In the 1990s Enrique Montoliu began the construction of what was to be the realisation of his dreams of French and Italian classical gardens on a beautiful hillside, near Pedreguer village in the Alicante region of Spain. According to the charming and helpful Fundem volunteer who brought us our coffee and cake, his dream turned into a nightmare. The planting he had chosen died outright and he admitted defeat.
Calling on botanists and horticultural experts of the region, he began again with a palette of plants that would not just survive but thrive on his hot, dry hillside. And, over the last 20 years, his dream has been realised, a garden, the Jardin Albarda, with all of the classical bones that he would want, but planted with water-wise native and other plants that will take the heat and the sun.
Now, having established Fundem as a non profit-making trust dedicated to the preservation of the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean region, Fundem runs the garden whilst Enrique still lives in the beautiful villa at the heart of the garden. Visitors are welcome every day of the year, and are charmingly personally greeted by young volunteers who explain a little of the history and bring the most delicious carrot cake and coffee for a small fee.
Close to the house, the straight axes, wide tiled pathways and formal lines, with arbours and trellises at the crossing-points, all connect to the original Franco-Italian vision that Enrique worked on. He has used and favoured the enormous clipped box and privet pillars, hedges, columns to create the structure, supported by fountains, urns, vast trellis structures and pots of all sizes filled with flowering geraniums and begonias. Every detail is thought of, the ease of walking the wide paths, the need for shade, for colour where you can, perfume, seats and chairs, walls to sit on- it is the garden of a generous, thoughtful person.
And then you follow one of many winding small paths into what seems to be ‘the bush’. and wrapped around the classical garden is another one, filled with native plants, shrubs and trees, tiny wiggling paths leading you through from one planted environment to another. Inspirational groundcover in a gravelled area in one moment, then the next you find yourself stumbling across a massive cascade, falling into a rocky ravine and pool, native plants filling every crevice.
Ponds and pools abound, all hidden and screened by native shrub and tree plantings, and leading finally to the Valencian garden with its Moorish influences. Perfectly tended axis hedging enclosing citrus plantings, fountains and rose trellises, and at the border of the garden, an immense tiled walkway shaded by trellis overhead, splendid with massive colourful animals recreated in tiles.
On leaving the Terrace, with the borrowed landscape of hills behind it, there is a lovely small detail. The classical urns at the tops of the steps had been filled with lemons. Bring a picnic if you visit, enjoy the coffee and cake, and take your time. A wonderful place.
Check the directions carefully and have faith once you get off the main road towards the area where the house is located. It is a very smart neighbourhood with very discreet, in other words ‘tiny’, signage. Blink and you could miss the sign. More about some of the plants in another post.