Tag Archives: gardening

Sevilla’s Alcazar: The Courtyard of the Maidens

The Alcazar of Sevilla is an outstanding example of Mudejar architecture and one of the most beautiful palaces of Andalusia. Originally built by the Almohades dynasty, it was expanded upon by later rulers through the Middle Ages until the Reconquista by the Catholica rulers, who subsequently added to the palace as well until the 19th century. The Alcazar remains to this day the official residence of the King of Spain in Sevilla.

The gardens were developed in the Moorish style as an integral part of the palace design, with extensive patios, fruit orchards, produce gardens and landscaped grounds, to produce food for the palace as well as aesthetic pleasure. As with all moorish gardens, water features are everywhere.

This post concentrates on the  Patio de las Doncellas. According to wikipedia :

“The name, meaning “The Courtyard of the Maidens”, refers to the legend that the Moors demanded 100 virgins every year as tribute from Christian kingdoms in Iberia.

The lower level of the Patio was built for King Peter I and includes inscriptions describing Peter as a “sultan”. Various lavish reception rooms are located on the sides of the Patio. In the center is a large, rectangular reflecting pool with sunken gardens on either side. For many years, the courtyard was entirely paved in marble with a fountain in the center. However, historical evidence showed the gardens and the reflecting pool were the original design and this arrangement was restored. However, soon after this restoration, the courtyard was temporarily paved with marble once again at the request of movie director Ridley Scott. Scott used the paved courtyard as the set for the court of the King of Jerusalem in his movie Kingdom of Heaven. The courtyard arrangement was converted once more after the movie’s production.

The upper story of the Patio was an addition made by Charles V. The addition was designed by Luis de Vega in the style of the Italian Renaissance although he did include both Renaissance and mudéjar plaster work in the decorations. Construction of the addition began in 1540 and ended in 1572.”

More so probably than any other part of the Alcazar, the Courtyard of the Doncellas and surrounding rooms in the distinctly ornate Moorish style are reminiscent of the grandeur of the Alhambra in Granada and its patios.

Alcazar Palace and Gardens, Courtyard of the Maidens, Sevilla

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The Alhambra’s Parador in Granada: The Gardens

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada and the best known gardens are those of the Generalife, the vacation palace on the other side of the Alhambra complex.

In the vast complex of palaces that is the Alhambra, this former monastery has been converted into one of the Paradors, Spain’s government-owned luxury hotels set in historic landmarks. In addition to the Alhambra gardens it overlooks, the Parador has its own gardens with a distinctly Mediterranean feel to them and lush plantings of lavender, rosemary, roses and irises.

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Alhambra’s Patio de Lindaraja: Courtyards in Granada, Spain

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada.  While not as famous as the Patio de los Leones, the Patio de Lindaraja is the most garden-like of the patios and a green oasis in this stunning palace. It is enclosed by arched columns and ornate galleries above, from which a sweeping view of the city below can be seen. From the garden below, the effect is almost monastic.

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Alhambra’s Iconic Patios & Courtyards in Granada, Spain

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada.  Best known are the Patio the los Mirtos and the Patio de los Leones.

According to Wikipedia, “The Court of the Myrtles (Patio de los Arrayanes) is part of the palace and fortress complexe of the Alhambra. It is located east of the “Guilded Room” (Cuarto Dorado) and west of the “Patio of the Lions” and the Baths. Its current name is due to the myrtle bushes that surround the central pond and the bright green colour of which contrasts with the white marble of the patio. It was also called the Patio of the Pondor or the Reservoir (Patio del Estanque o de la Alberca) because of the central pond, which is 34 metres long and 7,10 meters wide.[1] The patio is divided in two sides by the pond, which receives its water from two fountains. The espace has chambers and porticoes around it. These porticoes rest on columns with cubic capitals, which have seven semicircular arches decorated with fretwork rhombuses and inscriptions praising God. The central arch is greater than the other six and has solid scallops decorated with stylised vegetal forms and capitals of mocarabes.”

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Also in Wikepedia, “The Courtyard of the Lions is an oblong courtyard, 35 m in length and 20 m in width, surrounded by a low gallery supported on 124 white marble columns. A pavilion projects into the courtyard at each extremity, with filigree walls and light domed roof, elaborately ornamented. The square is paved with coloured tiles, and the colonnade with white marble; while the walls are covered 1.5 m up from the ground with blue and yellow tiles, with a border above and below enamelled blue and gold. The columns supporting the roof and gallery are irregularly placed, with a view to artistic effect; and the general form of the piers, arches and pillars is most graceful. They are adorned by varieties of foliage, etc.; above each arch there is a large square of arabesques; and over the pillars is another square of filigree work. In the center of the courtyard is the celebrated Fountain of Lions, a magnificent alabaster basin supported by the figures of twelve lions in white marble. ”

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Casa del Patio in Cordoba: Vertical & Container Gardening Ideas

Nothing distinguishes the Casa del Patio from any of the other houses tucked away in a quiet side street of this old Cordoba neighborhood.  It is only when stepping inside that one is transported to this unexpected green oasis. The building itself is only a series of meandering little cottages, quite modest on their own, but the residents, many of them artists and craftsmen have transformed them into a wild and lush haven of greenery.

