When you think of Spain, what comes to mind? Bull fighting? Costa del Sol? Gardens? If “gardens” is your answers then perhaps you would want to visit the Generalife in Granada, Spain. There are many beautiful gardens in Spain but the Generalife is probably its premiere garden and is one of the few surviving examples of the gardens created by the Moors. It is associated with the Alhambra and was joined to it by a covered walkway that spanned the ravine between them. It has its own unique qualities, however, and is one of my favorite gardens to visit.
The Generalife, meaning “Architect’s Garden”, was the summer palace and country estate of the Moorish sultans. It was built in the 14th century by Muhannad III but was given to the Catholic Venegas family of Granada by the monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, in 1492 when they conquered Granada. In the 19th century both the Alambra and Generalife suffered neglect but were taken over and redone by the state in the 20th century.
As soon as you enter the Generalife through the iron gates you know that this is a special place. Tall cypresses line the walkway, giving way to masses of oleander, rhoodendron, and roses. The highlight of the garden is the Patio de la Acequia with its breath-taking water display. A myriad of fountains spray water along the length of a long rectangular pond surrounded by plantings of both shrubs and flowering plants including myrtle, roses, and orange trees. This garden is bordered on two sides by porticoed pavilions, and a gallery of 18 arches on a third side. One of the porticoes called the mirador (lookout) has five beautiful arches with exquisite overhead windows. Passing through this portico you enter the Patio de la Sultana with its center pool surrounded by oleander and myrtle. Other outstanding features include a staircase with its flowing water in the banister that leads to the upper level of gardens. Parterres around a fountain containing roses create a more modern, renaissance look.
The use of plants and water in the Generalife is very unique and beautiful. If you are fortunate enough to visit this area of Spain be sure to include this garden in your itinerary. It is interesting both historically and in a modern context and is on my list of Must See Gardens.