This time last year, May 2019, I was here in Catalonia, Spain….Jardins de Cap Roig
In the northwest corner of the Mediterranean is the sun-kissed land of Costa Brava, a rugged 200-kilometre-long coastline lined with pine-edged coves, golden beaches, and crystal-clear water. Its beauty extends inland with Catalonia being the home of important Greco-Roman ruins, quiet Medieval villages, and boasting a unique artistic heritage thanks to its most famous native, Salvador Dalí.
Here I found an unexpected botanical treasure - the spectacular Jardins de Cap Roig.
The gardens were created in 1927 by Russian colonel Nicolai Woevodsky and English aristocrat Dorothy Webster. The couple were drawn to Catalonia's rugged, unspoiled beauty. Dorothy was a passionate gardener and Nicolai an architect. Together, they spent decades creating one of the most beautiful gardens on the Mediterranean coast.
This garden is located on the outskirts of Palafrugell, on a pretty promontory on the edge of the sea. Admission costs 7 euros for adults, 3 euros for pensioners, and it's open all day. A shady picnic area with games for children is available. The terrain is very steep, and initial access is at the highest point. The plan on a warm Sunday afternoon in May included strolling back up again to see everything after the visit, often in full sun...
The garden was immaculate in labelling, and presentation was being maintained to a very high standard.
There are some fantastic plants to see not least a trailing rosemary hedge, a collection of hydrangeas, Strelitzia, and lavender in abundance.
The views of the coast present as a dramatic backdrop and throughout the garden there are interesting sculptures.
Garden of Many Terraces
The 17-hectare garden fits into the hilly terrain and is built upon narrow terraces that cascade down to the coast. A gentle path zigzags through the terraces and is densely planted on either side. The majority of the garden is confined to the narrow terraces. You can’t go anywhere other than on the path. I felt like I was in a maze, as if there was some destination just ahead but it was hidden out of sight by the pruned hedges.
As you walk, the neatly trimmed garden transports you from one botanic world to the next. The Jardins de Cap Roig contains an impressive number of botanical specimens, more than 1,000 grow within the garden. While the garden as a whole is lovely, the palm, geranium, and cactus collections were my stars of the garden.
Scented Geranium Terrace
One of the most whimsical gardens at Jardins de Cap Roig is the geranium passage.
Thick beds of aromatic Pelargonium line both sides of the path. Their intricate leaves look beautiful when planted en masse. The best part of passing the geraniums is their scent. Gently rubbing the leaves between your fingers and they give off a delightful aroma. I spent a lot of time trying to identify the subtle scents of the different cultivars. There were the common varieties like rose and lemon scented, but also new cultivars like ‘Cola Bottles.’
Cactus and Succulent Garden
Unlike the other gardens, which are confined to a narrow terrace, the cactus garden covers a large area. It’s easily the most impressive garden at Jardins de Cap Roig and reason alone to visit. The garden dates from 1927, and as the result, there were many mature plants, like the giant Yucca.
Many of the cacti are planted en masse, which creates a stunning effect. Dark bands of Aeonium edge sweeping swaths of blue-green Aloe. Overhead, tall pines sway in the coastal breeze.
The cactus garden is situated on the lowest terrace and provides stunning views of the Mediterranean sea. From the garden’s edge, you can see the Formigues Islands.
Contemporary works of art are scattered around the park.
The stroll back up the main avenue to the exit has to be taken slowly, it’s a long steep haul.
This is just one of the memorable gardens I visited last year, and memories that will have to stay for a very long time until the world emerges as a safer place for travel.