The ‘historic’ gardens of the Real Alacazar, which I wrote about in first part of this blog are all to do with close integration of indoor and outdoor space in Moorish/Mudejar design. Close to the palace there is a wall within which this mixed space is defined, outside the wall, although there are many archways and gates through it, and a spectacular galleried walkway, we are in much more into the conventional European style of garden as a distinct entity and a space in its own right.
The move from intimate to spacious is gradual, both in terms of space and age. The Alcove garden was the first to be restored in the 16th century, created from the former orchards of the Moorish gardens. This area is centred on the Charles V Pavillion, a magnificent restoration of the original qubba.
The next major change the original gardens was the expansion of the Damsels’ Garden, and building of the Grotto Gallery, by Vermondo Resta, in the early 17th century (begun 1606). The purpose of this was to extend the privacy of the gardens and courtyards within the inner walls of the Real Alacazar to the gardens immediately next to the inner walls. The architectural style was mannerist, and the planting formal – eight retangular beds bordered by myrtle hedges, each enclosing a rectangular parterre design. The beds are divided by a central passage, with fountains and water spouts embedded in the paving.
The ‘Damsels’ after whom the garden is named are the now gone statues of the Godesses Hera, Aphrodite, and Athena, and Queen Helena – not as, one might think, the ‘Damsels’ of the Royal Household who enjoyed the gardens.
Further from the palace are several acres of gardens, partly built in the old orchards and gardens of the Real Alacazar, and partly built on new ground in the 18th and 19th century. Of these, my favourite is the also the newest of the gardens, The Poet’s Garden: a modern interpretation of a classic renaissance theme, itself based on the timeless principles of the Moorish garden – regular geometry, pools, fountains, pathways, evergreen hedges, and places to sit, walk and enjoy the shade an sounds of water.