The name of the Alhambra Gardens is really Generalife. Although the plants and flowers are not just there. There are trees, shrubs, flowering plants and lots of greenery on the entire grounds of the Alhambra Palace.
After writing previous posts:
I complete this three part series with this piece about the plants and flowers in the Alhambra Palace.
The gardens of the Alhambra Palace offer plenty of space. They are in different areas of the site and not in a specific area. The best known garden is the Generalife. These gardens have changed over the centuries and have influences from different periods.
Islamic garden design focuses on calm and contemplation. There are always elements of water and shadow. Aromatic plants are also an important characteristic.
The plants and flowers grown in the Alhambra were not just ornamental plants. Ivy, laurel, thyme, lavender, sage and rosemary have been grown here for centuries. Planted for its medicinal properties.
Islamic herbalist Findings from Greek medicine included in her plant studies. They even practiced an early form of preventive medicine with plant syrups and mixtures. Use leaves, roots, seeds, and flowers to make medicines.
Iris was a multipurpose plant in the Alhambra Gardens. Used in medicine as a stimulant and diuretic. Planted for its blue (and white) flowers. The extract from the iris pear was also part of liqueurs and perfumes.
Edible plants have been grown here since the Middle Ages. Supply for the palace, the court and the military. The Huerto is visible on a long avenue just below the Generalife Theater. Another vegetable patch is located directly behind the section. The Paratas Bajas (near the Paseo de las Torres) has plants like broad beans, garlic and artichokes.
Artichokes were not a food, but also ingredients for beers and tonics. Useful for their medicinal properties. Artichokes were grown by the Greeks and Romans throughout the Mediterranean.
In addition to kale, onions and cabbage, there were also many fruit trees. The pomegranate Tree has delicate leaves and bright orange flowers. The fruit season lasts from mid-May to September and lasts until the autumn months. The plant was also used because of its strong color in dyes for tanning and silk production.
Loquat, quince, walnut, cherry and almond trees. Other things that would have grown there were pumpkins and watermelons.
Other plants were chosen based on their color or shape. The selection of flowering times would cover different times and seasons. Pansies and marigolds would have been planted.
Although you saw Bouganvillea in the Alhambra today, this was not introduced until the 18th century.
Magnolias were a status symbol. This evergreen plant was expensive and difficult to get. There would have been several around the Alhambra Palace Gardens.
Cypresses or oleander bushes become architectural features. Line sidewalks or structure different areas of the site. Cypresses can live up to 600 years. The Arabs, which have been used since Roman times, have increased their use throughout Spain.
Box hedges give shape and structure in many of the palace’s gardens. Climbing plants and trailers are used to cover walls or uninteresting rooms. Examples are wisteria, ivy, jasmine, roses and trumpet creepers.
Certain plants and trees were selected for their fragrance. Or even because of their sensory qualities to raise the mind. Jasmine is of course perhaps the most obvious plant. Used in perfumes, it has also been used in medicine to treat headaches or sedatives. (Dried flower treatment)
Orange trees were valued for their fragrant bloom. Called Azahar in Spanish. Seville Orange trees were introduced by the Arabs from Asia around the 9th century and are an essential feature of Islamic gardens.
Roses were also very important in these gardens. Used in many different ways, when climbing or in formal gardens. The Damascus rose is still grown in the Alhambra today. Present in the original gardens, rose oil was used to perfume carpets and for treatments in the hammam.
Lavender, rosemary and thyme were fragrant and popular medicinal plants throughout history. In the Alhambra there were also almond and horse chestnut trees, especially because of their aroma.
The large pool outside the Palacio del Partal dominates the room, the oratorio to the side. In fact, this area of the garden is probably the oldest we visit today. The partial gardens are divided into two sections. Lower (see above) and upper section (near the church of Santa Maria de la Alhambra). This upper part used to consist of streets and buildings. Connection of the main street ´Calle Real´ with the Partal and Nasrid Palace. To the right of the Qubba (towards the garden exit) you may see the large crepe myrtle tree with its pink flowers. In this upper section, notice the water lilies and frogs in the pond as you move up towards Calle Real.
Did you know that the palace used water lilies to create room scents?
The name of the generalife comes from Arabic Jinnah al´ Arif – Garden of the famous. When we enter the Generalife, the first part is the Patio de la Acequia. This Islamic garden has changed since the 13th century. Although the main part of the original layout is still clearly visible today. The main focus is on the water feature in this garden and the feeling of peace when you hear the movement of the water. The pomegranate trees and the large bougainvillea are the main plants in this section of the garden.
Generalife Lower Garden
Further past the Patio de la Acequia and coming up we come to the cypress of the Sultana. There may have been a medieval hammam at this point. These fountains date from the 16th century.
Generalife Upper Garden
Back up the stairs, past the lions above the stone steps, we come to the upper gardens. From here you can enjoy a view of the Alhambra Palace and the city of Granada. This section of the garden is the latest from the 19th century and has a more formal garden design. With box hedges, low fountains and a remarkable magnolia. This leads to one of my highlights of the Generalife.
Escalera de Agua
The stairs are known as Escalera de Agua has been a feature since the 16th century. This staircase connects the upper and lower gardens and has three steps. All covered with an archway of green to create shade.
The handrail has water flowing all the way and creates a fresh atmosphere on hot summer days.
The general ticket includes Generalife. However, you may want to visit the Generalife only at a certain time Alhambra Gardens guided tour.
If you have a special interest in the plants of the Alhambra, this is the best option. A visit to the entire Alhambra and Generalife in one day can be overwhelming. So much information and a lot of walking.
The Alhambra site is huge and the history is over 1000 years old. There is a lot to experience in one day.
Practical tips to see the Alhambra Gardens
- The Generalife Garden has an entrance gate for ticket holders only.
- If you have the General Alhambra ticket, this includes a visit to Generalife on the same day.
- You must show your ticket to participate in the Generalife.
- There are many levels in Generalife Gardens. They are at different levels.
- Most of the route is outside and some areas don’t have much shade. Use sunscreen on warm days.
- In summer there are concerts in the Generalife Theater. Further details: International Music Dance Festival + Summer Flamenco in Granada
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