Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Iberia VII

We left Portugal a week or so ago, well before the terrible fires in central Portugal. Some of these pictures are from Coimbra, a university town about 50 km north-west from the worst hit areas. Others are around Lisbon, and then further north, to the beautiful city of Porto and its Douro valley, all well away from the fires. I feel a little uncomfortable showing essentially holiday snaps when so many have suffered, but it feels right to be reminded of the beauty of life, and of Portugal.

Starting with the coastline and some of the coastal vegetation near Cabo da Roca (near Azoia), the westernmost tip of continental Europe.

And these are two funky homes near Sintra: Quinta da Regaleira and the Park and Palace of Pena. The gardens were both very good, but I can't fit everything into this 'lite' post... 

Now heading northward in Portugal. Despite the botanic garden at Coimbra now being the country's major botanic garden, much of it is neglected and fenced off. The formal garden is still pretty, and they have a pretty big (and old) Moreton Bay Fig (Ficus macrophylla) from Australia.

There are also some interesting new plantings, such as this Acer pseudoplantanus 'Atropurpurea', a Sycamore with beautifully tinted leaves.

Coimbra is home to Portugal's oldest and most prestigious university, and its sumptuous library, Biblioteca Joanina. Where famously, the books are protected by resident insect-eating bats (meaning the tables need to be covered each night and the floors cleaned each morning). No pictures allowed inside but here is the grandiose exterior.

Then, for us, it was on to Mata do Cucaco, near Luso, to see an over the top house and garden built in the early 1900s. Here you can see a fine old Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii), again from Australia.

And more fancy hedge work..

Plus a folly or two in the huge woods (Mata Nacional do Bucaco) that surround the house (with all the trees - native and planted - protected by Papal Bull).

To Porto, a stunning city, for it's new (roof top olive trees), facades and a waterfront to rival Sydney Harbour. (Yes I know this is straying from plants and gardens, but look at the views!)

Then out of town, along the Rio Duoro and nearby valleys, vines and olives. Gorgeous human-designed landscapes...

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Iberia VI

Ancient dragon trees, yet more volcanic ombu and some wild carob on the coast. Blogging-lite from the Iberian Peninsula continues. 

But first Cork Oaks, and there are plenty of them. This one is emerging from the woodland around Redondo, near to where we stayed for a few days in an old converted convent (the next picture). Most of the Iberian Peninsula is human maintained woodlands of Cork (Quercus suber) and Holm/Holly Oaks (Quercus ilex).

And the Carob (Ceratonia siliqua) on the cliffs of Parque Natural da Arrabida, just south of Lisbon. A native species around the Mediterranean.

Now in Lisbon, on the streets up to the castle, an Ombu (Phytoloacca dioica), native to South America. You may remember I posted arguably the largest in Spain, from near Malaga. This one isn't the most impressive in size but at the base it does have some what might be called chi chis if this was a ginkgo.

And in the Jardim Botanico Tropical in Lisbon, a Dragon Tree (Dracena draco), native to the Canary Islands, Morocco and thereabouts. It's peeping through the bushes, from the right...

But then that's not a Dragon Tree, this is a Dragon Tree! A reputedly 400 year-old specimen in the Jardim Botanica d'Ajuda (a garden established in 1768, before the reputed birth of this specimen). The specimen certainly looks old and the oldest reported from the wild (via Wikipedia), on the island of Tenerife, is apparently about the same age (although reported as a thousand or so years old at times). 

And at the same botanic garden an impressive pair of Ombu. The 'volcanic' base here covered in moss and lichens.

And finally, two more Dragon Trees. The first is another form this charming botanic garden - perhaps a hundred or so years old I'd suggest. A around it, a parterre, with a view to the sea. The second is a transplant, maybe fifty or so years old and apparently destined to be part of a swanky new apartment building patio in Lisbon.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Iberia V

After all the Andalusian scenery, some Gardens from further north - places like Toledo, Jarandila de la Vera an Avila. More blogging-lite from the Iberian Peninsula. 

First up the restored Palacio de Galiana, out of Toledo, a place mentioned in Don Quixote!

The view from a cigarral (country home), Cigarral de los Menores), also out of Toledo.

An organic farm (Dehesa el Malagro) near Oropesa.

The bird's nest if made of plants but it's really all about the stork, in Trujillo (the city where Cervantes, the author of Don Quizote, stayed for a while in the convent, writing one of his other books).

In Monfrague National Park there are some local trees, like this Cork Oak (Quercus suber), but also a few of the larger birds of prey, including the Griffin Vulture.

Near Jarandilla de la Vera is the farm/garden/country-house of highly regarded garden designer Eduardo Mancos (hear Eduardo in conversation with me, on Blueprint for Living) and equally well regarded author and wife Anneli Bojstad. It's call La Lancha (the rock) and includes a clever solar globe, some quirky and fun landscapes and even a red alga (Batrachospermum)...

Finally an idiosyncratic garden in Avila, the garden of San Segundo.

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Iberia IV

A thistle and fennel, a view or two, and the Pinsapo revisited! From Ronda to Granada: more blogging-lite from the Iberian Peninsula. 

Ronda, a town with a view

And in that view, the big blobs of yellow are the Giant Fennel (Ferula communis)

Plus, identified with the (recommended) app Plant@Net, the Blessed Milkthistle, otherwise known by the snickering botanical name of Silybum marianum. I also checked it in the new Wild Plants of Southern Spain by Tony Hall (of Royal Botanic Gardens Kew). I had the book delivered to my hotel in Seville and I can highly recommend it - for a tour of Andalusia...

Nearby to all this magnificent scenery and charming weeks, is the home of the Marques de Salvatierra. A sixteenth century home with eighteenth century (1778) extension, and a lovely small garden 'out the back'.

In that garden I expected to find one of these, a Spanish Fir or Pinsapo (Abies pinsapo). This is a rare tree, the regional tree of Andalusia, and one I've blogged about before. This is what it looks like, in the streets of Ronda (and near to where it grows naturally).

But in the garden of the Palace of the Marquis, I'm afraid the 200 year-old Pinsapo looks like this... 😢

But of course the good thing about gardens, and plants, is that you can plant anther one. Close by is a seedling, which I think will be transplanted when the stump of its parent has been removed.

After Ronda we headed to Maliga where we visited a private home called Finca Carambuco (the latter word a common name for Vachellia (Acacia) farnesiana, a South African wattle growing in the garden). In there garden we saw what is reputedly the largest Ombu (Phytolacca dioica) in Spain, after only 50 years of growth.

And then in Malaga's La Concepcion botanic garden you can enjoy the offspring of the fruits of the Spanish voyages to South America, with plants like Monstera deliciosa. And why and how does it have those holes? Well, I'll post about that when I return to Australia...