Thursday, 14 July 2022

Street Plants of Barcelona and Park Güell - Spain - Summer 2022

Coming at it from a floraphile's perspective, one of the most striking things about Barcelona is the diversity of street trees and under-plantings within the city, especially so in the newer developed areas. During this post, we'll take a look at some of the street plants in the marvelous city of Barcelona and one of the most unusual parks you're likely to visit, Gaudi's, Park Güell.



Avenue plantings are common across the city streets with La Rambla (more of a very long plaza than an actual street) (left photo) probably being the most famous, planted with Platanus orientalis. In fact, La Rambla was one of the first areas of the city with a record of being planted with trees. In 1702 and 1703, 280 poplars were planted, which were cut down shortly after and replaced with alternating poplars and elms which were eventually replaced by the Planes. 


Magnolia grandiflora - Southern Magnolia is used frequently and sometimes interplanted with Prunus cerisifera  'Nigra' - Purple Plum. These evergreen trees originally from the southeastern United States look right at home in the city and are utilized by bikers to keep their bikes out of the high summer sun.
 

While digging around for some info on Barcelona's street trees I found this image that shows that wide roads with multiple rows of trees have been a feature of the city since the earliest designs.

Cross-section of fifty-metre-wide streets. Historical Archive of Barcelona

Although many of the streets are not quite this wide, spaces have been allocated for plants more often than not and this makes the majority of the city very pleasant to stroll around, even during the heat of summer.  I usually feel like a rat in a maze in cities that are predominantly laid out on a grid but the green spaces within the roads and the many small parks and leafy plazas work really well. Here you can see an example of the polyculture plantings in beds.,  beside the road. Ficus carica cv. - Fig under Stone Pine in the image of the right and Yucca under Prunus cerisifera  'Nigra' - Purple Plum on the left. A non-fruiting Morus alba - White Mulberry features heavily around the plazas and parks too.


Hackberry - Celtis occidentalis is a very popular street tree in Barcelona. Here you can see them lining the streets of Casa Milà. The fruits of these plants are edible and have a very sweet tasting black/dark brown shell when fully ripe but are mostly composed of a large round seed  



Sant Martí


The district of Sant Martí has some of the best street plantings I've seen in a city. A lot of the planting is probably no more than 10 years old as the area has developed from old industrial to modern residential.    


The planting schemes in Provençals del Poblenou include a diversity of herbaceous perennials arranged in sunken beds and graded to capture rainwater runoff from the surrounding area. The result is both functional and beautiful     


My favorite example is the pavement planting around an Industrial section of the neighborhood.  A succession of flowering herbaceous perennials many of which look great even after flowering during the senescence phase. The herbs are planted between thorn-less Gleditsia triacanthos Honey Locust trees 8 m apart.   


I did not have time to identify all of the plants but at a glance, they appear to be native Mediterranean herbaceous perennials and selected for wildlife-attracting properties.   


It really is amazing how transformative plants can be. Most people would probably not even notice the plant diversity but almost certainly they will feel the comfort of this planting scheme that softens the concrete grids and rectangular high rise blocks  


I spent a considerable amount of the time in the narrow streets of Gràcia, where I was staying. Even within these narrow streets, you can find trees planted, mostly Prunus cerisifera  'Nigra' - Purple Plum, Ligustrum lucidum, and Citrus spp.  Along with the majority of balcony plants and street planters,  it's quite charming.    




Many streets have planters, most planted with Ruscus aculeatus - Butcher's-broom or Asparagus spp. but a few of them are populated with polycultures.  


There is an excellent list of trees suitable for growing in Barcelona, from Street Tree Management in Barcelona (pg 49). Although the list is specifically for guiding street tree selection it will probably be useful for all growers in and around the coastal areas of Cataluña.  The table lists the Latin nomenclature, the common name in Catalan, Spanish, and English, the size of the tree, its preferred placement (street, open area, or park), the permanence of the leaves (evergreen or deciduous), and its suitability in Barcelona as a street tree planted in tree pits. The tree form and cultivars are also provided. 


