A Garden Symphony

Lady Susana Walton – “La Mortella”, Isola d’Ischia, Bay of Naples, Italy

Summary: Famous British composer William Walton proposed to Argentinean born Susanna the first day they met and her response was to think he was a lunatic. But he persisted and they married with historic results for both music and horticulture. They took up residence on the Island of Ischea in Italy and while William busied himself with his compositions, Susanna found her calling in their garden. Here, under the guidance of famous landscape architect Russell Page, Lady Susanna Walton developed on the site of an old volcano a beautiful space where her husband could find harmony in nature and inspiration in music. Now, more than 20 years after William’s death, their garden “La Mortella” continues to inspire thousands of visitors each year, and with regularly scheduled outdoor musical performances, Susanna has created a lasting tribute in both sights and sounds to the man she adored.
Garden Contact Information: Giardini La Mortella
via Francesco Calise, 39
80075, Florio, Isola d’Ischia (Na), Italy

Phone: +39 081 986220
Email: info@lamortella.it


The Garden: La Mortella is situated on the hill of Zaro, formed from an old volcano eruption on the north-west corner of Isola d’Ischia, in the Bay of Naples, off the coast of Italy. The design of the garden was by the famous landscape architect Russell Page for British composer Sir William Walton and his wife Lady Susanna .

The garden, which was started in 1956, was designed to inspire music. It covers 16,000 square metres and is home to thousands of rare Mediterranean plants from around the world. There are three main areas; the Valley Garden, the Tropical Houses, and the Upper Garden. The Valley Garden is filled with the sound of a number of fountains. One of the greenhouses contains Victoria Amazonica, a giant water lily from the Brazilian Amazon with huge round lily pads. Stairs up a cliff lead to the Upper Garden where there is a pond overlooked by a crocodile sculpture and an amazing view of Mt. Epomeo as well as the beach at Forio. Also in the garden is a Greek-style theatre overlooking the sea, which can accommodate a full orchestra.

After William’s death in 1983 a memorial was built at "William’s Rock" in the Upper Garden, where his ashes are contained within the pyramid rock looking over the property, from this, his favorite part of the garden.

The Gardeners' Story: Lady Walton was born on August 30, 1926 in Argentina. Her father, a lawyer, insisted that all his children learn English before speaking their own language. Susana attended an exclusive school taught by Spanish nuns and graduated with diplomas in Accountancy and English Translation.

In 1948 she was working with the Buenos Aries office of the British Council, when English composer William Walton came to Argentina to attend an international conference of the Performing Rights Society. William fell in love with Susana at first sight and after repeated proposals, they were engaged within two weeks. Despite objections from her parents about their 23 year age difference, the pair were married a month later.

The couple moved to Italy, where William spent the next 6 years working on his opera "Troilus and Cresida". After completion Susanna was ready to go to England, but William wanted to stay in Italy. To make her happy, he bought a piece of land which was on the site of a volcanic erruption that filled a ravine, located on the island of Ischia, in the Bay of Naples. The famous landscape architect Russell Page agreed to help the Waltons transform their new home into a peaceful haven where William could find harmony and inspiration for his work. Russell designed a plan for the garden and Susana, who had no previous gardening experience, set about beautifully executing that plan.

Over the years, "La Mortella" evolved from a rocky lava stream to the green paradise it is today. The name translates as "for the myrtles". After William’s death in 1983 Susana continues to upkeep and expand "La Mortella" as a living memorial to her husband. She opened it up to visitors in 1990 and arranged master classes to be taught to young musicians there. There are regular musical performances scheduled in the garden. In order to accommodate the playing of William’s symphonies, an outdoor theatre was built which could accommodate a full orchestra.

In July of 2001 Lady Walton was awarded an honorary doctorate in music by the University of Nottingham in recognition of her contributions to the musical world in maintaining the legacy of one of England’s finest composers. In 2002 Susana’s book was published. "La Mortella; An Italian Garden Paradise" by New Holland Publishers with a forward written by HRH The Prince of Wales.

Link: www.lamortella.it
Behind the Scenes: Executive Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Producer: Merit Jensen Carr
Creative Producer: Donna Gall
Line Producer: Sandra Moore
Director: Elise Swerhone
Writer: Elise Swerhone
Researcher: Elise Swerhone
Narration Writer: Robert Lower
Editor: Randy Frykas
Director of Photography: Charles Konowal, CSC
Narrator: Bonnie Dickie
Music: Shawn Pierce

Date: 2006

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