What is a Spanish garden?’


‘How to cope with Spanish conditions?   What is a Spanish garden?’

We understand that many readers of ‘ inland Trader’ are in the process of developing gardens from scratch. We therefore share our views of what constitutes a good Spanish garden based on our now combined  37 years of coping with the  Spanish climate, soils and plants. An approach that goes much deeper than merely constructing a pool, laying down a large terrace and paths and  making some impulse buys of colourful plants.
To us a good garden for a resident gardener will meet many of the following features whether you have a 400 or 4,000 square metre plot. Later in the year we will consider the special problems faced by non resident gardeners who come out to their properties for just a few weeks or months a year.
In the meantime our book will be of considerable help to them.
1. It is designed to match and enable an outdoor lifestyle for most of the year by, amongst other things, providing for summer shade and sheltered winter sun.
2. Has an attractive and interesting network of terraces and paths. Terraces of different sizes for different activities such as cooking and entertaining, secluded siestas, sunning after a dip in the pool or a quiet winters read. Pathways that lead one from one attractive part of the garden to another opening up both internal and external vistas en route. Curving rather than straight paths and the use of a variety of surfaces can add to the magic of a new garden even before the first plants are planted.
3. A number of interesting and contrasting mini gardens, patios or corners. The pool area treated as just one mini garden rather than the main but little used feature of the garden 365 days a year. This can be done even on a 400 metre plot.
4. Collections of plants appropriate to the emergent microclimate of the garden site. For many new gardens it will be wise to limit your choice of plants until fences, trees and hedges give protection from prevailing hot and cold winds and the hottest and coldest  temperatures. Take care. Remember last winter’s March frost the worst in our inland area for 52 years!
5. A variety of colour schemes painted with the many hues and textures of green foliage as well as the subtle or blazing colours of the flowers. For instance ‘cold beds’ planted up with plants that have white and mauve flowers and blue grey foliages or ‘hot beds’ planted with plants that have masses of the most vivid of red, orange and yellow flowers. Many other possibilities for what we term ‘painting with plants’ are described in  chapter 4.17 of our new book ‘Your garden in Spain – Practical ideas for gardens that suit your Spanish lifestyle  published by Santana Books. The first was ‘Practical Gardening on the Costa’ published by CBN.
6. Perfume throughout the year as one passes through the entrance gate and around the garden. Favourites include jasmines, roses, honey suckles, galan de noche, san diego, frangipani, mock orange, citrus trees, freesias, lilies, passion flowers, sweet peas, geraniums,  and naturally culinary and medicinal herbs.
7. The traditional restful and at times inspiring sound of dripping water from a fountain, the running water of a waterfall into or between ponds or a mini water feature.
8. The tasteful selection and placement of ornaments and groups of pots. Some of the later left empty and others planted up.
9. The use of plants with interesting architectural shapes. Carefully sited groups of palm trees, cordylines, cacti and aloes, or green or purple leaved aeoniums can be as effective as a bank of flowering shrubs.
10. The construction or purchase of a range of cooking facilities. Typically these include a barbecue, a paella dish and gas ring, and a traditional brick oven or Spanish style outside kitchen.
11. The growing of a variety of herbs for use in cooking as well as their natural aromatherapeutic effects. Herbs can be grouped in a herb garden or on a rockery or spread around the garden in mixed beds.
12. The growing of even just a few seasonal vegetables and fruits that can be harvested and eaten fresh, especially when grown ecologically/organically to avoid the surface or absorbed chemicals from insecticide sprays used in the production of many mass produced vegetables.
Last but by no means least shade is essential on sunny days. Where possible provide for this with trees or high hedges, make full use of the natural shadows around the house particularly on the north side, develop the shady naya as an extension of the garden into the house rather than visa versa and supplement with plant covered gazebos and pergolas, and large umbrellas.
Lastly whether you plan to develop your garden alone or with the help of a gardener recognise that there are a hundred and one ways of attaining the above and that with a little thought all can be achieved in a garden that has low maintenance and acceptable watering requirements.

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