Park Guell 


I cannot think of a place on earth where one person's art is so prolifically on display, all the time, everywhere as Barcelona, the artist being Antonio Gaudi of course. Even as you fly into the city La Sagrada Familia stands proudly, clearly visible.  Above Gracia, on the mountainside, you can find a park designed by Gaudi and where he eventually lived. Nowadays it's teeming with tourists but vast enough to escape the city and enjoy the plants and view from the high ground. 


There are a wide variety of plant species in the gardens, including olive trees, oaks, pine trees, carob trees, brooms, magnolias, wisteria, and aromatic plants, such as rosemary and lavender. The park's woodland is predominantly dense areas of Aleppo pines, sometimes mixed with stone pines.


Agapanthus and Pistacia lentiscus are used for ground cover under the Olives and Pines. The Pistacia lentiscus, when coppiced and kept trimmed,  does a great job at ground cover especially so on dry slopes, and probably produces a good deal of biomass too.   


Woven into the garden are various buildings and structures that give the place a theme park vibe. Musicians set up around the structures, some solo, some in bands. There was a fantastic flamenco band playing in the shade under the arches during my visit.   


Gaudí's pioneered hallmark mosaic design technique, called Trencar is evident throughout the garden. Trencar, equivalent to “to break” in Catalan, creates mosaic forms and shapes by putting together broken ceramic tiles, plates, and cups. It was first used by Gaudí, for decorating Park Güell. 




In 1906, Gaudi moved into the house in Park Güell with his elderly father and niece. The house on the mountainside has a great view of the city, overlooking La Sagrada Familia, another of Gaudi's masterpieces, started in19 March 1882, and is due to be completed in 2026.  


A very important part of any garden is spaces where organic matter can be accumulated, composted, and reapplied back onto the soil as a mulch. Having these deposit areas spaced evenly across a site and, strategically placed to reduce the distance traveling back and forth, will make it much more comfortable to manage the garden. Making areas big enough to comfortably move around with whatever machinery is required and, large enough to store over the maximum quantity of expected biomass,  is a good design. Park Guell has a few of these spacious deposit areas with various piles of organic matter and mulches in different stages of decomposition.


In the next post, I'll introduce some Gardens of Montjuic Mountain - and a permaculture community garden in Porta.
 

Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 


Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

Regenerative Landscape Design Online Course

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code
 RLD2023 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens, and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via FTX Pay

Friday, 1 July 2022

Street Trees and Plants of Rome - Italy 2022

Following my site visit to Yvo Zanev's plot in Sardegna, I took the ferry over to the Port of Rome - Civitavecchia and then a train into the capital. I'm working remotely on a project, that I'll introduce later in the year but between work, I spent some time admiring this ancient city.


Probably the most striking thing about the plants of Rome are the conifers. No city, I've ever visited, has mastered the art of conifer plantings like Rome. Stone Pine - Pinus pinea, Mediterranean Cypress - Cupressus sempervirens, and  Cedar of Lebanon - Cedrus libani are the stars of the show and create a dramatic backdrop to impressive buildings and ruins throughout the city. Here is a view from within Foro Romano, a vast excavated area of Roman temples, squares & government buildings, some dating back 2,000 years.
 

Doing the tourist thing, I set off to visit the Colosseum but detoured, within 10 minutes, into the entrance of Parco degli Scipioni.  The high crowns of the pines and narrow form of the Cypresses provide a rural vibe whilst keeping ground level spacious and shady. 


Parts of the park are planted more densely with a variety of smaller trees, shrubs, and herbs in the understory, most noticeably Acanthis mollis that is very commonly planted around Italy 


It was interesting to see Punica granatum - Pomegranate flowering in the understory of the huge pines, although I'm not sure whether the plants will produce good fruits by late Autumn? 



Capers, the salty, speckled pea-sized things you'll often find on a plate of Medeiterrain food, comes from the plant Capparis spinosa that grow on cliff faces and rocky outcrops all over the Med. The plants pictured below, growing on the Aurelian walls of ancient Rome, are Capparis orientalis, also edible.


