At the end of March last year we took a weeks holiday on the Italian side of Lake Maggiore in northern Italy. For gardeners , garden lovers, sun worshipers and those who want to look fabulous rocking a pair of designer sunglasses this is the perfect destination. I’m a bit of a garden addict as you probably know by now and I’m not adversed to a bit of sunshine so I was distinctly happy. Somedays I had to feign grumpiness just to maintain my reputation but it was a struggle.
There are so many glorious gardens and parks around the Italian lakes. I would recommend gardens around Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. There is simply too much to cover in one article, so I will focus on just one garden, namely Villa Taranto.
The picture above is of Lake Maggiore and the smaller hill on the left of the picture is where Villa Taranto is located, a large proportion of that hill is the garden and you really need to allow yourself plenty of time to soak up what the garden has to offer. If you are driving there you can either drive around the lake or if you are on the other side and want to save yourself some time you can catch the ferry across. Once you have reached Villa Taranto you will find that there is a free car park opposite the entrance.
There is quite a large team of gardeners working on the garden at Villa Taranto and once you’ve walked the garden you will realise why, this is a garden on a huge scale. There is a small but reasonably priced plant sale area on the right opposite the ticket shop, I was very well-behaved and didn’t buy anything (and people say that I have no self-restraint).
Thankfully, this glorious Magnolia tree was still in flower but I think that if we had visited a week later we would have missed it. I really like that they have given this Magnolia plenty of room, I think that they need space and the eyes need to be able to see it alone in its full glory. There are, however, areas that are more densely planted, like the rhododendron and Camelia gardens but this is completely appropriate as they are woodland plants. On the subject of Rhododendrons, I was ignorantly unaware that they could grow to the size of tall trees. The Rhododendrons really blew me away with their scale and diversity and that was the memory that I took away with me.
This is just one view across the garden but it gives you an idea of the size of the garden.
When I visited there were vast areas of daffodils, all of the same variety and the effect was stunningly beautiful.
There are quite a large number of Viburnum Carlesii and Viburnum Aurora blooming at the edges of paths where their heady scent draws you towards them and the garden understandably is a haven for bees and insects. I have to admit that I’ve never seen this glossy black insect that looks like a bee, if anyone can enlighten me as to what it is I would be very happy.
The Edwardian English garden designer, Gertrude Jekyll, was very keen on this plant, Bergenia and advocated planting it in large patches rather than just one or two. The effect is more stunning both from a distance and at close quarters. This is true of all plants of course, however, the planting scheme should not be blocky and regimented like little soldiers, groups of plants should drift into each other and where possible be repeated for a more pleasing effect.
This tree is called Cercis Siliquastrum (The Judas Tree) and produces these beautiful dark pink flowers early in the year before it produces leaves, very much like the Magnolia tree. It will tolerate some cold weather but is more suited to more temperate areas.
Various points in the garden offer the visitor stunning and enticing views of Lake Maggiore. What a stunning backdrop for this gloriously beautiful garden.
If you have a limited time in Lake Maggiore it is tempting to cram visiting as many gardens into your itinerary as possible and I can understand this, having done so myself, however, I think it is better to restrict yourself to one garden visit per day. You can then sit in the evening watching the sun go down, with some good food, a glass of good Italian wine or two and reflect on the riches viewed during your garden visit of the day. The risk when you visit more than one garden in a day is that, apart from having tired legs and feet, you tend to forget what you saw in each garden. I think that gardens and the gardeners who tend to them deserve our utmost respect for theirs is a labour of love and a work that is never truly finished.
If you would like more information on Villa Taranto, their website is a good place to start.
You might also like to consider booking your accommodation via airbnb – www.airbnb.de