Journal of Garden History 2:4 (October-December 1982), 343-360.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   - Along with one graduate thesis, this is the only scholarly writing on Sarah Ferrell’s early Italian garden in LaGrange, Georgia.

Hunt, John Dixon. Garden and Grove: The Italian Renaissance Garden in the English Imagination, 1600-1750. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1986.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         - Hunt combed 17th and 18th century original sources (diaries, guidebooks, etc.) to learn how the English saw and understood the Italian garden. A second section describes English adaptations of the Italian style and its profound and lasting influence on English gardens.

Hunt, John Dixon, ed. The Italian Garden: Art, Design and Culture. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.                                                              - An international cast of authors delve into the complexity of the Italian garden, discussing pre-Renaissance Italian gardens, urban gardens in Italy, and specific gardens across the county. Hunt believes that gardens are best understood when original sources can reveal the intentions for the garden and how it was perceived.

Jaffe, Irma B., ed. The Italian Presence in American Art 1860-1920. New York: Fordham University Press, 1992.                                                                   - The extraordinary cultural connection between the United States and Italy is explored in 16 essays. One is “The Italianate Villa and the Search for an American Style, 1840-1860.

Jekyll, Gertrude. Garden Ornament. London: Offices of Country Life; New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1918.                                                                                   - A surprising amount of coverage is given to Italian gardens and their decoration.

Karson, Robin. A Genius for Place: American Landscapes of the Country Place Era. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2007.                         - Charles A. Platt, interpreter of the Italian style, is one of the featured designers.

Karson, Robin S. The Muses of Gwinn: Art and Nature in a Garden Designed by Warren H. Manning, Charles A. Platt and Ellen Shipman. Library of American Landscape Design, Sagaponack, N.Y.: Saga Press, 1995.                                                                                                                                             - The Cleveland estate of William G. Mather is one of the important examples of Charles A. Platt’s adaption of the Italian villa style to the United States.

Kenworthy, Richard G. “Bringing the World to Brookline: The Gardens of Larz and Isabel Anderson,” Journal of Garden History 11:4 (1991) 224-241.   - The gardens at “Weld,” the home of the Andersons, was one of Charles A. Platt’s celebrated and widely influential projects.

Kenworthy, Richard G. The Italian Garden Transplanted: Renaissance Revival Landscape Design in America, 1850-1939 [Exhibition catalog]. Troy, AL: Dept. of History and Social Science, Troy State University, 1988.                                                                                                                                                           - Not examined.

Kenworthy, Richard G. “Published Records of Italianate Gardens in America,” Journal of Garden History, 10:1 (1990) 10-70.                                               - A national survey of gardens in the Italian style. Gardens are listed by state and city. Owner, architect, landscape architect or designer, garden description and a bibliography is provided for each garden. Gardens in the Mediterranean style are not included.

Latham, Charles Gardens of Italy. London: Country Life, Ltd. 1905.                                                                                                                                         - Country Life’s first staff photographer was dispatched to Italy in 1903 to record the county’s greatest landscapes. Latham’s images are a priceless record. [See also, Attlee.]

Lowell, Guy. American Gardens. Boston: Bates & Guild, 1902.                                                                                                                                                           - A well-educated architect and landscape architect, Lowell took a discerning look at domestic garden design in this book. Several gardens by Charles A. Platt, the leading interpreter of the Italian style are included. Lowell helped people understand that Italian design principles could be applied in smaller gardens. He also published Smaller Italian Villas and Farmhouses (1916) and More Small Italian Villas and Farmhouses (1920). [All three books have been reprinted in modern editions.]

Masson, Georgina. Italian Gardens. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1961; new ed. with intro. by Margherita Azzi Visentini. Suffolk, UK: Woodbridge Garden Art, 2011.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             - Georgina Masson is the pseudonym of Marion Johnson (1912-1980) a Britisher who lived in Rome for 30 years. A noted scholar and photographer, she traces the full history of Italian gardens with photographs. Masson also published Italian Villas and Palaces (1959), Italian Villas and Gardens (1961) and The Companion Guide to Rome (1965).

