Box Theatres


Few hedging plants are as versatile as Box and if proof were needed, then a trip back to C.17th and C.18th Italy should convince you…
From around 1610 the fashion for grand Italian houses with grounds to match was to install a Teatro di Verzura – a Green Theatre. These open-air theatres were constructed entirely out of hedging plants, always Box with or without the addition of Yew. Quite a few not only survive but are maintained to their original (and functional) glory.
The two shown here are the Villa Reale di Marlia (pic bottom) in the province of Lucca to the west of Florence (built 1652) and the Villa Bernardini (pic top), also in Lucca (built c. 1720). The amphitheatre at the Villa Bernardini is still in regular use today. It is constructed entirely out of Box and the spherical Box topiary was designed to improve acoustics. It works.
Three centuries on, these two gardens stand testament to the enduring appeal and practicality of Box – surely the essential hedging plant – for both regular and more specialist gardens.