Gardens of Spain

Traveling and seeing gardens always brings inspiration. I'm currently immersed in photos of the Alhambra (Grenada) and the Royal Alcazar (Seville), preparing for a talk on the gardens of Spain. I can taste the wine and olives and feel the pull of antiquity - a nice diversion in the middle of winter!

Spain's gardens and courtyards are full of glazed tile - walls, fountains, benches, floors - even doorways have intricate and fanciful designs. Tiles from the 17th-19th centuries predominately feature a rich shade of royal blue that mixes beautifully with pots of orange and lemon trees and cools the eye in hot temperatures. 

 Colorful stairway leads to terraced gardens at the Royal Alcazar, Seville 

Colorful stairway leads to terraced gardens at the Royal Alcazar, Seville 

 A bench with blue geometric designs, Royal Alcazar, Seville

A bench with blue geometric designs, Royal Alcazar, Seville

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Water is everywhere, bringing tranquillity and sound - small pools, trickling fountains, marble basins. This is the main element in all the outdoor spaces. The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was my favorite place to explore. It's the most important of all the royal palace gardens and a must-see for its many rooms spread out over a large complex of palace buildings on a hillside overlooking Granada.

 Views over the palace grounds and ramparts, Alhambra, Granada

Views over the palace grounds and ramparts, Alhambra, Granada

These are some of the oldest gardens I've visited (some dating to 11th c.). and I found myself transported through time. Are there design lessons here? Absolutely. The pleasing combination of elements can be reinterpreted easily if you're looking to create a peaceful haven on a patio or backyard.

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Classic Elements

  • walls (enclosure, privacy)
  • water (sound, light, focal point)
  • scented plants (sensory/tactile, mood)

To get the look of a classic Spanish courtyard, use vertical surfaces for climbing vines (roses, clematis, honeysuckle, English ivy) and add a fountain and some glazed blue containers filled with mint and scented geranium (pelargonium), lemon verbena, and colorful marigolds... Tapas anyone?