Miller, Wilhelm. “An ‘Italian Garden’ That is Full of Flowers,” Country Life in America 7 (March 1905): 484-92. [Available at Hathitrust.org.]               - Formal gardens in this country can be boring, Wilhelm contends. To succeed, formal Italian gardens in America should have walls for privacy, moving water, terraces and flowers. The Larz Anderson garden, “Weld,” designed by Charles A. Pratt in Brookline, Massachusetts, has all these features, with a particular abundance of flowers. 

Morgan, Keith N. “Al Fresco: An Overview of Charles A. Platt’s Italian Gardens.” In Charles A. Platt, Italian Gardens [Reissue]. Portland, OR: Sagapress/Timber Press, 1993, 95-142.                                                                                                                                                                                             - The leading scholar on Charles A. Platt and the Italian garden in America provides a context for Platt’s book, originally published in 1894.  

Morgan, Keith N. Charles A. Platt: The Artist as Architect. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985.                                                                                                     - This book brought new attention to the work and influence of Platt. It covers Platt’s original career as an artist and etcher, shows the one-time dominance of his architectural firm, and describes his revival of the formal garden through writings on Italian villas and adaption of the Italian style to American landscapes.

Morgan, Keith N. “The Rise and Fall of the Italian Garden in America.” In Robin Karson, ed., Masters of American Garden Design IV: Influence on American Garden Design: 1895 to 1940. Proceedings of the Garden Conservancy Symposium held March 11, 1994. New York: The Garden Conservancy; Paine Webber, [1995], 7-16.                                                                                                                                                                                                                 - An excellent one-stop overview of the history of the Italian garden in the United States.

Morgan Keith N. Shaping an American Landscape: The Art and Architecture of Charles A. Platt. Hanover, NH: Hood Museum of Art and University Press of New England, 1995.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           - The catalog for a 1995 Charles A. Platt exhibit mounted in connection with the reissue of Platt’s 1894 book on Italian gardens. Among the six essays are studies of Platt’s career as an artist and his architectural and landscape work. Rebecca Warren Davidson provided a study of Platt’s work in New York; Morgan discusses an important Platt commission in “Gwinn: The Creation of a New American Landscape.”

Newcomb, Rexford. Mediterranean Domestic Architecture in the United States, new intro. by Marc Appleton. New York: Acanthus Press, 1999. Originally published Cleveland, Ohio: Jansen, 1918.                                                                                                                                                                                         - The original publication gave early attention to the rise of the Mediterranean style in California as illustrated by the designs of Myron Hunt, Richard Requa, Reginald D. Johnson, Paul G. Thiene and others.

Otis, Denise. Grounds for Pleasure: Four Centuries of the American Garden. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002.                                                                   - This broad historical survey of private gardens in the United States, frequently touches on the influence and adaptation of the Italian style. Otis notes that the Italian garden became a status symbol for the wealthy and was later rescaled for the smaller suburban garden.

Platt, Charles A. Italian Gardens, Harper & Brothers 1894. New edition: Italian Gardens, ed. with an overview by Keith N. Morgan. Portland, OR: Sagapress/Timber Press, 1993.                                                                                                                                                                                                           - The first English language monograph on the Italian Renaissance villa, with photographs and drawings. Platt became an influential architect and garden designer who theorized on the design lessons of the Renaissance villa and adapted them for American gardens.

Power, Nancy Goslee. The Gardens of California: Four Centuries of Design from Mission to Modern. Santa Monica, CA: Hennessey & Ingalls, 2001.     One of California’s outstanding garden designers traces garden history. 

Pregill, Philip and Nancy Volkman. Landscapes in History: Design and Planning in the Eastern and Western Traditions, 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1999.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       - Chapter 24: The Revival of Classicism: Landscape Architecture in an Era of Conspicuous Consumption: “The Neoclassicist approach to design as practiced in the first part of the twentieth century was variously described as formal . . . or Italian. Formality derived from axial arrangement of sight lines . . . and the Italian from its use of Renaissance Italian garden characteristics, such as terracing and columnar plants.”

Schnadelbach, R. Terry. Ferruccio Vitale: Landscape Architecture of the Country Place Era. New York, Princeton Architecture Press, 2011.                       - This work strives to reclaim the landscape legacy of Italian immigrant Vitale (1875-1933). He challenged the then-dominant pictorial mode of landscape architecture with formal designs reliant on design principles of the fine arts.