All over the city, you can see Nasone, also called a Fontanella, a type of drinking fountain found in Italy and first introduced in the 1870s. There are approximately 2,500–2,800 nasoni in Rome, supplying people with free drinking water.


An old Olive Tree next to the Septimius Severus Arch


View through Septimius Severus Arch 


I had a strange encounter with a Gecko on my way back from visiting the
Colosseum. I almost stepped on it before I spotted it on the ground and I assumed it was dead. When I went down to take a photo it jumped into my trousers video here. I think it is Mediterranean House Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus


Street Trees of Rome 


There is a lot of variety of street trees in Rome and all of the trees I came across seemed in excellent health. I suspect there is plenty of water and nutrients for the plants to access down there under city infrastructure. The trees certainly provide the city with tons of charm and make it comfortable to walk around in the midday heat. More often than not each street will be planted with a single species on both sides of the road.

Other common avenue plantings include Robinia pseudoacacia - Black LocustMorus alba - White Mulberry (a non-fruiting cultivar), Celtis occidentalis - Hackberry, and Platanus sp.  In the Celio district, it was remarkable how pleasant the shade cast by the non-fruiting mulberry trees was. You could feel the cool moisture in the air. 

The narrower roads feature Nerium oleander and Cercis siliquostrum - Judas Tree and Laurus nobilis - Bay Tree is planted in green spaces throughout the city. I noticed that Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder is being newly planted along streets in some areas of the city but did not see any mature specimens. Alnus cordata  - Italian Alder is a quite popular street tree in the UK and many urban developments in the past few decades have used this plant. The conical crown, nitrogen-fixing ability, and drought, wind, and pollution tolerance make it a great option for a city street tree.  Laurus nobilis - Bay Tree is often planted as an understory plant and seems to grow very well under Stone Pine as you can see in the below picture


There is a lot of graffiti (all over Italy it seems) I guess that's why everyone else uses the Italian word Graffiti. The old olives and bay trees really compliment the work :) 


While trying to identify Oak trees in Rome, I found an interesting reference by Cornelius & Elbourne who had been studying oak-tree rings across the Roman frontier, to gain a read on the weather patterns during the roman empire (thin rings signify little rain during the growing season, wide rings signify seasons with high rainfall) and they cross-referenced this data with assassination dates of emperors. They identified a strong association between rainfall patterns and the duration that Roman emperors would hold power and found that a decline in annual rainfall significantly increased the probability that an emperor would be assassinated the following year.  Interestingly about one in five emperors were assassinated in those days, worse odds than Russian roulette    

Desire Paths 


When planning access within a site it's often beneficial to deliberately leave land fully or partially un-pathed, waiting to see what desire-paths are created, and then creating permanent access in those areas. This is how we establish the majority of secondary access routes within our gardens. The below desire path caught my eye.  


Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course 

Want to learn how to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes?  Join us for our Regenerative Landscape Design - Online Interactive Course from May 1st to Sep 13th, 2023. 

We're super excited about running the course and look forward to providing you with the confidence, inspiration, and opportunity to design, build and manage regenerative landscapes, gardens, and farms that produce food and other resources for humans while enhancing biodiversity.

You can find out all about the course here and right now we have a 20% discount on the full enrollment fees. Just use the promo code RLD2023 in the section of the registration form to receive your discount. 

We are looking forward to providing you with this unique online learning experience - as far as we know, the very first of its kind. If you are thinking of reasons why you should do this course and whether this course is suitable for you, take a look here where we lay it all out. Looking forward to it!


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

We offer a diversity of plants and seeds for permaculture, forest gardens, and regenerative landscapes including a range of fruit and nut cultivars. We Deliver all over Europe from Nov - March. - Give a happy plant a happy home :)


Our Bio-Nursery - Permaculture/Polyculture/ Regenerative Landscape Plants 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Support Our Project 




If you appreciate the work we are doing you can show your support in several ways.

  • Comment, like, and share our content on social media.
  • Donate directly via PayPal to balkanecologyproject@gmail.com or via FTX Pay