Humans have always tinkered with their environment but gardens as we understand them today didn’t emerge until the Ancient Egyptian era, when the aristocracy discovered the pure pleasure derived from walking through a cultivated space. But these are not the gardens that come to mind when we think of the history of ornamental cultivation. More likely the mythical Garden of Eden will take first place perhaps followed by the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, Versailles, the General Life at the Alhambra or the Zen-like symmetry of Chinese and Japanese gardens. The garden, whether public or domestic, is now an essential element to any home design.
Garden and landscape design is a strong part of our architectural process. Life in Ibiza is lived outdoors for most of the year and the concept of indoor/outdoor flow is built into all our designs. As more studies are published on the health benefits of being in nature, it seems the home garden is becoming even more important – something we always knew, but it does help to have statistics on your side. These days it pays, both financially and emotionally, to incorporate garden ideas and landscaping early in the design process.
Creating a garden can be rather an intimate process and the emotional response the garden and the act of gardening can have may come as a surprise to many. Obviously, the parameters are curbed by what the plot provides, and compromise is inevitable although often a source of creative and surprisingly beautiful solutions. Necessity is the mother of invention after all. The shape and orientation of the available space, as well as the health of the soil, will determine what is possible. And while the physical restrictions will inform the design, the most important question to ask is how and when will you use your garden?
Bioclimatic design has always informed the way humans create and manipulate the spaces they inhabit. Understanding the local climate, the phases of the moon and the movement of the sun is essential in any architectural project. These days we love our homes to be filled with natural light yet we need them to also be cool in summer and warm in winter. Thoughtful garden design has a lot to offer when it comes to controlling inside temperatures. A carefully placed vine covered pergola can provide much needed shade for adjacent windows in addition to a delightful spot to place an outdoor lounge, dining table or simply a place to take a cup of tea in the morning. In the winter, when the leaves drop away, much-needed light and warmth from the sun will spill through the windows.
Likewise in the main areas of the garden, bioclimatic planting can make all the difference in the way the spaces are enjoyed. Fruit trees provide shade – not to mention delicious snacks – and a handy place to string a hammock. Ground covers help keep things green without resorting to intensely thirsty lawn grass. Built-in nooks and well-planned lighting can create the perfect combination for socialising or escaping.
It’s impossible to discuss garden design without approaching the conundrum of the lawn. Supporting a classic European lawn in Ibiza is near impossible and would consume unbelievable amounts of water which is already scarce on the island. There are some water wise grasses available but when it comes down to it, a lush green lawn is not the most sustainable nor the most responsible addition to an island garden. But there are plenty of alternatives such as planting a wildflower meadow, creepers and utilising stone paving to create miniature patches of green.
One of the keys to a successful garden design is to plant native and drought resistant species. Not only will they thrive in their local environment, but they also use a lot less water and provide the ideal habitat for wildlife. Ibiza is blessed with an enormous variety of native water wise plants. Olive, almond and citrus trees always look wonderful, with citrus gifting us the most heady and gorgeous scents in the spring. Wild grasses add depth of field, texture and movement and function well to fill up ancillary spaces. Aromatic herbs such as rosemary, sage and thyme are not only native but also useful for the kitchen and can be fashioned into casual hedges. A plethora of flowering shrubs such as lavender, rock rose, night jasmine and lantana add colour and sweetness.
The ancient Egyptians built their ornamental gardens as a respite from the intense heat of the desert. Here in Ibiza, it’s much the same. An Ibiza garden is not only beautiful to look at, but also provides plenty of space to relax, socialise, play and connect with the natural world. Nothing short of pure pleasure.