Gardening in Spain
This August Shirley-Anne
Bell discovered a plant lover's delight in what, at
first sight, might have seemed an unlikely place: the
Think Blanes, the
Costa Brava resort, in August and chances are you imagine
monolithic hotel blocks, overlooking beaches full of
toasting holidaymakers, and indeed, it is a fabulous
place if you want to lie in the sun and cultivate your
However, for the
more active holidaymaker, there is a real treasure to
discover. On the cliff top overlooking the cobalt blue
waters of the Mediterranean is the Jardi Botanic Mar
i Murta (Sea and Myrtle), founded in 1921 by the German
Karl Faust and now in the hands of an international
botanical research foundation.
It is not a dusty,
academic experience (though, usefully, it does mean
that everything is well-labelled!). As soon as you reach
the entrance, draped in eye-watering purple bracts of
you will be seduced by the layout with its inviting
paths and contrasting planting over 41 acres of sub-tropical,
temperate and Mediterranean gardens.
The first feature
is a surreal landscape of bananas
in fruit, sun-bleached succulents like the Canary Island
Aeoniums, and forests of tall cacti. These are interspersed
with fat pumpkins of Echinocactus grusonii (the unkindly
named 'Mother in Law's chair'!), and African succulents
including aloes and towering euphorbias.
This gives way to
the welcome cool of a shady sub-tropical pergola, draped
in the pink trumpets of Datura
rosei, and the strange flesh-coloured flowers of
Aristolochia grandiflora, which are fertilized by flies.
A tunnel plunges
through to a pond bordered by flowering cannas, and
palm trees like the wonderful Brahea armata, the 'blue
palm', which is draped in flower like long tresses of
blonde hair. Shady groves of 10-metre (30-feet) high
bamboo, Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens give relief
from the heat, while Chlorophytum
comosum 'Variegatum', our common spider plant, tumbles
over the border edges, and huge shrubs of Nerium
oleander are starred with pink and white flowers.
The landscaping is
cleverly designed to reveal viewpoints, or Miradors,
over the sea, framed by agaves, where you can watch
tiny boats far below you, and scuba divers exploring
the rocky outcrops. The cliff-side path leads to a tiny
'temple' near the foot of a fabulous set-piece staircase,
a memorial to the early Spanish botanist, Antoni Palau
Verdera. In the spring its green masses of Drosanthemum
floribundum are studded with purple flowers, while massed
cannas in flower frame the steps in the summer.
It is a brisk uphill
walk from the seafront, or a short taxi ride, and in
the summer there is a regular bus service. However,
as the garden is open all year round, and there is a
succession of flowers from February through into the
late autumn, a visit would definitely be a real treat,
whether in high or low season.
See also previous Messages from...
reprinted with premission from Greenfingers.com