Adios Espana


Our last day in Spain, and we were all ready to head back to Longwood! Our eleven days in Spain turned out to be quite an amazing time as we fell in love with the beautiful historic cities, architecture, and Mediterranean flora. After visiting 6 different major cities (North and South along the eastern coast of Spain), we were able to fully experience the Spanish Culture. This study abroad trip was a great experience, and we were able to learn much from our garden visits. 

Dr. Trader pumping the gas before we return our rental vans, which clocked 1,852 km

Friday morning we left our hotel at 8 AM for our 12:30 flight, with our bags weighing more in olive oil than they did of clothes. At the Madrid airport we parted with three of our classmates (Emma, Deb, and Gavin) who were traveling on to England for a visit.

Our plane from the airport window

In the terminal waiting for our flight

Our plane departed without delay, and we arrived safely in Philadelphia around 3:30 pm Eastern U.S. time (9:30 pm Spain time).

Last group shot while we wait for the Longwood Vans! Thanks for the ride Janet!

We are all very excited to be back at Longwood Gardens, however slightly confused as to the current time and day.  Thank you for following our travels through Spain; we sincerely hope you enjoyed reading all of our posts. We invite you to attend our”Brown Bag” highlighting our travels through Spain, which we hope to schedule near the end of the month. 




Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm  Comments (1)  

Homeward Bound

We left Sevilla at 08:30 with fields of golden sunflowers to bid us farewell as the road beckoned us onward towards Madrid. Our fearless leader Brian was a terrific driver with his hand on the wheel at 10 and 2.


Breakfast was at a restaurant called Mallorca and was delicious, smokey and bustling with civil servant workers. Our ride continued with on and off rain for the remainder of the trip. The scenery continued to change and became more agricultural with more fields of olive trees, sunflowers and rice.

 Our arrival to the hotel was seamless at 15:30 (a good long ride). We quickly checked in and took an impromptu taxi ride over to the Real Jardin Botanico for a visit.

Statue near the entrance of the botanical garden

We saw many familiar plant genera both tropical and temperate. Geranium, Aeonium, Euphorbia, Cycas, and Zamia were just a few of the many species displayed in the Cacti and Succulent House within the Botanical Garden.

Picture of the succulent house from the above "cat" walk

Outdoors, large beds for specimens were arranged formally in a grid design with short Buxus sempervirens defining the edges. The tree specimens were mature and spectacular.

The Botanical Garden also employs similar IPM methods as Longwood……..

Cat enjoying some Nepeta in the Garden

After the garden we headed across the street for our last dinner in Spain. Dinner at La Taperia was delicious and all that is left is trying to pack all of our gifts from Spain in our suitcases! We will conclude our Spain blog tomorrow upon our return to Kennett Square!

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 4:54 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rain in Spain?

Even the  Mediterranean gets a little precipitation now and again, and our voyage to Sevilla today was accompanied by a bit of a shower. After a spin through the labyrinthine streets of Malaga, we finally made it to the motorway and were once again on the road and headed for adventure.

The view down the pedestrian avenue where our hotel in Malaga was located

We stopped for lunch at what appeared to be the Spanish version of a roadside truckstop with a hotel and very interesting restaurant that did have what could possibly be the best french fries in the world (our educated guess says they’re fried in olive oil – talk about tasty!). After a hearty meal of tortillas (not the kind you get in US grocery stores), salads, chicken, and of course the fries, we dodged raindrops and made it to Sevilla just as the clouds were clearing.

One of the patios in our hotel in Sevilla

After checking into our hotel (which is the perfect place for a group of horticulture students to stay since all the rooms are named for various flora) we walked through more narrow, cobbled streets to our next destination: the Catedral de Sevilla. There are many benefits to traveling, not the least of which are the constant discoveries one makes. For instance, today we discovered that guide books aren’t always correct and the Cathedral was closed to ‘cultural visitors’ by the time we arrived, even though the guide book stated a later closing time. This was a bit of a disappointment as the Cathedral here is the third largest in the world after St. Paul’s in London and the cathedral in St. Petersburg, and is the largest Gothic cathedral anywhere, so a visit to Sevilla isn’t complete without a tour of the cathedral. We were able to steal glimpses of it through closed gates and traversed the exterior, marveling at the carved stone and sheer size of the place. We also discovered that there was a small public garden nearby and walked to it, passing by the former home of Washington Irving, an American diplomat, writer, and historian who was ambassador to Spain in the early 1800’s. A peek through the gate revealed a colorful and beautifully kept patio courtyard filled with flowers that stopped all of us in our tracks.

