In The Gar­den

Country Life Every Week - - Contents -

David Wheeler can’t re­sist the al­lure of blue Mal­lor­can skies

UN­DER a du­vet of Welsh bor­der­land grey cloud, I’m crav­ing my April re­turn to Mal­lorca, an is­land blessed at that time of the year with such a wealth of wild flow­ers that it seems al­most point­less to think about its gar­dens. How­ever, it’s the gar­dens I’ll be head­ing to, reac­quaint­ing my­self with a se­quence of ex­traor­di­nar­ily var­ied places that I’ve come to love in re­cent times.

Tests on un­der­ground water flows re­veal the Balearics to be a south­ern out­crop of the Pyre­nees, linked to that moun­tain­ous range by deep rivulets run­ning be­neath the Mediter­ranean. Mal­lorca is the largest of the group and en­joys the widest (and, in­deed, wildest) range of land­scape di­ver­sity. Away from the hap­pily con­tained bud­get-air­line re­sorts and the sweep of Palma’s ur­banised bay, the is­land rises and falls dra­mat­i­cally.

The north’s un­der-pop­u­lated Serra de Tra­muntana—now a World Her­itage Site—can be ex­plored by a spinal switch­back road through pines and holm oaks; the south-east­ern plain is pep­pered with ham­lets and small towns, still bear­ing ex­otic ar­chi­tec­tural ref­er­ences to a his­tory pepped up by an­cient Moor­ish rule.

Robert Graves lived there for more than 60 years and it con­tin­ues to be a favoured haunt of Euro­pean ex­pa­tri­ates, kindly in­vaders who have put down their own tap roots among a na­tive pop­u­la­tion that has in no way sur­ren­dered its Cata­lan iden­tity. Among the in­com­ers are nu­mer- ous gar­den-mak­ers re­al­is­ing their dreams of cre­at­ing par­adise, fur­nished with un­fa­mil­iar plants that would need the costly pro­tec­tion of heated glasshouses in north­ern climes.

The most dra­matic of all is the gar­den made by Heidi Gilde­meis­ter, high up on the is­land’s north-east­ern edge where, among fan­tas­ti­cal rock for­ma­tions, a snooker ta­ble of ver­dant tran­quil­lity lies at the heart of a botan­i­cal col­lec­tion of world im­por­tance. To wan­der among its sur­round­ing out­crops, man­tled in ex­u­ber­ant eu­phor­bias is to open the pages of a hor­ti­cul­tural en­cy­clo­pe­dia.

Mrs Gilde­meis­ter won ac­claim with her ground-break­ing book, Mediter­ranean Gar­den­ing: A Water­wise Ap­proach (1995), which has taught many a rookie gar­dener how to over­come the foibles of suc­cess­ful cul­ti­va­tion in sim­i­larly dry lo­ca­tions. Now, un­der the aus­pices of the Black Vul­ture Con­ser­va­tion Foun­da­tion (yes, Mal­lorca is for bird-watch­ers, too), her gar­den, Torre d’ari­ant, com­bines beauty with learn­ing.

In the south-west, Camilla Chan­don’s Son Muleta is equally re­mote and dra­mat­i­cally sit­u­ated. An English cot­tage gar­den in Mediter­ranean garb, you can’t fail to no­tice that blue dom­i­nates the April scene, when its elon­gated, ter­raced beds are spiked with cobalt echi­ums and irises, ris­ing from clouds of cis­tus, laven­der, rose­mary and aga­pan­thus.

Ma­jes­tic olive trees pro­vide wel­come shade over sit­ting ar­eas dressed in mounds of clipped teu­crium and box, ex­claimed by pen­cil-thin cy­presses and Ir­ish yew. April-flow­er­ing climb­ing roses, pinned to the re­tain­ing walls, pro­ject in­tense per­fume into an al­ready aro­matic cock­tail and close in­spec­tion of the turfed paths re­veals a scat­ter­ing of wild or­chids.

It is said that many of David Austin’s famed English roses thrive in warmer cli­mates. In South Africa and Cal­i­for­nia, his richly yel­low rose, Gra­ham Thomas, ex­cels it­self. In Mal­lorca, at Ca’n Es­tel, away from the hills, an as­sort­ment of Austin’s best roses pop­u­lates vast is­land beds de­lin­eated by wide paths flanked with irises and laven­der.

And there’s an­other de­light: cit­rus. Many kinds are grown at Ca’n Es­tel, look­ing as lively as Christ­mas trees hung with orange and yel­low baubles, their small ivory flow­ers si­mul­ta­ne­ously waft­ing an ir­re­sistible scent on the slight­est breeze.

Re­turn visits to Mal­lorca seem guar­an­teed to spring new sur­prises, new gar­dens. There are sev­eral lined up for my next foray, although the tra­di­tional and long-es­tab­lished places have strong al­lure, too. A re­cur­ring dream of mine has, for its back­drop, the ex­ten­sive wis­te­ria-clad per­go­las at the Moor­ish es­tate of Al­fabia, where some­one has made great play with un­ex­pected show­ers of cool­ing water, fur­ther an­i­mat­ing one of Mal­lorca’s hor­ti­cul­tural trea­sures. David Wheeler will host a lux­u­ri­ous COUN­TRY LIFE read­ers’ tour to Mal­lorca’s finest gar­dens this spring, from April 23 to 28. Price per per­son: £3,850. Sin­gle sup­ple­ment: £490. The price in­cludes ac­com­mo­da­tion at two five-star ho­tels, all visits and trans­porta­tion on the is­land, all evening meals with lo­cal wines, plus five lunches and re­turn flights from Lon­don Heathrow.

For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and to book, con­tact Box­wood Tours (mail@box­wood­tours.co.uk; www.box­wood­tours.co.uk) or tele­phone 01341 241717

Jar­dines de Al­fabia’s water jets add an un­ex­pected cool spritz

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