Spanish Garden Design

For Ludwig’s Roses by Emma Brown

Beautiful pines, graceful ferns, and sun-soaked piazzas make the Spanish garden one of the most serene and blissful, crafted to make the most of the generous sun but with graceful interludes of shade. A delicate blend of open spaces, cool sanctuaries and artfully balanced detail and simplicity, it’s one of many landscaping concepts which are easily achieved and aesthetically pleasing. The gentle climate of South Africa means that the variety of garden projects available are boundless, and the versatile Spanish garden can be adapted in a myriad of ways to accommodate the outdoor lifestyle that you desire.

Design Principles

Spanish gardens are a mixture of the grandiose and pastoral, of curves and columns, of vibrant colours and pastel hues. They take their influences from PersianRoman, and Moorish designs (like the famous Moroccan Jardin Majorelle), changing over the centuries but keeping the same general outline. These are the design principles, some of which are similar to the Victorian style:

  • The design is primarily rectangular and symmetrical, with variations of circular and cornered shapes
  • Paths are parallel and perpendicular, outlining long promenades
  • Beds, lawns and pools are geometrically shaped
  • Columns, arches and trellis-work are used to emphasize the design
  • Classical and Moorish ornaments and statues are used as focal points
  • Brick, stone, and tiled courtyards are central to the design, with bright colours
  • Topiary plants are clipped and shaped into balls, columns, and rectangles

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Unlike French gardens which are highly geometric, pristine and trimmed, Spanish gardens are orderly but more wild and natural, giving off the impression of a small, contained space which is usually enclosed by a courtyard. Smaller accents lead up to a focal point at the end of the garden where all the elements are drawn together.

The traditional Spanish garden focuses more on shape than on colour, but is diverse in its range of combinations. Here are a few examples:

[Insert image here, and properly attribute as follows: Gartenanlage Generalife, Alhambra, Granada, Spanien eigene Aufnahme, Erstellungsdatum 22.Juni 2006, Autor Peter Lorber]

Alcazar Jerez

Alcazar Jerez

Common Plants and Patterns

Some of the best plants to use in a Spanish garden include:

  • Magnolia, orchid, myrtle
  • Bougainvilleas and bignonias of varying colours
  • Jasmine, passion flowers, roses, mandevillas and dipladenias
  • Hibiscus, lantanas, oleanders, and angels trumpets
  • Cacti
  • Figs, oranges, pineapples, grapefruits

magnolia jasmine-flowers fig Cactus Hibiscus cactus-2 passiflora myrtle_2 dipladenia_diamantina_jade_red angels_trumpet_pink_large_c

Roses that would do well in such Spanish garden style:


Kissing Ayoba Red Ayoba Sunny Ayoba 2

Kissing Ayoba     Red Ayoba         Sunny Ayoba


Deloitte & Touche kinders van die wind 011 Playmate Pots07 Playmate is growing in a woven container

Deloitte & Touche      Kinders v. d. Wind             Playmate

Hybrid Teas

Tineke in full flush Full Sail Arlene Archbishop Tutu open

Tineke                Full Sail               Arlene                Archbishop Tutu

Standards are also very popular to give height



Towering Rose Magic  Cherry Garland with Fiery Sunsation at its feet over the dome at Ludwig's Rose Farm. Perfumed Breeze

Towering Rose Magic, Cherry Garland & Perfumed Breeze

The Spanish garden can be as rustic or as refined as you wish – rough stone paths work beautifully for a country life look, and symmetrical tiling can work wonderfully in more regal styles. Choosing tiles that are rich, deep hues as well as brightly lit ones can create a warm, pastoral charm, and don’t have to be geometrically arranged although tighter patterning can create a striking contrast with the rest of the garden. Even mosaics can produce enchanting effects when used as a focal point or minimalist accents, but like all other elements of the garden, it must blend organically. The fluid and diverse character of the garden allows for huge creative potential to incorporate other influences as well, and finding hand-crafted artwork and perusing local markets for ceramics, produce and other essentials to place in the garden will help to spur on the creative juices.

Other Planning Ideas

There is never greater inspiration than seeking other ideas and finding ways to blend styles and techniques of gardening. Perusing forums and websites like Garden Design provides a great opportunity to see some new styles, as well as pinterest and art websites. There are several online resources available such as gardening courses which can be taken over the internet, and YouTube presents a vast treasure trove of instructional videos as well as free interactive software which gives you the chance to brainstorm and sketch out some ideas. Visiting the local library and renting or buying guides on gardening is also an informative and fascinating source for creativity, and even older editions of publications which can reveal some true gems of landscaping design and technique, and there is no harm in asking friends, families, co-workers and professional landscapers for some key advice. Best of all, you could even visit the great gardens of Spain, whether it is Park Güell in Barcelona, the Royal Place Gardens in Aranjuez, the Gardens of the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos in Cordoba, or the magnificent Alhambra.

With so many eclectic tastes and influences and freedom for creativity, the Spanish garden is the perfect setting for artistic expression, festive occasions and peaceful evenings. Perhaps one of the most beautiful styles of garden in the world, it is truly a splendour of natural and hand-crafted environments.

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