The patio of Washington Irving's home in Sevilla

A peek at La Catedral de Sevilla through a Moorish keyhole gate

As public green spaces go, Spain is definitely a fan and there are parks and gardens in every city we’ve seen. The Jardines de Murillo was a pleasant park with shady groves and painted tile benches situated around bubbling fountains. This park also contained several ginormous Ficus elastica – of which the buttress roots gave the cathedral buttresses a run for their money!

Gavin provides scale for this Ficus elastica at Jardines de Murillo

Plants here followed the expected Mediterranean palette: Ficus, Lantana, Bougainvillea, Palms, Oleander, Plumbago. The decomposed granite paths were a bit slushy after the rain, but the park appeared well-tended (though not to Longwood standards, if I do say so myself) and was also well-used with many people strolling the paths and sitting on benches enjoying the emerging sun.

After a stroll through the park, we decided to search for the location of our evening festivities – Flamenco! Emma made reservations for us at one of the many Flamenco theatres, called The House of Memories located in the historic Barrio Santa Cruz area not far from the Cathedral. Having collected our tickets we went around the corner to a small square and enjoyed our first real Spanish Tapas! Dishes such as Pollo al curry con guarnicion de arroz, Emanaditos de pollo, and Pincho de pollo con queso y bacon gave us a taste of the area’s authentic cuisine, eaten in the twilight with views of a church built in 1741!

Flamenco artists after their amazing performance

The Flamenco performance was one of the most anticipated cultural events of our visit. It was held in a patio courtyard, enclosed on four sides. Where it was once open to the sky, a canvas covering now provides shelter and diffuses the evening light. The audience surrounded the stage – a square wood platform set in the center of the terracotta tile courtyard – on three sides, with the fourth being the stage backdrop – a curtain of ivy cascading down the wall and trailing over the balconies on the upper floors. The balconies were decorated with windowboxes and pots of geraniums decorated the patio. Behind the performers’ chairs, tall pots of yellow and orange lilies, gerberas, and carnations added their scent and color while some blossoms of each floated in a basin of water on the opposite side of the stage.

To describe the dancing, Shannon said it best: it was like fireworks!

It’s hard to believe our time in Spain is almost over but we have seen some incredible sights! Today we drive to Madrid and will fly home to PA tomorrow. All of us have had an incredible time, and a few of us are already planning our return visits to see more!

Published in: on June 10, 2010 at 2:09 am  Comments (1)  

Itś always sunny in Malaga!

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010.  Today was a beautiful day to be traveling to a new city, and seeing a new garden! The temperature was in the 80ś with low humidity.

After taking one last look up to the Alhambra, we left our hotel in Granada, the Jaguan Del Darro.  We left around 0730 hours for a two hour drive to the city of Malaga, along the coast in Southern Spain.  Our first stop was to a 49 hectare garden with the largest, open air collection of tropical plants in all of Europe, La conception, the Jardin Botanico of Malaga (Malaga botanic garden).  The gardens were initially created in 1857 by the Marquis of Casa Loring and his wife.  The gardens were also subsequently expanded by their second owners, the Echevarrias-Echevarrieta family in 1911.  In the spring of 1990, the gardens were taken over by the Malaga City Council, and were opened to the public on June 20th, 1994.

Dispite the arid, moutanous location of the garden in Malaga, there is an extreme diversity of tropical and subtropical flora within this garden!  Also, there are also over 1,000 species (including 100 varieties of palm trees) as well as some 200 autochthonous plants (previously existing plants from when the garden was started!).  La conception also has a series of labratories, an herbarium and a seed bank for research.  The gardens employ about 40 gardeners, and incorporate student programs into the mission.  Student opportunities include; specific programs designed for school children from Malaga and surrounding areas, and internships where students are able to work directly with the gardeners, much like Longwood!

After receiving a tour from our guide, Carmen, we gave her a ride into the city.  We were very thankful for her because we ran into some parking complications when traveling through the city.  We finally arrived at our hotel, Petit Palace Plaza in the evening.

After we got settled into our hotel, we visited the Pacio de Parce, located along the beach.  This park was planted with an allee of palm trees.  Within the park were specimen plants such as; Ficus elastica, Araurcaria araurcana (Monkey puzzle tree), large Strelitzia sp., Dracaena sp., Jacaranda sp. and Eucalyptus.  Other plants in peak bloom were Thulbalgia sp., Allium (white and purple) and Geranium.

