PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Marilyn’s Carvoeiro Garden

This is another post about the time I spent in Portugal earlier this year. To read the first post in this series please click here.

We visited several very different gardens during our time in the Algarve. Both Rosie and Marilyn wanted to show us the diversity in designing gardens for a Mediterranean climate, primarily with the waterwise garden theme in mind.

The rockery

View of the rockery

The rockeryWe spent the day visiting two gardens which had been Marilyn’s projects this time last year. The first one was in Carvoeiro, Lagoa, a garden nestled into the hillside. Marilyn had basically redesigned the whole garden as the previous planting wasn’t suited to the climate or overall conditions.

Both rockeries were original, Marilyn had altered the structure of both so more soil could be incorporated and to generally make them less “currant bun” like. More appropriate plants were chosen, I liked the variety of succulents and cacti used which provided great colour and texture. Echeveria setosa had wonderfully furry leaves with orange flowers, a very cute specimen! Portulacaria afra var. prostrata was similar to Crassula, a popular succulent for bonsai. This variety is a particularly low growing form.

Echeveria setosa

Echeveria setosa

View from the garden

View from the gardenWhat used to be a long strip of lawn is now a Mediterranean walk with a mixture of grasses, herbs and colourful herbaceous perennials. A weed proof membrane was laid underneath the gravel area before planting, to help keep maintenance down.

The popular hybrid cistus Cistus x purpureus (a cross between C. ladanifer and C. crispus) was used, another cistus I hadn’t heard of before was Cistus x skanbergii, a dwarf rockrose with pale pink flowers.

The Mediterranean walk

Mediterranean walk

Cistus x skanbergii

Cistus x skanbergiiThe clump planting of Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Boule’ was very effective, it sprawled across the gravel like an octopus! The fragrance was heavenly too. Syzygium paniculatum is a dense bushy rainforest tree which is used for hedging not just in Marilyn’s gardens but in quite a few gardens in the Algarve.

It was a year since Marilyn had finished planted it, I was surprised to hear no fertiliser was used prior to planting, only slight mycorrhizal fungi. Everything had established incredibly quickly and was obviously thriving.

Euphorbia rigida

Euphorbia rigida

Succulents growing along the wall

Succulents along the wallThe plants were given deep watering by hose occasionally through the first two summers, now there is no need for watering. The owners are happy as they are no longer spending small fortunes on irrigation!

The owners have recently purchased the land next door which Marilyn is taking on as a new project in September (2015). She’s hoping to turn it into a garden with a large wildflower meadow and native perennial planting.

Marilyn’s new project

The land next door, Marilyn's new project

Cyperus papyrus

Cyperus papyrus

Plants noted:

  • Aloe ferox
  • Chamaerops humilis
  • Cistus x purpureus
  • Cistus x skanbergii
  • Convolvulus cneorum
  • Cyperus papyrus
  • Echeveria setosa
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Euphorbia characias
  • Hibiscus rosa-sinensis
  • Jacaranda mimosifolia
  • Phormium tenax
  • Portulacaria afra var. prostrata
  • Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Boule’
  • Salvia x clevelandii ‘Allen Chickering’
  • Syzygium paniculatum
  • Trachycarpus fortunei
  • Yucca gigantea


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