Some of the most beautiful gardens on Lanzarote can be found in the island’s hotels. That’s why we spent a fascinating morning at the Hotel Jameos Playa at Matagorda, whose grounds are a beautifully designed and immaculately-kept botanical garden.
Hotel director Beate Sekula tells us that the gardens at the Jameos Playa were designed by landscaper Luis Vallejo, a Madrid-based garden architect who has created beautiful gardens in Spain, Kuwait, Morocco and Israel. Head gardener is Juan Jesús Doníz, who arrives once a week from Tenerife to oversee the gardens, and the five gardeners hired by the hotel.
Beate explains that these professionals select the plants, “They all have to fit into a sub-tropical garden concept.” Beate once planted a small jasmine in one of the borders herself, but it was immediately noticed and had to be removed. “They don’t miss a thing,” she smiles “And that makes my job easier, as I don’t have to worry about this aspect of the hotel.”
For Beate, the stars of the gardens are the palms, huge, elegant clusters of Washingtonia and Date palms that tower over everything else and are living symbols of a sub-tropical paradise. Elsewhere, there are impressive clusters of Canarian palms and the strange Canarian Drago tree. Ornamental colour and foliage is provided by Grevillea robusta and several varieties of ficus tree, while, Tipuana tipu shrubs from Brazil explode into brilliant orange.
The palms are perfectly kept, their trunks regularly trimmed to prevents insects breeding in the cracks. Here and there, the odd, bulbous trunks of the Drago trees can be seen – another source of huge pride in the gardens.
Some of the palms are clustered in “islands” – a nod to Canarian culture that also includes stone walls based on the vineyards of La Geria, and a colour scheme that nods to the influence of César Manrique on the island.
But there is so much more than palms. The delicate leaves of Flamboyan trees shade parts of garden, and they, along with African Flame or Tulip trees, will burst into brilliant red flower later this year. The delicate fern-like fronds of a strange Cycas revoluta explode like a fountain.
Two of the most beautiful plants are also among the easiest to cultivate here. A Lantana camara shrub is in full flower, with fragrant, brilliant orange flowers; while the pale blue clusters of flowers on a Plumbago plant are running riot in a number of beds.
We pause to breathe in the gorgeous scent of a delicate pink oleander flower that overlooks the mini-golf course, before heading for the aromatic garden, where we find bay, laurel, mango, rosemary, grapevines, lemon and banana plants. This is still a work in progress, as are the experimental patios we see in a semi-enclosed area. Here, Dracaena (or Mother in Law’s Tongue) plants reach up like green flames from geometric containers, with LED light displays above. These are Luis Vallejo’s experiments – a fascinating glimpse at how garden design is developed.
During our tour we see scores of tourists, already relaxing by the pool or enjoying a late breakfast in these perfect surroundings. “Guests love the gardens,” says Beate “I see them feeling the leaves when they arrive because they’re so perfect they think they’re plastic. I’m often asked for cuttings, and sometimes they even send me photos of the plants they’ve grown at home as a result!”
Gardener Joaquín Bustos tells us that watering is the most important aspect of his daily duties, followed by pest control: “Cochinilla insects are the greatest threat at the moment,” he explains. Joaquín has arrived from a centre opposite the hotel where there is a water purification facility, as well as a garden nursery where new plants are nurtured, and organic composting.
The gardens at the Hotel Jameos Playa can be enjoyed by anyone on the island. We’d recommend booking a meal at the excellent restaurant and taking your time to enjoy the gastronomic and horticultural delights on offer.
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