After viewing the park, itś plantings, and also some interesting statues, we had some time to go to the  Malagueta beach and catch some sun rays!  Later on in the evening we went to a fresh fish restaurant called Mariano.  The fish was brought to our table to show how fresh and how large the portions would be.  We are still just getting used to the afternoon siestas of the Spanish people, as well as the late dinners after dusk hours of the night!

Tomorrow we spend the morning viewing a bit morel of Malaga before we travel to Sevilla!

Just a note from Brian Trader: we apologize for the absence of pictures in this post. We have tried diligently to attach our photos to the blog without success. Suzanne was up late into the evening trying different solutions, and I have worked on it this morning. The hotel provides computers in our rooms for internet access, but the computers will not allow users to attach documents from the USB ports or desktop. My personal laptop will not connect to the internet (likely because they provide computer services in the room already). We hope to update this post later today upon our arrival into Sevilla! Thanks for reading!

Edited June 9 to include photos:

Painted ceramic tile at the entrance to La Conception

An allee of Platanus - reaching for the light and prevailing winds have curved the trunks over the walkway

Out guide at La Conception, Carmen, holding the weighty blossom of a Strelitzia nicholai

Published in: on June 9, 2010 at 2:29 am  Leave a Comment  

Amazingly Awesome Andalucia’s Alhambra

Today was our second day in Granada’s sun soaked streets and we took in as much culture and gardens as humanly possible. The morning started off right with a tasty breakfast packed  with ice cream scoops in coffee and  fundidos (large bagel-like sandwiches with melted cheese and wild mushrooms).  We have all fallen in love with the care-free vibe in Granada and do not want to leave.  After breakfast, some of us went to seek out a laundromat while a few others toured the Granada Cathedral. Early in the afternoon, we all boarded a bus at two o’clock for entry to the Alhambra & Generalife.   

The PG Class of December 2010 in Granada. Pictured back row from left: Steven Cirafesi, Nate Reuther, Hudson Kalble, Gavin Witmeyer. Front row from left: Deb Wiles, Suzanne Caron, Brian Trader, Shannon Schmidt, Emma Seniuk

Alhambra receives 8,000 visitors a day and it was the last and the greatest  Moorish Palaces of Europe where it was once  ruled by the Nazarids, the Spanish Muslims until 1492.  I loved the  alluring mystique  of the Palace  and I yearn for  places that make you feel that you’ve traveled back into time.  My favorite aspects were the intricate, ornate carvings in stucco, plaster called stalactites that allowed fine rays of light to pass through.  No picture can do justice to the fine, painstaking , laborious work that went into creating this heavenly Persian Palace.

The Nasrid Palace

Detail of carving on a wall of the Nasrid Palace

Generalife Palace

Strolling through the various patios, I saw an enclosed space divided by four squares and we learned in Longwood’s History and Theory of Landscape Design Class, that the four blocks represent the Holy rivers of Persia seen by the nomadic Kings and represent Earth, Wind, Water , and Fire.

One of the aromas that tickled my senses included the prolific, colorful hybrid tea roses (that I literally devoted a whole half hour to smelling).  I was very impressed by the way they had conserved their most precious and least abundant resource: Water.  Water plays a pivitol role in Persian Gardens which is ironic for being in a desert/Mediterranean climate where water conservation has to be key.  I really loved the  double orange flowered pomegranate (Punica granatum), the stately Italian cypress ( Cupressus sempervirens), Lavendula ssp, etc.

Time is going by so fast and we are hanging on to every second; none of us want this learning experience to end!   Next Stop:  Malaga which is in the Costa del Sol. Tomorrow we will tour the Garden La Conception and the Paseo del Parque. For all of the sun worshipers, there may be a little time in the afternoon for the beach!!!!!

Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Andalucia bound and snow…?

View of the Alhambra from the Hotel road

This morning we concluded our visit in Valencia, and headed on our way to Granada in southern Spain.  The drive was expected to be about five hours.  Not far into the drive, we found ourselves climbing through winding mountain passes and becoming surrounded by plateaus and mesas.  We saw large mountains up close and at a distance, but we also saw many more agricultural plantings of Citrus sp., Olea sp. (olives) and some other crops such as pineapples, avocados, and grapes.  It was fascinating to see how the Spanish people made excellent use of their land.  Some growing techniques we observed during our travel were; terracing on mountainsides and large fields/orchards that were weed free and cultivated well between the rows.  It was surprising to see how well the plants were growing, especially on the terraced mountain sides, where the soil is expected to be shallow and uneasy to work with.  We had seen areas like these on our way to Valencia, but noticed an increase in land usage on the mountainsides on our way to Granada. 

