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In Hidden Gardens of Spain fascinating treasures from one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world are uncovered. Writer and photographer Eduardo Mencos has been given access to hidden corners of famous gardens such as the Alhambra and to private gardens known only to a privileged few. His stunning images and perceptive descriptions reveal a wealth of creativity and tranquility, from Galicia to Granada, Barcelona to the Balearics, Catalonia and the Canaries, Madrid and Mallorca. Some of the gardens he shows are historical; some the creation of their current owners; others are by eminent garden designers, such as Luis Gonzales-Camino and Arabella Lennox-Boyd.
San Segundo - Stones and Roses
Avila, city of saints and stones, is the highest city in Spain at 1,100 metres/3,000 feet above sea level. It is surrounded by the steppes and snow-capped mountains of Spain's central plateau. Within its austere walls, and beneath this harsh climate, it hides a treasure inspired by Andalusia and with a Castilian soul: the garden of San Segundo, a miracle of colour, fragrance and joy protected from the outside world by the longest city wall in Europe, like the walled fortress of the Alhambra in Andalusia.
The garden is a dream and with skill and patience you can bring it to fruition no matter where you are. The garden was entrusted by the Viscount of Guell in 1921 to the Sevillian painter and landscape gardener Javier de Winthuysen. He turned what were a few vegetable plots into a highly structured garden with strikingly differentiated areas, each with its own mood. Like his paintings, there were infused with his poetic sensibility.
The current proprietor is the Marquis of Pozoblanco, a writer, doctor and gardener. 'The garden is laid out in the shape of a cross with a diamond in the middle,' he says, pointing out the pool. 'It's a variation on the cloister garden, but with an Hispano-Arabic influence throughout, with pools, fountains and borders. We know that there were originally a lot of fruit trees, but they didn't last in this harsh climate.' Since inheriting the house and garden from a great-uncle some years ago, this young enthusiast has taken on the task of restoring the garden to Winthuysen's original design. To so this he had to convince his wife to live all year round in Avila, leaving their busy life in Madrid. As a doctor he could find work, and as a writer, he could find the time previous denied him. It was a 'downshift' from the buzz of the capital, throught which he exchanged the multinational company where he was working as a doctor for a local hospital, and his squash racquet for a hoe.
'San Segundo was my uncle Paco's summer house. That's why the garden is so huge compared to the house, which is the size of a garden shed - that's exactly what it was. He bought five stone bulls, which are a Celto-Iberian design from the second century BC. He also made a pergola next to the reservoir, which we now use as a swimming pool. I like these additions to Wintheysen's work, but generally I'm trying to get back to what he originally intended.'