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Seville in bloom

June 2, 2011 – 11:57 am

The muro ajardinado.

Since we had some welcome positive news about Andalucia’s economy today – unemployment in the region fell in May – I thought I’d do a happy post, about trees and flowers.

Last week, as part of a project to add new pages on Seville to the website, I visited two gardens which have recently been reopened after much-needed refurbishment. The Jardin Americano and the Jardines del Guadalquivir were both designed for Expo 92 and were filled with exotic plants, sculpture and endless pools and fountains. There are located along the west bank of the river Guadalquivir, between the bridge to La Cartuja, and the Barqueta bridge.

The Jardin Americano's riverside walk.

Starting off with the Jardin Americano, this is a botanical garden, with species from all over the Americas – cacti from Mexico, jungle trees from Peru, you name it. It has a type of open-sided shady hothouse, with slatted wooden roof (umbraculo), for the tropicals and subtropicals. A pool and little waterfall add to the rainforest ambience.

The sounds of trickling water, together with the dappled sunlight, take you right to the Amazon (but without the bugs).

Many school groups are taken around by the enthusiastic staff, who explain to children about the uses for the plants – medicinal, practical, comestible. I heard one guide talking to children about the tobacco plant (on the river side of the big lake, if you want to see it for yourself), telling them that, “In nature there’s nothing good or bad – it is just is what it is. It is us humans who use it badly.”

Tobacco plant - harmless in its natural state, before Carmen and her like got their hands on it.

Some plants have been sponsored by different barrios (neighbourhoods) of the city, like adopting a a bear at the zoo, though much less expensive I imagine.

Identifying label for plant, with its sponsoring barrio of the city.

You can spot plants with colourful flowers which are commonly used in gardens and parks all over Andalucia: acacia, oleander, jacaranda, bougainvillea, hibiscus. There are several jacarandas by the lake, which also has benches and a children’s play area, although this has no shade.

View of lake, with bench in shade of jacaranda tree. Book or ipod optional.

The staff are helpful and friendly, and obviously love their jobs. They’re based at the wooden Aula Bioclimatica, next to the shady pergolas by the river, and you can pick up leaflets about both gardens here.

The energy-efficient Aula Bioclimatica, with solar power and natural climate-control.

The Jardines del Guadalquivir, which is next door, reopened just a couple of months ago. Sadly, its many fountains aren’t working yet, so parts of it don’t look great. But this park does have wooded areas providing lots of shade (can you tell I’m obsessed? comes from having a fair-skinned child in sun-drenched Andalucia), pretty little ponds, a maze with look-out tower, and various sculptures and other remnants from Expo 92.

The lesser known of the two gardens.

Detail of the NO8DO sculpture (shaped like an 8, after Seville's symbol) from Expo 92.

Every good garden should have a maze, even better with a look-out tower for spotting lost children.

One criticism I would make is that there’s no cafe in either garden. Which is astonishing when you think that there are few more delightful places, totally car-free, to sit sipping a cold beer, than in a garden by the river. Even more so if you have children and they can safely run free. I guess you could bring your own snacks, but then that’s not the point, is it? In any case, these gardens makes a really enjoyable trip from the centre, for a change of scene, and pace. They’re both open 8am-10pm daily.

The pergolas - a shady spot by the river.

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