Monday, 5 November 2012

Garden Visit - Jardines De Alfabia, Mallorca

The other half and I recently spent a relaxing, child free week on the Balearic island of Mallorca. Many will cringe at the mention of it, picturing horrific clumps England transplanted, numerous St. George's crosses and all, to a sunburned collection of cheap all inclusives and "English Bars". Past experience had led me to believe much the same thing. What we discovered away from all of this however was a very pleasant coastal village called S'illot. There were a few hotels and the odd Anglicised pub, but there was also a fine selection of Spanish Bars and restaurants offering local food and drink, which is just the sort of thing we like when we go away. Needless to say, I ate like a pig and we drank a very pleasing amount of local beverages. I still find it incredible that you can buy a carton of very nice Spanish wine for less that 2 Euros... Anyhow, enough of that, on with the point of this post.

Before we went I'd been looking into interesting gardens to possibly visit while we were there. Easily found were the less than inspiring looking botanical gardens. These didn't exactly leave me frothing with excitement. Then I spotted on Twitter that Charlotte Weychan, writer of the excellent Galloping Gardener blog, was going to Mallorca a few weeks before us, so  I asked her to let me know what was worth visiting. Alfabia was the suggestion that she came back with, for which I am very grateful.

Our journey to the gardens was fairly eventful. We'd decided to hire a car for the day and rather than going for a bog standard cheapo Korean number that seems to be standard in such cases, we decided that we'd go for an "Old Model" BMW Compact as a treat, as I have a bit of a thing for BMW's and fancied having a light blast across the island. When we took delivery of the car we discovered one or two quirks. This is, for the most part however, another story. We plugged our required destination into the trusty satnav and set off. After a nice drive across the island, the satnav directed us into a lovely little village called Bunyola (complete with village square overlooked by an old church and surrounded by a selection of proper Spanish cafe/bars which we later returned to for lunch), and from there up the side of a mountain. The road got narrower and more windy and eventually turned into the sort of gravel track that I'd be nervous of tackling in a 4x4, never mind a ten year old BMW with quirks. It was while we were concurring that we didn't want to drive this way, and discussing our course of action that the quirkiest of the quirks became apparent. The handbrake of the car was totally shagged. Cue rolling back down the hill and much swearing...

After getting the car turned around and parked somewhere flat, and actually bothering to look at a map, we discovered that we didn't need to come into the village at all and that the gardens were actually right on the main road... Ah well.

Having finally made it there, we paid our 6.50 Euros entry and were greeted by the fantastic doorway pictured above. The suggested route around Alfabia is to do the gardens first and exit through the house. This route takes you off up a flight of steps to the left of the doorway and you start to see the fantastic rills that are a major feature of the garden and would, I imagine, have been its main source of irrigation.

Not all of the water features were working when we visited (the island had suffered a summer of drought. Swines) but some were which gave an idea of what it would all have been like when in full working order. At the top of the steps was the cistern that would have fed the water features. And a very large chicken/pigeon coop.

From here you were led round on to a pergola lined avenue which would originally have had fountain jets between the pergola uprights creating arches of water. Half of this was working and was operated by a button that allows you to watch the effect from a safe distance. It was beautiful to see and I can imagine that it would have been a very refreshing experience in an age before our pockets were stuffed with non-water friendly electronic devices.

Water features of this age fascinate me and I'd love to know how this one was driven. I'd guess that it'd be water pressure from the cistern. Interesting stuff.

From here the garden turned off onto another walk of climbers, the only one of which I could put a name to was Morning Glory. This walkway takes you past the beginnings of a garden made up of Roses and Dahlias. This was part of the garden that seemed to be in the process of being replanted. I'd love to come back and see it and smell the Roses once it's done. The couple that were there smelled divine.

The next stage takes you on to a patio area surrounded by palms and pots of Agapanthus (sadly past flowering at that point) where the bar and cafe area of the garden was located. The weekend we visited was the last in the season so they had practically nothing, which was a bit disappointing. No beer! Outrageous!

From the patio you can look out over most of the garden including a large pool and several flower beds, which were in various stages of replanting. Past this you can see the surrounding farm land which is a mixture of crops and grazing. All very pretty. Jolly nice place to sit with a Gin & Tonic of an evening I should think.

The paths from here take you on a variety of meandering walks past more partially planted beds and interconnected pools, surrounded by Palms and more terracotta pots of Agapanthus. This brings you slowly back around to the house.

The final bit of the garden was the spectacular terrace that ran the length of the back of the house. Beautifully tiled and lined with more pots of various plants, scented climbing Roses making their way over the handrails, this gave views of the entire surrounding area of fields and olive groves, with the mountains as a backdrop.

This was brilliant garden to visit. It was like nothing else I've seen before. With parts of the house dating back to Roman times it would be interesting to know how the gardens have evolved over that time.

The house itself was beautiful with lots of interesting pictures and furniture, but was definitely playing second fiddle to the gardens. As a package, the place was a really nice way to spend a few hours.

Thanks again to the galloping gardener for pointing me in that direction. For her review of the gardens, have a look here.

Apologies for some of the slightly wonky pictures. Clearly something wrong with the camera and nothing to do with the photographer.