Memories of the Alhambra
The European Palm Society Summer Meeting in southern
Spain, nicely summarized by Gary Parker, though I'm afraid I have
to accept responsibility for the title. Sorry, couldn't resist!
Gary Parker, Woking, UK
Chamaerops No.27 Summer 1997
Yucca rostrata in Gunther's garden
Thirteen centuries ago, the Moors invaded Southern
Spain and built the empire known as al'Andalus. We have them to
thank for introducing exotic palms to the region in the form of
date palms. Today Andalusia continues to be rich in exotic palms,
with the result that it recently faced another invasion of sorts:
some 60 EPS members converged on Almunecar, a small town on the
coast, for the third EPS summer meeting.
The event began on the evening of Tuesday September
2, with welcome cocktails in what must be one of the most impressive
tourist offices around, the Palacette de la Najarra, a faux-Moorish
palace. The following morning, palm-spotting began in earnest as
Emerencia, a student who has recently completed her doctorate in
exotic vegetation of the area, gave us an expert tour of Almunecar's
El Majuelo park. The park came into existence almost by accident
when extensive Phoenician and Roman ruins were discovered and the
area around the ruins was set aside for their protection. The townsfolk
had the inspired idea of planting palms and other exotic plants
on the land. Many ambitious exotic species were tried. Some did
not make it - there was no pampering - but many did, with the result
that 40 palm species exist in the park today.
The day continued with a leisurely lunch (one EPS
member must have particularly appreciated the robust local wine,
judging by the way he performed an unintended backflip off his chair!)
This was followed in the evening by a fascinating tour of the old
town. A remarkable cristate Chamaerops humilis was spotted, with
a multitude of growing points producing an attractive dense head
of leaves on a somewhat thicker than-usual trunk.
On Thursday, the group visited the botanical garden
la Conception, near Malaga. This garden was planted 150 years ago,
a few decades before most 19th century palm collections, with the
result that splendidly tall specimens can be seen, such as an eight-storey-high
Livistona chinensis and a huge mature specimen of Jubaea chilensis
- growing in the shade of an even taller tree! The park contains
one of Europe's few mature specimen of Phoenix rupicola, an attractive
member of this genus with flat, glossy leaflets, like a cross between
a Phoenix and a cycad A huge Cycas circinalis reminded the group
just how big cycads can get in time.
That afternoon, eyes opened even wider when the group
visited EPS m e m b e r Gunter Bruett's garden overlooking Marbella.
"Estupendo!" the Spaniards among the group were heard
to exclaim, and not without reason, for Gunter's collection must
surely be the finest in Europe. To see over 200 species planted
in such concentration, the effect is startling - humbling. There
seems little point in even attempting to list species here (try
opening your favourite palm book and reading the index, it will
represent Gunter's garden pretty accurately!) Personal favourites
included the huge, leathery, strangely-coloured palmate leaves of
Bismarckia nobilis, the upright gracefulness of - Rhopalostylis
sapida, and undoubtedly best of all, the uncompromising spiky splendour
of a remarkable specimen of Trithrinax campestris Gunter's wonderful
hospitality was much appreciated by all.
On Friday, the group visited a commercial nursery
near Motril. The nursery was impressive in terms of sheer numbers
of plants, hut perhaps a little unexceptional in terms of number
of species. Nevertheless, EPS members carted off a considerable
haul, with popular purchases being inexpensive Cycas revoluta (trucked
in from Holland!) and small plants of Dypsis decaryi. Following
an afternoon siesta (by this stage of the week even the most rigid
northern Europeans were adopting a Spanish pace) the group enjoyed
excellent talks and slides from Thomas Font (identifying Sabals),
Jaques Deleuze (the EPS India trip), Martin Gibbons & Tobias
Spanner (their Sudan expedition, complete with fascinating video
short - attendees can't wait to see the full-length version), and
Inge Hoffman (an extraordinary palm collection in Thailand).
Saturday saw the group visiting the Alhambra in Granada,
a Moorish palace which is one of the most unforgettable pieces of
architecture in the world. The palace gardens were in their time
some of the finest in Europe, with formal arrangements of date palms
and scented citrus traced through by Moorish tiled walkways and
The event came to an end that evening with a celebration
farewell dinner which was hugely enjoyed by all. The following morning,
EPS members dispersed to the winds. All agreed the 1997 EPS summer
gathering had been a tremendous success.
27-09-21 - 13:03GMT
|| What's New?
|| New palm book
| Date: 24-05-2004
of Cultivated Palms
by Robert Lee Riffle, Paul Craft.
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