Tag Archive: terracotta


IMG_0851Our recent visit to Portugal included a longer trip 1 hour north from Lisbon to a fascinating park (it is too big to be called a garden)- in fact it is billed as the biggest oriental park in Europe, stretching to around 35 hectares.

Developed within the Quinta dos Loridos vineyard, the Buddha Eden Peace Park was inspired as recently as 2001, when wealthy Portuguese investor and art patron José Berardo was shocked by the Taliban government’s destruction of the Giant Buddhas in Afghanistan.  In response to the demolition of these masterpieces of the late Gandhara period, Berardo initiated the Buddha Eden in an homage to these cultural and spiritual monuments.

Buddhas, pagodas, terracotta statues and carefully placed sculptures (modern and western) can be found throughout the park. It is estimated that some six thousand tons of marble and granite were used to create this monumental work of art.

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It is certainly an impressive achievement and one which has been laid out to a monumental scale. There are beautifully framed views and a wide range of interesting features to capture your attention as you wander round the clearly defined pathways. The planting, as you might expect at this scale, is simple and must look dramatic earlier in the season when masses of Agapanthus are in flower.

The central staircase is the focal point of the park, where the reclining golden Buddha, despite its size, creates a sense of calm.

At the central lake, Koi (Japanese carp) fish can be seen, and sculpted dragons rise out of the water.

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There are seven hundred hand-painted terracotta soldiers, each of them unique copies of those which were buried some 2,200 years ago in China. These looked to be in need of repainting (and in one or two cases more significant repair), but being able to walk among them (they were all well over 6 feet tall) was a strangely unnerving (but enjoyable) experience.

The park is certainly a fantastic visitor experience, though by the end of our visit I was feeling a little ‘over buddhad’ and almost overwhelmed by the monumentality of everything. Perhaps some thought needs to be given to creating some smaller, more human scale spaces which can complement the rest of the Park – and in doing so, perhaps making the experience of this even more intense.

The park seems to be unsure of what it is trying to be, perhaps at a stage of transition from one man’s passionate and bold move to preserve a cultural legacy to something akin to a modern-day theme park- nicely captured by the electric train that ferries visitors unwilling or unable to walk around the site!

Old School Gardener

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IMG_8433My earlier article described how I put together a new wooden planter for my courtyard garden, made by Woodblocx. I’ve now finished it.

First, I gave the rough planed outside a sand down with a medium grade sanding disc, wiped it over and then applied two coats of Dulux Woodsheen (colour Ebony) to make the finished article match in with the other black planters in the garden. This gives it a nice semi gloss finish. I then fixed some hammer- in studs to the bottom to raise it slightly off the ground (to prevent it being in contact with standing water), and lined it with landscape fabric, stapled to the sides to give a neat finish. This will hold the soil in and also protect the inside surfaces of the planter.

The planter painted and lined, ready to fill.
The planter painted and lined, ready to fill.

I then made up a mix to fill it- roughly 3 parts soil, 2 parts compost and 2 parts horticultural grit, to ensure that the soil is free draining. Having really packed this in and slightly overfilled it to allow for settlement, I arranged a selection of alpine plants I’d bought from my local nursery (£12.50 for ten plants – I ended up buying 20 – and then a few more larger plants to give the planting a bit of structure).

The planter isn’t really large enough for me to create a more ‘mountain-like’ scene with rocks and crevices to create shady conditions, but hopefully the plants that need a shadier spot will be helped by the shade cast by the larger plants. To finish off or ‘dress’ the surface I used a bag of ‘Eco Aggregate’ – this is a range of recycled stones. I chose crushed terracotta (old tiles) which picks up the colours of some of the other terracotta pots, brickwork and floor pavers.

I’m pleased with the result – it will add an interesting feature to the courtyard and is low enough to be viewed from the seating next to it. What do you think? If you’re interested in finding out more about ‘Woodblocx’ click the link on the right hand side.

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Old School Gardener

IMG_8032Our October visit to Portugal concluded with a day packed with garden visits to the west of Lisbon and in the regal suburb of Sintra to the north- home to many a splendid palace and garden.

We began at a restored baroque garden in the riverside  town of  Caxias. The Quinta Real de Caxias is located quite close to the train station (direct services to and from Lisbon). It was a leisure residence of Queen D. Maria I, as well as the home of King Luís for a few weeks, before he moved to the Ajuda Palace (which we’d visited a few days before).

Inspired by the gardens at the Palace of Versailles, the formal parterres- woven in intricate patterns – are interspersed with various water features, statuary and tall Brazilian pine trees.

The waterfall, ornamented with terracotta statues (of the Machado de Castro school), is the centre piece. Set out at the end of the principal avenue the fountain itself (made out of weather – beaten limestone), is flanked by two wings of tiered terracing, accessed by staircases at either end – the perfect spot form which to view the patterns of the box parterres.

Awarded a European Prize for the Recovery of Historical Gardens, the local Council has done a superb job in restoring much of the baroque splendour of this ‘off the beaten track’ haven. I could have spent hours here ‘chilling out’ – and it would have been even more alluring if the water features had been in operation. Maybe that’s something for the next phase of restoration?

Old School Gardener

This is the second in a series of snippets of information and pictures that try to capture the essence of different garden styles.

Mediterranean style gardens have undefined pathways, often covered with loose material such as gravel, which is used as a mulch over planting areas- this serves to unify the different elements of the garden. Other key features of this style include:

  • shady seating areas – pergolas, arbours or under sun awnings
  • gravel or paved/tiled floors
  • rills and pools of water and the sound of flowing water
  • succulents, silver foliage and other drought loving plants
  • terracotta pots and tiles
  • mosaic wall/floor features
  • painted walls

Let me know what you think makes a Mediterranean style garden, and if you have some pictures I’d love to see them!

Old School Gardener

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