The prime mover behind the Mortella Gardens, Susana Valeria Rosa Maria Gil Passo was a unique figure in the gardening world. With an energetic and strong-willed spirit, when she was working at the British Consulate in Buenos Aires, the city where she was born, she met 46-year-old English composer Sir William Walton and, thanks in part to her green eyes, it was love at first sight. William left England with Susana, pursuing his dream of living in Italy. In 1949, the couple arrived in Forio d’Ischia. A few years later, they bought a piece of land dominated by a rugged cliff. With the help of architect Russell Page, an admirer of Walton’s music, the site would soon become one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Susana’s passion and botanical skills are to thank for the practical implementation of the design and plant selection. After William’s death in 1983, she set up the William Walton Foundation to promote musical culture and continue looking after the thousands of rare and exotic plants, the amazing anthology of Mediterranean scrub that the garden is. An environmentalist before her time, Lady Walton didn’t just create a garden, she came up with a management model for gardening. Her final achievement was the Greek theatre, a cavea open to the sea and planted with creeping thyme, with a stage big enough to accommodate an entire symphony orchestra. The recipient of many honours in her life, Susana wrote a biography of William Walton, “Behind the Façade”, and a book on Mortella, “Behind a Garden Paradise”. Her ashes were laid to rest in the garden’s nymphaeum.
Read also Russell Page Look at the card of Giardino della Mortella