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BRANCH HEAD
Sally Beale

The Balearic Islands Branch of the MGS

Past Events   2013   2011    2010    Older

May 2012
Languedoc branch visit to Mallorca

The Mallorca branch has been pleased to welcome our sister branch from the Languedoc this past week. Led by Branch Head Christine Savage, 20 members from the Languedoc and Provence have been touring the island, visiting private gardens and enjoying spectacular weather. Beginning on May 1st with a visit to Renate Goldberger’s garden near Santanyi, the members have seen a wide variety of landscaping and garden design, from the wild flowers of Di Levinson, to the perfection and planning of Hélène Lindgens’ white garden, from the professional design of Camilla Chandon to the steep hillside garden of Sally Beale, and from Cindy Evans’ notable collection of salvias and cistuses to a wildflower walk along the rugged north coast of the island. Many of the members had never visited our island before, and seem happily impressed with its natural beauty and tranquillity. This is, of course, the perfect time to visit, as the weather is beautiful, not yet too hot, and tourists are few. The gardens are at their best, even after a dry winter, and the island is showing itself off to its best advantage.


Toasting the hispano-franco accord in Andratx.

April 2012
Mallorca branch visit to Menorca

On Monday, April 23rd, eight members from Mallorca took the little shuttle plane over to Menorca to spend three days with our fellow-branch on the smaller island. Local members Lorraine Ure and Marlene Maguire had put together a super programme, revisiting many of the sights and gardens we saw on the optional extension to the AGM last October, but also including some new and exciting additions they had subsequently found.

After lunch at the Port Mahon Hotel, we set off in a couple of cars to visit Monte Toro, the highest point on the island with wonderful views all around. Following that we spent some time in the picturesque fishing port of Fornells on the north coast, and then returned to Mahon to enjoy a cocktail party with some local members on Lorraine’s lovely terrace overlooking Mahon harbour.

Next day saw us driving to the far end of the island, to the former capital Ciudadella, a pretty old harbour with some interesting private dwellings and tempting shops. Before visiting the town, we were invited to see the private garden of garden designer Anne Neuve-Eglise. French by birth, Anne spends her time between Barcelona and Menorca, where she has created an amazingly intimate and tranquil garden for her husband and herself out of an old watercourse that leads rainwater from the interior of the island to the harbour in the town. Irrigated by the original stone aqueducts, this is a very special place, a truly secret garden, where no one ever goes except Anne and her husband. Filled with fruit trees, wild flowers and herbs, and sheltered by an ancient cabane, this garden is quite magical. We were extremely privileged to have been allowed to see it. After an excellent lunch and a wander around the old town of Ciudadella, we headed back towards the disused former sandstone quarries at Lithica. These have been lovingly cleaned up and are being slowly turned into small botanical gardens by local plantsman José Bravo and his sculptress wife. Over the last twenty years, these two devoted people have planted a large number of endemic species in the old quarries, and are gradually creating a fascinating park where one can see any number of rare, nesting birds and native flora. This is a remarkable place, a true labour of love, and well worth a visit for anyone interested in native Mediterranean and drought-tolerant plants.

On Wednesday we enjoyed a harbour cruise around Mahon harbour, the former base of the British Navy in the 18th century, and still overlooked by houses with sash windows. We made a two-hour stop to visit the Isla del Rey, the first British Naval Hospital abroad, now being restored to its former glory by local volunteers. Within the restoration work are the old gardens, and we were treated to a talk by a young local pharmacist on the former and current uses of many of the medicinal plants being replanted in those gardens today. We also saw the 18th-century garden that has been recreated by English resident, Mike Puttock, using old plans and documents to lay out his plan, and irrigated by the original stone watercourse from the 18th century.

That afternoon we visited two completely different private gardens. The first, belonging to Ros and Andy Bacon, is a seaside garden with many wind- and salt-tolerant plants, and an interesting selection of pots and plants grown from seed by Ros. A very peaceful and sheltered haven this is, and most enjoyable. The second was the garden of Chita Laurie, who has created a reedbed in her garden to absorb nitrogen from grey water which she then recycles for use on the garden. We were given an explanation of how the reedbed works by local environmentalists, and all of us found it a simple and encouraging concept that we could perhaps think about using ourselves at home.

Our day ended with a visit to the nursery of one of the environmentalists, who is encouraging the growth and sale to the public of Menorquin endemic plants.

