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The Brutinel Gardens in Alcoy, Spain

by Jacqueline Charron
photographs by Edith Haeuser

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 84, April 2016.

Fifty kilometres north of Alicante in the town of Alcoy, self-made men from humble backgrounds created wealth by using the water power of small mountain rivers to operate a great variety of mills. Within a short time they developed textile, paper and metal industries, and within a century many became rich and powerful.

Jacqueline Charron writes:
“These factors explain why we find this magnificent garden on a mountain slope, adjacent to a ruined factory instead of the usual aristocratic mansion. The garden was created between 1835 and 1855 by Vicente Brutinel. He had bought the nearby textile factories to dedicate them to paper-making. His business became one of the most prosperous in Alcoy, under the trade name of “El Barco”, that is, the sailing ship. The garden and the pavilion bear witness to mid-nineteenth century tendencies: a romantic taste for the Middle Ages and Ancient Greece, together with an eclectic use of iron and glass in its ingenious roofing and decorative structures.

But let us start the visit. Make your way among bamboos (Phyllostachys aurea), cedars (Cedrus atlantica), yews (Taxus baccata) and palms (Trachycarpus fortunei). Look at the net of irrigation canals and the decorative pillars at each crossing of the paths. Near the end of the forest other elements will attract your attention: an old box (Buxus sempervirens) to the left and a gorgeous iron structure over a well to the right. In the parterres there are some roses, lilac (Syringa oblata, syn. S. chinensis), mock oranges (Philadelphus coronarius), peonies (Paeonia × suffruticosa), agapanthus and cycads (Cycas revoluta).”

The central path in the shady lowest garden with beautiful old Taxus baccata,
Trachycarpus fortunei
and low hedges of Ruscus hypophyllum.

The old well by a seating area with Laurus nobilis bushes.

“You are now at the foot of a flight of steps leading to the conservatory. Before you go up, stop and have a look at the whole façade of this complex pavilion structure. It comprises the conservatory, a first drawing room, another smaller conservatory with a sitting area and two large aviaries, followed by a second drawing room. Nice work, indeed…”

The impressive façade of the entire pavilion with (from left to right) the
long glass front of the large conservatory, the first drawing room, the small
conservatory with the aviaries, and the second drawing room at the end.

The roofs of the entire pavilion. 

“…you enter a huge artistic conservatory with wooden beams and thin iron bars forming an undulating roof. In 1997 some palms growing too exuberantly made the ceiling fall down, together with part of the walls and windows. Superb restoration work was done by Francisco Paya Ivorra, one of the proprietors, who brought in a number of skilled craftsmen to restore the structure to its former condition. Now you find some Monstera deliciosa, tradescantias (Tradescantia sillamontana and T. fluminensis), several begonia species and succulents in the conservatory. 

In the conservatory; a door from the upper garden opens to a mini-balcony
under the roof; in the foreground a Monstera deliciosa.

…The next door opens on to the smaller conservatory with two aviaries. It is an extraordinary space where you can sit and admire the view or imagine both big cages when they were busy with all kinds of birds. There are no birds in the aviaries at the moment, but wild ones sometimes stop on the bougainvillea growing by the wall. However, the best part is the roof, a true marvel of art and engineering.

The complex roof structure of the small conservatory with the two aviaries.

View from the small conservatory through the first drawing room to the large conservatory.

Looking across the gardens from the level of the conservatory; on the left
the elaborate ironwork over the well; in the background one of
the two villas dating from 1919.

“In a sheltered corner we find a lime tree (Tilia platyphyllos), a stone pine (Pinus pinea) and a superb strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), certainly the oldest and biggest for miles around.”

In the dappled shade of a Tilia platyphyllos.

Brutinel Gardens, set at the edge of the Sierra Mariola mountain range, overlook the valley where Alcoy is located. They face the next mountain range, Sierra del Carrascal, the site of the Font Roja Natural Park. Though the gardens were never abandoned, as happened to the factory, they have grown somehow freely. They have never suffered modern “improvements” like other gardens. This has allowed them to preserve their original aspect. Time has added its decadent touch and this, no doubt, is what makes this place so unusual and charming.

An unexpected niche which offers a magnificent view without being seen.
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