For­got­ten flow­ers flour­ish­ing

Costa Blanca News (North Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - By Jo Pugh jpugh@cb­

A botan­i­cal trea­sure of the Costa Blanca - the Iris Gar­dens in Marnes, near Benissa - is still thriv­ing, de­spite the fact that it was aban­doned two years ago.

The once pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion was run by Christine Lomer and Nick Brown.

A BOTAN­I­CAL trea­sure of the Ma­rina Alta is still thriv­ing, de­spite the fact that it was aban­doned two years ago. Once a pop­u­lar tourist at­trac­tion, the Iris Gar­dens in Marnes, near Benissa, was owned by Christine Lomer and Nick Brown.

The cou­ple pur­chased their house along with a large plot of land in 1997, and turned to the grow­ing of irises, roses and tulips. Lo­cated in the foothills of the Sierra Ber­nia, they planted more than 500 va­ri­eties of iris and 300 of roses. The gar­den be­gan to grow, and the own­ers cre­ated paths that me­an­dered through­out the flow­ers, de­light­ing the senses. Dry stone walls, an­cient olive trees and del­i­cate buds pros­pered in the Mediter­ranean sun. Once opened to the pub­lic, the gar­dens at­tracted hun­dreds of vis­i­tors who dared to brave the sin­gle track moun­tain road to the des­ti­na­tion.

How­ever, two years ago, Christine and Nick made the dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to re­tire to France, and left the Iris Gar­dens for good. Car­ing for over 40,000 plants was just too much for the el­derly cou­ple, who had no mains wa­ter. Re­ly­ing on the rain or hav­ing to or­der truck­loads of wa­ter, the land be­came drier as year af­ter year, droughts struck them. With heavy hearts, they de­cided to put the house and land up for sale, and do­nated much of their col­lec­tion to the Tor­retes botan­i­cal gar­dens in Ibi.

In their ab­sence, though, the gar­dens have now ex­ploded into colour, and al­though the at­trac­tion is per­ma­nently closed, the gar­den main­tains its splen­dour. Tulips, irises and lilies have all come into spec- tac­u­lar bloom be­cause of re­cent rain.

Al­though the house has been sold, the land is cur­rently for sale, and the hope is that one day some­body will seize the op­por­tu­nity to ten­der the plants and res­ur­rect an al­most lost par­adise, which was pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant iris gar­den in Europe. Christine and Nick some­times re­turn to their op­u­lent blooms, but only for nos­tal­gic vis­its.

Vis­i­tors to the site are pro­hib­ited, but a glimpse of its bright and beau­ti­ful de­cline can be caught by walk­ers pass­ing by.

Happy days: when the gar­dens were open to vis­i­tors

The 'aban­doned'' gar­den this week

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