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Gardening In a Spanish Nature Reserve

by Beate M. Henz
photographs by Karl Henz

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 81, July 2015

Beate Henz describes how about ten years ago she and her husband bought a former farmhouse with 2.2 acres of land located on the so-called plana, a 180m-high plateau in the Javea region of southern Spain which has been designated as a Nature Reserve.

Beate writes: “Having learned about the problems with long periods of drought, we selected as much as possible for our new garden plants that needed no, or only a little, water. Thus, in small or broader strips of ground that had been constructed around the house, we chose to plant diverse types of succulents.”

Beginnings of the cactus garden in front of the house,
with new walls from rocks as fortification

“When we took over the property, about two-thirds of the ground was covered with Pinus halepensis, and the rest with medium-sized trees, shrubs and smaller constituents typical of maquis. In parts of the land where pine trees were scarce or absent, tall maquis was abundant, with remnants of cultivated as well as wild olives, mastic trees (Pistacia lentiscus), African sandalwood (Osyris lanceolata), scorpion vetch (Coronilla valentina), juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) and an occasional elegant Cupressus sempervirens.”

Osyris lanceolata in bloom

“The slope is divided into 30 terraces, called bancals by the locals, bordered by 1-2 m high dry-stone walls built from rocks, thus preventing erosion and creating sites where grapes and other crops and trees could be cultivated. Such terraces were already built by the Romans and Arabs and, although largely abandoned, can be seen on mountain slopes in our entire region.
Some bancals had very little growth, rather infertile ground, and they were partly covered by moss and lichen. Because of their extensive exposure to the sun, they delighted us at different seasons with occasional small wild orchids”

Ophrys apifera

Spiranthes spiralis

And other wild flowers

Tiny, enchanting Moraea sisyrinchium  

Viola arborescens

Pallenis maritima
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