Wisteria arch at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
In the 19th Century the Marquis of Casa Loring built a country house and planted the gardens with tropical and sub tropical flora from America, Asia, Africa and Oceania. In 1943 it was declared a historical and artistic garden. In 1990 it was purchased by Malaga City Council and opened to the public in 1994. Since then the gardens have been developed, the last portions being opened to the public in 2009. There are routes within the park suitable for everybody. Some are suitable for wheelchairs, some for those who enjoy a short stroll and the forest walk is best undertaken in good shoes or trainers. Altogether there are over 4 kilometers of paths and tracks to explore.
March is a particularly good month to visit, the famous Wisteria arch is exuberant with blossom.
Water Lily and Frog at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
In the pools the water lilies are flowering and the magnificent wrought iron pergola alongside the Loring mansion is enveloped in blue Wisteria.
In the middle section of the park a stream has been diverted into a series of pools and streams that cascade down the hill in a natural defile planted with monstera deliciosa, strelitzia, small palms and other plants normally found on a sun dappled jungle floor. The result is a lush green panorama with occasional bursts of vivid reds and oranges. Rising through them are various species of ficus, many with intricately columned and twisted trunks and exposed roots providing a striking architectural framework.
Further up the hill the trees become thinner and you emerge onto a Mediterranean sun scorched slope with native species such as ipomea and every colour of bindweed and dog rose vying for attention. At the western end of this area cactus from all over the world find a hospitable environment to thrive.
Slightly lower than the cactus garden are the formal gardens. A Roman style circular pergola stands at one end of a long pool with stately, slender Cyprus trees providing an avenue of view over the whole of Malaga city. The hillside below is ablaze with bougainvillea and the banks are covered with fragrant blue rosemary and other herbs.
The eastern end of the park is a complete contrast. This area was originally the orchard supplying the estate and there are still orange, lemon and pomegranate trees, some nearly 200 years old and still flowering and fruiting.
The remainder of this part is devoted to trees from all over the world. A tall, exotic Erythrina crista-galli from Uruguay has an umbrella shaped crown covered in orange flowers similar to a lily. The first flowers actually appear before the leaves to attract the first of the new season’s insects. Normally conservative explorers, seeing this tree for the first time, called it the Cockspur Coral Tree in a rare burst of poetic exuberance.
Nearby is an equally exotic Bauhinia from the Chinese Himalayas with huge pink flowers similar to an hibiscus but much more delicate and with a very pale green leaf. Not for nothing is it known as the Orchid Tree.
Stelitzia at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
Returning to the centre sections you can cool off walking in the shade of 10 metre high stands of black bamboo, each stem is an ebony black wand with a tuft of green leaves at the tip. Nearby is the more common golden bamboo that can grow at the rate of 1 centimetre per day.
For adults the gardens are a place of wonder and the nearest most will get to a jungle without donning a pith helmet and taking up a machete. For children it is a magical place, their imaginations filling it with demons and fairies reminiscent of tales told in the nursery, and, who knows, there could easily be a goblin beneath that bridge over the dashing stream in the gloom of the metre wide leaves of the Monsteras rambling up the Ficus trees.
Camelia at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
Throughout the park there are benches and picnic areas and there is a restaurant with service areas near the entrance. This is a day out that can be enjoyed by every member of the family.
There are two times in the year when the gardens are at their best, autumn and spring after heavy rain. In autumn you may expect to see some flowering trees and exotic ground plants from the jungles of South America and Africa whilst in spring the wisteria and water plants are at their best.
Before even out of the car in the car park you will see towering over the dividing wall, an unusual tree in full flower, a succulent, deciduous, flowering tree from Argentina and Brazil. The Chorisia has a fleshy trunk and branches with huge thorns to ward off any animal likely to consider it a meal. The flowers are large funnel shaped and in shades of pink and white.
Bougainvilla at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
Inside the gardens, luxuriant after the rains, it resembles wandering through a jungle with tall palms and bare trunked exotic trees and their high branches, closely planted beneath with plants normally found on the jungle floor, there is a second unusual flower near a 12 foot high poinsettia with its brightly coloured bracts, a creamy coloured flower on a Monstera deliciosa.
This is a real treat since the Monstera only flowers when the plant is well established and then only infrequently. There are hundreds of Monsteras in the gardens, climbing the trees and the sides of waterfalls so the chances of finding one or two in flower is good. The flowers are 20 to 30cm high, creamy coloured spathes hidden beneath the large pinnate leaves. The fruit is edible, cream in colour and cone shaped.
You should see another flowering jungle floor plant from South America, a Zamia. The flower is a tall, felted, cone-like flower spike rearing up from the centre of a whorl of primitive looking leaves.
Between these treasures there is a host of flowering mid level shrubs, all striving to find a little ray of sunshine, including the spectacular Erythrina or Coral Tree, and a lovely double flowered, deep red Hibiscus.
Back to ground level there are any number of more common flowering plants and a favourite on this visit, a perfect specimen of a Strelitzia.
Exotic Flower at La Concepcion Botanical Gardens
The gardens are free to enter on Sundays between October 1st and March 31st.
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