Shepherd, J. C. and Geoffrey Jellicoe. Italian Gardens of the Renaissance. London: Benn, 1925; reprint Princeton: Architectural Press, 1993.           - When enrolled in architecture studies, two English students measured and drew plans of Italian Renaissance villas. Their work is still considered to be a useful reference to classical style.

Streatfield, David, California Gardens: Creating a New Eden. New York: Abbeville Press, 1994.                                                                                                 - The essential starting place for research on California gardens, Streatfield includes discussions of foreign influences on the states’ gardens and writes about particular landscapes and designers relating to the Italian style.

Streatfield, David C., “Western Expansion.” In Keeping Eden: A History of Gardening in America, gen. ed. Walter T. Punch, Massachusetts Horticultural Society. Boston: Bulfinch Press, Little, Brown and Co., 1992, 97-117.                                                                                                                                     - Among a cast of top garden writers on national garden history, Streatfield’s contribution has been singled out as one of the best. He shows how developing styles in western gardening were closely linked to a topography and geography very different from other areas of the county.

Strong, Roy. The Renaissance Garden in England. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979; paperbound with a new intro., London: Thames and Hudson, 1998.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   - Critics suggest that this classic study would be more valuable had research extended beyond the author’s 1642 cutoff. The English Civil War drove many into exile in Italy where they were exposed to the Renaissance villa for the first time. A strong Italian influence corresponded with the return of exiles after the Civil War.

Tankard, Judith B. Ellen Biddle Shipman and the American Garden, rev. and enlarged. Library of American Landscape History, Athens: University of Georgia, 2018.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           - A protégé of Charles A. Platt, leading Italian style interpreter, Shipman was influenced by his example, but grew into her own distinctive and extremely popular style, designing 650 gardens over a long career.

Thiene, Paul. “Water Features: Notes on Experience in California Gardens,” Landscape Architecture 18:1 (October 1927), 43-51.                       - Photographs of some outstanding Italian garden features are reproduced.

Triggs, H. Inigo. The Art of Garden Design in Italy. London: Longmans, Green, 1906; reprint London and Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2007.             - The carefully drawn plot plans of Italian villas in this book have been a valued reference for architects and others since the publication first appeared in 1906.

Rybczynski, Witold, Laurie Olin, and Steven Brooke. Vizcaya: An American Villa and Its Makers. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.   - An illustrated history of an extravagant Italian villa built in Miami in 1916. Diego Suarez, a native of Colombia who studied architecture in Italy designed the gardens.

“Villa Turicum [blog],” http://villaturicum.com.                                                                                                                                                                           - Charles A. Platt designed this Italian villa for Harold F. and Edith Rockefeller McCormick at Lake Forest, Illinois. It was praised for its beauty and criticized as an elaborate copy. 

Waymark, Janet, Modern Garden Design: Innovation Since 1900. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2003.                                                                               - Harold Peto and the revival of Italian garden design in England are discussed, with special attention to his own Iford Manor garden and the water garden at Buscot Park.

Whalley, Robin. The Great Edwardian Gardens of Harold Peto: From the Archives of Country Life. London: Aurum, 2007.                                                 - Beautiful photographs illustrate the work of Peto, recognized as one of the leading landscape architects of his time. He worked in England and Southern France, often designing in the Italian style.

Watters, Sam, ed. Gardens for a Beautiful America 1895-1935. New York, Acanthus Press, 2012.                                                                                     - Pioneer woman photographer Frances Benjamin Johnson visited many of the estate gardens of the Country Place Era, many in the Italian style. The 250 hand tinted photographs in this book are transporting. 

Wharton, Edith. Italian Villas and Their Gardens. New York: The Century Co., 1904.                                                                                                                 - With long experience of travel in Italy and a love of the country, Wharton encouraged interest and admiration of Italian style with her discerning descriptions of favorite villas in this perennially popular collection.

Yoch, James J. Landscaping the American Dream: The Gardens and Film Sets of Florence Yoch: 1890-1972. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1989.                 - This thorough study was completed by Florence Yoch’s cousin (a university professor of English and a landscape designer) who had access to the her personal documents and professional records. 


Published in association with a two part article "From a Renaissance Villa: The Italian Landscape Style in America" by Nancy Carol Carter printed in the Spring and Summer 2020 issues of Eden.  


his story with the Italian workman brought to England during the reign of Henry VIII and follows through to the work of Sir Christopher Wren