A rural Ibizan garden with pockets of lushness from designers Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner
For this Ibizan garden, Miguel Urquijo has created a design that offers pockets of lushness while merging effortlessly with its rural surroundings. Words Hannah Gardner, photographs Claire Takacs
When Madrid-based landscape architect Miguel Urquijo and his wife and business partner Renate Kastner first visited this faded but characterful Ibizan farmhouse, they found the site “a little abandoned, but full of possibility. The old land has a strong personality”.
Located in a rural region of Ibiza, where the agrarian tradition is still dominant, the bones of this hillside garden were formed by mature trees and crumbling dry-stone walls. The native vegetation features handsome Pinus halepensis, slow-growing Juniperus sabina and mastic, Pistacia lentiscus, a large waxy evergreen shrub. This wildwood runs up to and through the garden, mingling with useful cultivated trees, gnarled ancient olives, a dusting of pretty almonds and a few sprawling figs.
What A large family garden. Where Ibiza, Spain. Size Two-acre garden in 98-acre estate. Soil Poor, unimproved clay. Climate Mediterranean, hot semi-arid. Hardiness zone USDA 10b.
The garden of this idyllic Ibizan hillside retreat slips away from the farmhouse and segues into the wider wooded landscape, where an undulating tapestry of grey-green trees stretches out towards the distant coastline. Closer to the house, walls that draw on the area’s agricultural heritage are used to create formal divisions.
The strong vertical accent of the young Italian cypress trees will be more noticeable as the planting matures and the evergreen shrubs become increasingly sculptural. Around 70 per cent of the plants in this area of the garden are young mastic, a shrub or small tree valued for its tough character and local provenance. Local oddities such as the clear-stemmed Juniperus sabina are characteristic of the island and allowed to remain as they are integral to the sense of place.
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Miguel and Renate have retained many of the more characterful and eclectic existing trees that still command attention. In this area near the house, he has incorporated an ancient olive, a lone palm and a hefty Euphorbia ingens into the new garden. His use of evergreens is inspired by the organic forms favoured by Spanish designer Fernando Caruncho and the minimalism of Japanese gardening.
The paved terraces close to the house are well proportioned and intimate. Here the stone pavement is softened by creeping Phyla nodiflora. Drifts of the sun-loving perennial Oenothera lindheimeri add a flowery transparency, while sculptural Limonium perezii provides an interesting shot of violet. It is valued for a long flowering season, is attractive to pollinators and does well in the shade.
Next to the house, a pergola offers a shady retreat under the boughs of an ancient olive. The cane roof has an artisan feel and supports a scrambling wild grape vine. The vertical supports are created using the up-cycled thick stems of a vine that previously grew here. Low mounds of mastic and myrtle enjoy a relaxed feel in-between seasonal pruning and create a sense of seclusion.
The stiff glaucous foliage of Agave americana adds definition to the terraces alongside the slow-growing evergreen shrubs. In the foreground is drought-tolerant Salvia canariensis, an eye-catching but invasive shrub that can easily reach two metres in one season and is regularly edited to keep the composition in balance. Its long stems hold purple-magenta flowers and grey-green aromatic foliage aloft.
Find out more about Miguel and Renate's work at urquijokastner.com/en/
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