Cordoba is famed for, and prides itself in, its patios and courtyards. It hold a Fiesta de los Patios once a year in May, during which prizes are awarded for the best patios, and many private buildings open their doors for visits once a year on that occasion. Case del Patio is one such venue, and never fails to garner top rankings in the Festival.

The residents rival in ingenuity to create the most creative visual displays in container gardening and vertical gardening, with mass groupings of containers hanging from every wall and filling every patio with bougainvilleas and other climber, perennials, flowering plants, cacti, succulents and even palms.

In this second post on the Casa del Patio, I am featuring more great vertical and container ideas.

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Cordoba Botanical Gardens: The Andalusian Patio

The Botanical Gardens in Cordoba, Spain opened in 1887 and were designed for primarily educational and scientific purposes. They are laid out along a wide central alley leading on one side to the Collections, species native to Spain arranged in borders edges by low growing rosemary or hackberry, and on the other side the Agricultural School with a large collection of citrus trees as well as an extensive vegetable garden. In the center are greenhouses dedicated to species from the Canary Islands, Balearic Islands and Andalusia, as well as a lovely area featured here, dedicated to the Andalusian patio.

The patio is emblematic of Cordoba, where the Festival of the Patios has been taking place every year in May since 1933. Its origins go back many centuries to the Moorish rule in Andalusia. In this are of the garden is nor a literal rendition of the Cordoban patio architecturally speaking, but rather a display of the many varieties of plants found in them, as many as 300 here, and many suitable to container gardening.

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Madrid’s Royal Botanical Gardens: The Succulents Greenhouse

The Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid cover eight hectares in the heart of the city, next to the world famous Prado museum. They were designed in the 18th century (1781) during the age of Enlightenment as part of a remodeling plan for the Prado area under Carlos III.

The gardens boast an amazing 30,000 plants, divided amongst smaller themed gardens such as the rose garden, the vegetable garden, the fruit garden, all laid out in squares along the central intersecting alleys. There is also a fantastic complex of greenhouses at one end, as well as a large pavilion and a long arbor covered in many varieties of grapevines.  It is laid out on four terraced levels.

With such large and varied gardens, it would be impossible to cover it all in one post. In this post, I am featuring one of the more modern greenhouses, housing the gardens’ succulents collection. Note the use of vertical gardening on the very tall interior walls, as well as the catwalk along the top joining this greenhouse with the subtropical/tropical one.

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Gardens of the Mosque of Granada

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The Mosque of Granada is located in the Albaicin, the Moorish quarter and oldest part of Granada, at the top of the hill and affording spectacular views of the city and the Alhambra on the other side of the river. The gardens are typical of Moorish gardens found in Andalusia, with pebble patio flooring designs, and fountains.

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Barcelona Ciutadella Park: The Formal Gardens

The Ciutadella Park in Barcelona is the largest and oldest city park. It was established in the mid 19th century and was for a long the only substantial green space in the city with about 70 acres of paths, trails, a lake, and assorted statuary and buildings. It is home to the Parliament building, the Barcelona Zoo, and the Geological museum. It is perhaps most famous for the very large waterfall fountain designed by Fontsere in the 1880s when Gaudi was his student and is believed to have contributed to it. It was inaugurated for the Universal Exhibition. See my other post for more on the fountain and the rest of the park.

The gardens by the Parliament and the Zoo are the most formal part of the Ciutadella, with neatly trimmed hedges, rows of plane trees, roses borders and a fountain.

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Jardines de Cuenca: A Cliffhanging Garden in Ronda, Spain

Ronda is one of the “white villages” of Andalusia in southern Spain. It is most famous for the steep cliffs separating the two sides of town and the jaw dropping view they offer. Ronda also has one of the oldest bullfighting arenas and Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles were frequent visitors. streets are actually named after them.

I visited Ronda in the winter, so I did not see the Jardines de Cuenca at their very best.  The season however in no way detracted from appreciating this unique site,  and the stunning views from this small garden literally hanging over the canyon. It is laid out as a series of small terraces, climbing up into the center and towards the main bridge, and planted with palm trees and succulents that are well adapted to the summer heat of southern Spain.

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