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An Andalucian Adventure: Part 2. Cordoba

by Karen Leathers
photographs by Karen Leathers

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 80, April 2015

A late spring trip to Andalucía for a group of MGS members began at the Generalife and Alhambra
and then continued on to Córdoba. Some of the members were so keen not to miss any of the sights that they took an early morning walk through the narrow cobbled streets.

Karen writes that they saw:
“the patio of the Casa Arabe, which is now a restored public building and museum with great examples of Roman architecture. It featured a striking sloping courtyard, designed to save rainwater into an underground tank, with herb-planted borders. Unusually, a Ziziphus jujuba tree was being grown as an espalier to cover a large wall.”

Casa Arabe with Ziziphus jujuba grown as an espalier. A favourite of
Karen’s because of the great effect of minimal planting  with the patio
floor of chino cordobés stones

“Later in the morning we met up with the rest of the group and our guide who was to take us on the long-awaited tour to a selection of private residential patios. There are literally hundreds all around the city within six main zones and we were to visit the Zona Alcazar Viejo just inside the ancient walls of the city. ….Everything was at its absolute best as the visit had been planned to coincide with the famous annual Patio Festival. The streets were crowded, filled with noisy and excited visitors eager to take it all in. There was a palpable competitive spirit between the patio residents competing for the many awards.”

A patio interior corner staged perfectly for visitors.
The now iconic blue paint was originally supposed to deter mosquitoes

“Various styles of patio were to be seen: in the more traditional ones, pelargonium-filled pots were displayed on every available centimetre of wall or floor space...”

One of the stunning traditional private patios

Another magnificent display, rich in colour

“The afternoon was devoted to visiting the twelve courtyard gardens of the Palacio de Viana. The Palace has a rich and fascinating history spanning from the 15th-century to the present. Following an outcry from the Córdoban people when the last residing family wanted to sell the property in 1980, an agreement was reached and the Palace, complete with all its works of art, was acquired by the Foundation of the Provincial Savings Bank of Cordoba. It was declared a National Historical-Artistic Monument in 1981 and a Historical-Artistic garden in 1983.”

“The Reception Courtyard was built to create an impressive main entrance and clearly showed that the Palace was once home to nobility. Nowadays the image of this courtyard, with its central giant palm, is one of the iconic images of the Viana.”

The impressive entrance courtyard of Córdoba's Palacio de Viana

“A favourite for me was the Courtyard of the Pool which is the gardeners’ workplace. Complete with greenhouse and pool of well water, it evokes the spirit of this working space. Another tradition with Moorish roots is to store well water in a pool, where it is exposed to the sun…”

Courtyard of the pool, the gardeners’ courtyard

“It was very noticeable that great attention was paid to the placement and grooming of individual plants.”

The prized woody stems of Jacobaea maritima (syn. Senecio cineraria)
in another patio of the Palacio de Viana

“On the last day we joined our guide on the ancient Roman bridge over the Guadalquivir river.  From there we walked to the nearby gardens of the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Although the palace and fortress have a rich history dating back to early medieval times, perhaps the most notable period would have been in the 15th century when it was the primary residence of Ferdinand and Isabella. It was here too that they met Christopher Columbus before he set sail on his first voyage to the Americas.”

The Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, viewed from the formal garden below

Finally the group made its way to the Real Jardín Botánico de Córdoba.

Towering palms providing shade for the more tender plants below in the herb garden.

“A small rose garden led on to the Arboretum where a huge Ceiba speciosa (syn. Chorisia speciosa) dominated the entrance, its trunk covered in thick spines. Housed here was an exciting collection of over 200 trees and shrubs from all over the world.”

The trunks of tall Ceiba speciosa.

We all greatly enjoyed this garden, so much so that some of the group simply could not tear themselves away and elected to stay a little longer, until they were politely asked to leave at closing time.”
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