Sierra Morena in the distance on the drive in

Granada is located in the middle of the Sierra Morena Mountains: Morena translates to Nevada. It was very interesting to see the mountain range which aside from the agricultural crops were also covered in , Poppies,  Agave, many various grasses, and several species of Pines and Palms. There were also the remains of many castle-like structures, some of which were built into mountains sides. To our surprise, as we approached Granada, we were met with a beautiful view of a snow-capped mountain! We were all trying to explain why there would still be snow on a mountain top, in June, when the temperature was approaching 90 degrees F, and we found as we came closer that the mountain was much higher in altitude than it appeared when we first saw it. 

Andalucia is one of the seventeen autonomous regions located in southern Spain. It is one of the most populous communities and is divided into eight seperate provinces:  Huelva, Seville, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga, Jaén, Granada and Almería. The city has a heavy Iberian/Moorish influence and a rich history which we are all very excited to learn more about. The streets are cobblestone and extremely narrow and the homes are charming and well kept with many plants on their balconies and patios.

The Spanish love their window gardening!

Please enjoy some pictures taken around our hotel (Hotel Zaguan del Darro).

Gardens at a local residence

A city view


Tomorrow we will be visiting the Alhambra!

Class picture in the alleyway



Published in: on June 7, 2010 at 3:32 am  Comments (2)  

Goodbye Barcelona, Hola Valencia!

This one's for Dr. Casey Sclar

After our third day in Barcelona, and our hearty breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our things and piled into the vans. We all woke up well rested and ready for our four and a half hour drive to the city of Valencia. The highway was in close proximity to the coast and we were able to get a few glimpses of it before driving through the valley which consisted of miles upon miles of: olive and citrus groves, wineries, Nerium oleander hedges, and Cytisus scoparius. Some of us watched the country side, others took naps, and two in particular sang spanish pop songs! (Gavin and Dr. Trader)

The view outside of our hotel!

We arrived at our hotel around 12:30, ate a quick lunch and headed to the Jardi Botanic de la Universitat de Valencia via bus. The “Botanic Garden of Valencia University” dates back to 1567 when the University started a medicinal herb garden for research. It was then closed for two centuries, until it was finally moved to its current location at Tramoieres orchard in 1802 and used for agricultural and botany education purposes. It closed again in 1987 for renovation and reopened again in 2000 to the public for research activities and plant conservation tasks. (“A garden for all, a garden for science, culture, and nature.”)

A view of the Jardi Botanic de la Universitat de Valencia entrance

The garden featured multiple glasshouses, fruit trees, tropicals, Valencian Flora, and the best succulent/cacti garden we have seen thus far in Espana. (Agave blooms towering trees!!!!)

Succulent/Cacti Garden

Tomorrows stop, Granada (about five hours away)


Published in: on June 5, 2010 at 2:13 pm  Comments (2)  

Barcelona at Its Best- Day 3

Our third day in Barcelona began with a trip on the Metro to the Parc del Laberint. This was a terrific garden that was a delightful surprise. In the heart of the garden there was a labrynth to wander through. It took some people 5 minutes to navigate, others, to remain nameless, over 20 minutes. The garden as a whole was built on a hillside. There were varying levels and grades separated by many pathways and staircases that often turned a corner keeping us wondering what would be next. We often found ourselves turned around within the garden and in the end wondered if the garden as a whole was a labrynth.

Parc del Laberint intricate and spectacular

We made it out of the Labrynth

Next we navigated over to the Sagrada Familia, a cathedral designed by Gaudi. The construction began in 1883 and the cathedral has been worked on since Gaudi´s death in 1926. The project is thought to be half complete with perhaps a quarter of a century to go.

Sagrada Familia will it ever be completed?

At the Picasso museum, no photos allowed! Tomorrow we´re off to Valencia!

