by Dick Handscombe, Spain’s best known expatriate gardening author, gardening in Spain for 27 years.

Most gardens in Spain and indeed in all Mediterranean regions of the world benefit from the garden around the house being designed as a series of interesting mini-gardens, preferably each with its own soul and style, but integrated into an overall holistic landscape that enables great living and garden wanders all the year round.

gardening pation 8. DSCF0374If you have visited Andalucia you will remember the mini-gardens of the Viana Palace in Cordoba and on a larger scale, the gardens of the Alhambra in Seville, but you don’t need a large garden to do this. Any house with land on four sides, even if only four to six metres on one or two sides, lends itself to five distinct gardens; one on each side and a fifth under a covered terrace. The latter can be attractive all year round with shade from the high sun in the summer and the warmth of the low winter sun. Ours is shown in the photograph and four mini gardens themselves, with a number of smaller micro-gardens sprouting out from there.

Success in having a number of integrated mini-gardens is much influenced by one’s choices of choosing what to have in each area and how you separate them. Possible types of mini-garden include the following:

  • The Pool Garden surrounded by shrubs and trees to give privacy and a sense of being in a natural glade when cooling off or sunbathing. Also this is a good way of hiding the pool away during the non-pool months. So many gardens are dominated by a pool in the most prominent spot in the garden where it adds no real interest. Indeed when we wrote ‘Your Garden in Spain’ the then purist editor wanted us the leave out the chapter on swimming pools and Jacuzzis.
  • A Summer Flower Garden.
  • A Winter Flower Garden.
  • The Water Garden with fountains and fish ponds.
  • The Cacti And Succulent Garden.
  • The Mini Orchard.
  • The Vegetable Garden planted in raised beds or containers.
  • The Rockery Garden.
  • The Poultry Garden with an interesting collection of old breed chickens.
  • The Aviary Garden with a collection of exotic birds.
  • The Oasis Garden mainly planted with palms.
  • The Sheltered Winter Garden for sitting out in the winter.
  • The Restaurant Garden under shade growing climbers on wires or growing over a gazebo. We were amazed when wandering around Cuba with our rucksacks a dozen years ago how some wonderful gardens were squeezed into the narrow space between adjacent houses. At times this was only three or four metres wide, but made romantic with plants on the two walls and overhead and some housed legal private restaurants with a half or full dozen of tables.
  • The Carob Garden with flower and shrub beds surrounding a well pruned carob tree. Indeed it could be around any deep shaded tree; ours just happens to be an old carob that we inherited.
  • The Water Plant Garden around a pond.
  • The Dessert Garden with plants planted through sand or stone chippings laid over black plastic.
  • The Grotto Garden with the main feature a grotto with a natural or imitation spring and pool, plus a collection of moisture and shade loving plants inside. We recently suggested that a friend use an ancient rock-built mule shed in this way.
  • The Lily Garden glowing with masses of lilies during late spring and summer.
  • The Green House and Potting Shed Garden for those who like to grow plants from seeds and cuttings.
  • The Herb Garden which can be interesting and relaxing all the year round as well as yielding continuous harvests of useful culinary and medicinal herbs.
  • The Vineyard with grapes growing on walls and over arches or covered walkways.
  • The Citrus Garden perfumed continuously by the flowers of a perpetual flowering and fruiting lemon tree.
  • The Monastery Garden designed as a mini cloister.
  • The Wild Garden of natural herbs, shrubs and trees allowed to grow fairly wild like a miniature L’Arbarda garden that can be visited near Pedreguer in the Alicante region.
  • The Patio Garden surrounded by four walls or fences.
  • The Courtyard Garden as found in many old farm or estate houses.
  • The Drive Garden treating either side of the drive as a unique mini-garden itself.
  • The TURTLE GARDEN arranged a pond with a central island which is the home to a family of turtles.
  • The Copse Garden in which one can wander under and round a collection of trees with a dense leaf cover with perhaps a central glade. Yes the glade could be another mini-garden in itself.

gardening book DSCF2639As we say in our writings and talks, there is so much creativity required in creating a master plan for your garden before one thinks about what plants to buy and plant. We strongly belief that if you came to Spain for the sunny weather, one should get out to enjoy it in a garden that was designed to draw one outside to live in it in preference to the house for much of the year. Our books, especially ‘Your Garden in Spain’ and ‘How To Use Less Water In Your Garden’, will help you on your way.

Dick Handscombe