18 March 2022
The season of the camellia, “lady of Isola Madre”
Celebrated by poets and writers all over the world, considered a symbol of immortality in ancient times, chosen by Coco Chanel as a decorative motif in her creations, in the language of flowers it is “the bearer of perfect beauty and superiority”. Giving it as a gift is a message of esteem. Such is the camellia.
The camellia is the protagonist of the first blooms in the gardens of Isola Madre, an exotic and spellbinding corner on the Piedmontese side of Lake Maggiore, which Gustave Flaubert described as “the most voluptuous place I have ever seen in the world”.
Isola Madre today houses a rich collection of old camellias: around forty varieties accompanied by hybrids such as the camellia japonica ‘Mitronesson vera’, hybridised before 1840, the camellia japonica ‘Gloria delle Isole Borromee’ and the ‘Gloria del Verbano’.
The passion for camellias goes back a long way: the botanical garden on Isola Madre was one of the first in Italy to host this extraordinarily elegant flower, which is given a picturesque “Camellia Bed” here, flowering earlier – between February and April – than in the nearby lakeside areas. It was Giberto V Borromeo and his son Vitaliano IX Borromeo, then a renowned naturalist, who wanted to cultivate the camellia in the late nineteenth century in this Eden where some specimens have grown to the size of small trees.
While the colours range from white to pink and every variety of red, only a few types of camellia give off a very delicate scent. The opportunity to admire them up close in all their splendour is the opening of the botanical gardens of the Borromean Islands from 18 March. In addition, on the morning of Sunday 27 March, Isola Madre welcomes visitors as part of the 54th Camellia Exhibition at Villa Giulia on Lake Maggiore, for the initiative called “Camellias in collection. Guided tours of gardens with camellia collections”. A tour organised by Valeria Sibilia, President of the Verbania Garden Club, and botanical expert Carola Lodari.
The beauty of the camellia inspires the Terre Borromeo line of accessories and souvenirs, available in the e-shop: from prints to postcards, from kits with exercise books, pencils and bookmarks to cosmetic items with camellia oil, which is precious for its light consistency and moisturising and anti-ageing properties.