On our last morning we visited a private garden designed by Anne Neuve-Eglise near San Clemente. This garden had never been opened to the public before, so we were very grateful to have had a chance to see it. Anne has been working on this project for ten years, and she says she has another ten years’ work to do on it. It is a beautiful place, with a woodland garden planted under native ullastres, the Menorquín name for Olea europaea subsp. europaea. These are under-planted with iris and specific wild flowers, and the effect, for me, was rather reminiscent of north Cornwall on a sunny day. Very tranquil and rather magical this garden: one expected pixies to appear from under the trees at any moment. The entire morning had an ‘other–worldly’ feel to it, and was very dreamy and relaxing.

We ended our trip to Menorca with a delicious lunch at the pretty, rural Biniarroca Hotel, and then we headed back, reluctantly but cheerfully, to the airport and our short flight home.

Many thanks to Lorraine and Marlene for organising such a lovely trip for us all. (For a more detailed description of the Isla del Rey and the Lithica gardens, please refer to my article in TMG 67, January 2012.)


Route planning in Mahon.

April 2012
Talk by Katherine Greenberg: The Spanish influence on Californian gardens from the Mission Period to the present day

About twenty-five members attended Katherine’s talk at the Beales’ house in south-west Mallorca. The morning started with a cup of coffee, so everyone had a chance to meet and talk to Katherine, and then we all settled down to listen and watch her show of eighty or so slides. Katherine’s talk was fascinating, the more so for us here in Mallorca, as the founder of the California Missions, Fray Junipero Serra, was born in Petra, Mallorca in 1713, and it was from here that he set off to take the Catholic faith to the New World. Katherine and I had been to Fray Junipero Serra’s birthplace the day before the talk, and we had seen the little church after whose side chapels the great cities of California are named; San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara.... We were both very moved by this experience and felt we had been part of living history. Katherine talked us through the development of gardens in California, showing us how strong the Spanish influence has been on these and demonstrating her point with photos of Moorish gardens and Arab designs, as well as contemporary Spanish architecture. This was a very enlightening and interesting talk, as I think we could all see echoes of our own gardens in her photos. Katherine was going on to Madrid the following week to present her talk to the Royal Botanical Gardens there. I am sure they enjoyed it every bit as much as we did.


Outside the Arab baths in Palma de Mallorca.


Cycas revoluta near Cala Ratjada.

April 2012
Garden visit to Signe Groos and Tatiana von Hessen

Our former Branch Head Signe Groos kindly opened her garden to us on Thursday April 12th, and it was lovely that Katherine Greenberg could be with us that day. Signe’s garden includes acres of natural woodland, mostly Olea europaea subsp.europaea and Quercus ilex, which have been carefully shaped and pruned over many years to achieve a harmonious and graceful effect upon the eye, as it is led slowly up towards the house. Very suddenly, the woodland opens out to reveal a large stand of heavily clipped and trimmed, shaped Olea europaea, all on one side of the house, forming a natural barrier to the perspective of the rolling countryside beyond, and down to the sea in the distance. Across a very small patch of grass, and bordered by a few carefully selected pots of greenery, sits the beautiful old house, quietly resting under its leafy arbour, dreaming away the centuries in the shade of the ancient trees. What an unusual place this is! Tranquil and natural, with very little colour, just a thousand shades of green, restful on the eye and the spirit.

After lunch at Signe’s, we went to visit the home and garden of nearby neighbour and MGS member Tatiana von Hessen. This garden was another complete surprise. A rambling, beautifully restored old farmhouse faces onto a stunning view of open countryside and down to the distant sea. In front of the house, a line of topiaried, large and very old Olea europaea subsp. europaea, standing 8m tall and bordering the garden to its left. At the bottom, topiaried euphorbias stand proud amongst beds of shaped native plants and walls of Pistacia lentiscus, rounded and curved to form borders. The swimming pool was a backdrop to a beautiful bronze sculpture by a famous living artist, a friend of the owner, and behind this lay a sheltered garden leading to the library of the main house, where we were served coffee and delicious homemade cakes. Cytisus and Judas trees bloomed all around as we enjoyed the view, and I really felt no one wanted to leave this place... all were enchanted by the magic atmosphere of this ‘secret’ garden. Our thanks to our hosts for a most enjoyable afternoon in a very special spot.

Sally Beale

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