No pictures allowed in the Museum Picasso

Published in: on June 4, 2010 at 1:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Barcelona in 3-G

No, that´s not the jetlag talking! Today was 3-G day: Gaudi, Gardens, and Gavin´s birthday!
After a good night´s sleep and a filling breakfast at the hotel, we ventured out to see Parc Guell, a 30-acre park that artist Antonio Gaudi intended to be a residential community. That notion failed, but the park is magnificent! The architechture is stunning and the colors are breathtaking! Ceramic mosaics cover many of the park´s surfaces along with stone structure that seem to defy typical architectural convention – columns that aren´t quite straight, buttresses that appear too delicate to support the weight of the stone overhead, and curves of columns that call to mind a surfer´s wave invite you to explore.
After a hot climb up a very steep hill (stopping in every market in search of extra camera memory cards and multi-litre bottles of water), the ¨Hall of 100 Columns¨was a cool respite from the summer sun. Seated in the center was a guitarist serenading the visitors. Though open on three sides, the acoustics were so good that you could hear the music just as well sitting on the steps behind him as you could standing in front of him. While we listened, a group of school children were guided through by their teacher, who pointed their attention to the glass mosaics built into the vaulted ceiling.

Spanish school children visiting Parc Guell´s´"Hall of 100 Columns"

We managed to cover most of the park in a few hours and enjoyed ID´ing the many Mediterranean plants we saw.

Bougainvillea, Wisteria, and Gelsemium clamber up the columns supporting the balconies above

Gaudi´s ceramic mosaic dragon fountain

A note to those visiting Barcelona: Parc Guell is an absolute must-see and it´s best to get there at opening to avoid the crowds. After an easier walk down hill and a quick lunch, we hopped the Metro back toward Montjuic and the Jardi Botanic de Barcelona. We were hoping to meet with the garden´s staff but they were unable to meet us. They were very generous and granted us complimentary admission, which we were quite grateful for.

The botanic garden is home to one of the largest collections of Mediterranean plants in the world, representing all the Mediterranean regions of the world. Each region contains plants native to the area, such as Australia, California, the Canary Islands, etc. Since it´s summer, the color palette was heavy on green, but a few plants were in bloom and everyone was keen to know their identies.

Grevillea johnsonii (Australia)

Crassula crassifolia

Anigozanthos (unknown species)

After a few hours´exploration (and bloodshed by an attack Agave), we went in search of a garden that was recommended to us by Longwood staff. Many miles later, we learned that the garden we sought was closed for renovation but we did have a fantastic view of the sea and waved as a few cruise ships left port.
Deciding it was time for dinner, we headed back to the hotel to freshen up. On the Metro we ran into a familiar face:
So nice of Greg to join us (we wish you were here!)!
At dinner (a Spanish-Italian restaurant) we celebrated Gavin´s birthday with good food, good company, and even better dessert! Tomorrow we´re off to another Gaudi masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia,  and the Jardin del Laberint (if we can find it!).
Stay tuned for more of our Spanish adventures!
Published in: on June 3, 2010 at 6:01 pm  Comments (2)  

No rain in Spain!

Our first day in Barcelona was beautiful and the weather perfect. After departing the airport in our rental vans we made a couple of wrong turns, however while lost, we identified many Mediterranean plant species. Cytisus bloomed profusely along the roadsides, as well as Schinus molle, Nerium oleanderStrelitzia and Acacia. We checked into our hotel, The Wilson Boutique ( around noon to find that this establishment was a spectacular pick! After settling in, we headed out to tour the city of Barcelona on foot. We first explored a market in Barcelona (Marcat St Josep La Boqueria) and were quite fascinated by the various food options. There was an abundance of fresh exotic fruits, vegetables, as well as meats. After meandering through the market, we spent the next few hours walking the streets of Barcelona and observing the plant- laden balconies that climbed the heights of historic apartment buildings. As we walked, we observed a heavy influence from Gaudi, a famed designer and artist, as many of the buildings have been re-designed by him. This included one Cathedral in the center of the City (La Catedral). Our first official stop on our itinerary was the Parc de la Ciutadella, a public park nestled between museums and Spanish municipal buildings. At the park, we saw several hybrid Spanish Platanus which outlined the Parliament building for the Catalunya region. The trees were unique in that they were pollarded.  Our last visit for the day was to Montjuic Castle and gardens. We walked to the top of the castle which is surrounded by gardens and fountains. Because it was so late in the day, we will plan to return to Montjuic tomorrow to tour the various gardens of the estensive property.

Published in: on June 2, 2010 at 6:06 pm  Comments (2)