PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Marilyn’s Alvor 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.

Perennial planting

Another view of the perennial planting

Close-up of an ornamental grass

Close-up of one of the grassesThe second garden we visited with Marilyn was in Alvor, Portimão. It was larger than the previous one and felt more cohesive as a whole to me. Marilyn explained that when the new owners of the property moved in they quickly realised that the 350 square metre lawn wasn’t making sense, financially or aesthetically. After researching Mediterranean garden styles, they opted for a naturalistic gravel garden, thickly planted with herbs, perennials and grasses.

I liked the symmetrical clumps of perennials with swathes of grasses weaving through. The mixture of different heights, colours and textures gave it a dynamic, but not overpowering, appearance. It was a clever way of manipulating the space, seemingly creating a cascading topography within a flat area.

Close-ups of the perennial planting

Clump of perennial planting

Echium candicans

Echium candicansOnce the grass was weed-killed and ploughed into the soil, a 5cm dressing of gravel was laid on top, leaving a blank canvas on which to lay out the plants. The plants were watered fortnightly through the first summer and now not at all.

It was a year since Marilyn had finished planting it, the rich loamy soil has supported extraordinary growth in the first year. The plants looked so well established it was like they had been there for years.

Lavandula stoechas

Lavandula stoechas

Another view of the garden

View of the gardenThe combination of Echium candicans with Euphorbia rigida and Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’ was striking, the red against the lime-greeney yellow was a winner. A Grevillea robusta was present, also known as the silky oak. It’s the largest species in the genus, it was a fantastic specimen in the garden.

A plant I hadn’t seen before which was used in the repeat planting was Ballota pseudodictamnus, in the Lamiaceae family. It had aromatic, white hairy leaves with small pink flowers in whorls toward the stem tips. The foliage worked well as a contrast amongst the rest of the colourful planting.

The garden again

Another view of the garden

Euphorbia myrsinites

Euphorbia myrsinitesI didn’t know the herb Sideritis cypria was used as tea in Greece, Marilyn said it has a strong citrus flavour. I was tempted to take some home and try it! An interesting climber was Stephanotis floribunda. It had white jasmine-like flowers and is common as a houseplant in the UK. Two species of honeysuckle were climbing alongside it (Lonicera japonica and L. implexa), the fragrance was overwhelming.

Stones and pebbles were used to cover the ground near the lower growing plants such as Euphorbia myrsinites as a nod to a little rockery.

Ground-cover planting

Groundcover planting

Ornamental grasses

GrassesIt was great being able to see a couple of the gardens Marilyn had designed, especially after seeing one of her presentations earlier in the week.

Plants noted:

  • Ballota pseudodictamnus
  • Dodonaea viscosa
  • Echium candicans
  • Euphorbia myrsinites
  • Euphorbia rigida
  • Grevillea robusta
  • Jasminum polyanthum
  • Lavandula stoechas
  • Lonicera implexa
  • Lonicera japonica
  • Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’
  • Salvia ‘Royal Bumble’
  • Salvia x jamensis
  • Sideritis cypria
  • Stephanotis floribunda
  • Strelitzia reginae
  • Yucca gigantea



6 thoughts on “PGG Study Tour of the Algarve – Marilyn’s Alvor Garden

  1. Lovely Becka! Coming originally from southern California, I am familiar with some of these plants but alas, not by their proper names. Now that I am ensconsed on The Mediterranean they are once again here brightening my days. 🙂
    At times I imagine you as a bee who goes from flower to flower and garden to garden… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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