This remarkable garden, created from a barren quarry, was recently praised to the heavens by Monty Don in his TV series on Italian Gardens. Monty Don is nicenesss rolled into a ball; he’s also knowledgable and charming and yet his programmes on foreign gardens (first the world, now Italy) have tended to fall flat. The reason, I think, is that he is so uncritical, so flattering, so easily impressed.
I visited La Mortella in October 2009, shortly before Lady Walton’s death. La Mortella has been described as the best exotic garden in Italy and I wanted to see if it was as good as that other great exotic garden, La Mortola, created by Sir Thomas Hanbury fifty years before the Waltons started work on their garden. There’s no doubt that it was a magnificent achievement to make this garden out of nothing and Russell Page’s planting, now 50 years old, has produced some magnificent specimens. But that’s as far as the hyperbole goes. The setting is poor. The outlook is grim suburbia with the sea in the far distance- very inferior to the gardens on neighbouring Capri and nothing to compare with La Mortola. And then, when you’ve climbed to the top, you come across a truly hideous creation, which they have incongruously named Glorieta. My photo gives you some idea of its ghastliness, but you really have to be there and see it from every angle to appreciate how truly awful it is. Monty would have made a much more interesting programme if he had put down his book of superlatives for a moment and spoken about the garden with a little more objectivity.