The Botanic Gardens of Villa Taranto in Northern Italy were created by Captain Neil McEacharn, a wealthy Scotsman with a passionate interest in gardening. There are many inspirational Italian gardens, yet Villa Taranto has slowly become one of Italy’s most prized, not least due to its unique location. This is a lakeside estate of some 40 acres on the outskirts of the small town of Pallanza. It is dramatically flanked on one side by the Alps and on the other by the beautiful Lago Maggiore, Italy’s second largest lake.
Captain Neil McEacharn (1884 – 1964) had been on the lookout specifically for a suitable property in Italy on which to build his dream garden which he wanted to populate with plants from around the world, mainly because of the temperate climate. He found the ideal spot in 1931. And so the story begins.
Over the next three years, the project of preparing the grounds for planting began. Massive amounts of earth were moved. Artificial valleys were created. Water features were constructed including water gardens, fountains and a bathing pool. Several lawns were prepared. Green houses and glass houses were built. And crucially, in 1934, an innovative irrigation system was installed, complete with 10 km of piping leading from an electric pumping station by the lake. The gardens were now ready for planting!
In 1934, Henry Cocker was appointed the first head gardener at Villa Taranto. He was a Kew-trained English gardener who spoke Italian. The process of importing plants on a grand scale from around the world began in earnest, including from Britain, the USA, Japan, Australia and South Africa. Captain McEacharn, himself a keen traveller, had spent many years travelling the world making invaluable horticultural contacts and collecting plants and seeds. This no doubt greatly aided him in securing the plants he wanted, many of which were very rare in Europe at that time.
One of the great pleasures of visiting these Italian gardens today is the sheer breadth and depth of inspiration they provide for developing one’s own garden. Whether your garden is large or small, it does not really matter. In the words of Captain McEacharn:
‘A nice garden does not have to be huge; it must however make your dream come true, even if it’s only 2 square meters large and confined to your balcony.’
If you are vacationing in Northern Italy this summer, both Isola Bella and Villa Taranto are well worth a visit. Both of these inspirational Italian gardens are on Lago Maggiore.
At Paramount Plants & Gardens, we stock many of the exotic plants that are showcased in these beautiful gardens. As a specialist in Mediterranean and tropical trees and plants, you can be sure our specimens are UK hardy and usually come in a variety of sizes, very often including quite mature plants. You can buy all our plants online – we delivery throughout England, Wales and Scotland. Contact us for details.