“Collection gardens” are the manifestation of the dream of collecting as many plant species and varieties as possible in one garden. During the Renaissance, citrus trees were the first plants to be collected, following the trend set by the Medici gardens; during the 17th century, apart from a few exceptions, Italy remained exempt from the “tulip mania” that spread across Europe, while during the 18th and 19th centuries many gardens were set up to express the botanical interests of enthusiast owners, who turned their outdoor green spaces into authentic paradises, acclimatisation gardens for rare plants and flowers that were collected during expeditions to far away countries, coinciding with the spread of botanical science and the proliferation of studies on the subject.

An emblematic case is that of the Ligurian Riviera, where the favourable climate inspired plant enthusiasts, from England especially, such as Thomas Hanbury and Ellen Willmott, to set up gardens by planting and acclimatising a wide variety of rare and exotic plants that in this area found their ideal environment..

Until the first half of the 20th century Italian lakes too were also frequented by many passionate plant collectors. On Lake Maggiore there is Villa San Remigio, where a formal garden initiated in 1883 is home to spectacular rhododendron, azalea and rose flowerings, and Villa Taranto, created at the early 20th century by Scotsman Neil McEacharn, who collected an incredible number of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and bulbous plants, especially tulips.

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