Tavira is a beautiful small town in southeastern Portugal which my family has visited more or less regularly for many years. It has a charming historic town center with gleaming white-washed houses and the ruins of a medieval castle, dozens of churches, a lively daily market, and amazing pastry shops. It also has many parks and gardens and while they might not be famous or ground-breaking in their design, I still love the various spots of public green sprinkled around the town. They are, by and large, refreshingly old-fashioned and enamored of playful details. Tavira's town gardeners still appear to delight in novelties and botanic diversity as well as intricate displays of horticultural skill; there are tiny hedges edging beds, topiary, roses trained over arches or up trees, and seasonal displays of annuals and bulbs, all aided by the extremely mild climate of this southwestern corner of Europe. Perhaps my favorite public garden in the town is the Jardim do Castelo, which is situated at one of the highest points of the town inside the ruins of the medieval castle. You can also find more information and some historical background for this garden on this page of Tavira's town website - It is even in English, though not particularly well translated.
The main path in the garden
A cineraria cultivar (Pericallis x hybrida)
Flame vine (Pyrostegia venusta)
Dombeya x cayeuxii
Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia x candida)
A copper-colored cultivar of black-eyed Susan vine (Thunbergia alata)
View into the center of the garden from the ramparts of the castle
Another public park of which I am quite fond consists of the Largo Dr. José Pires Padinha, which stretches along the River Gilão between the old market hall and the Praça da República in front of the town hall. It contains a wide variety of trees and flower beds as well as lovely central music pavilion surrounded by a small moat-like pond edged with fountains, ferns, and freesias and inhabited by goldfish and turtles. Once again, you can find more information about this park on Tavira's website here.
The Largo Dr. José Pires Padinha, as seen from the Ponte Romana or "Roman bridge" spanning the River Gilão
Beds of florist's cinerarias (Pericallis x hybrida) edged with spider plants (Chlorophytum comosum 'Variegatum')
Spring blossoms of the cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii')
The music pavilion
Freesia (Freesia alba) at the edge of the pond surrounding the music pavilion
A border of double pot marigolds (Calendula officinalis)
In the summer, the Largo Dr. José Pires Padinha also serves as the setting for local arts and crafts fairs and evening bake sales in which Tavira's grandmothers demonstrate their delicious skills. Throughout the year, it is a place of public gathering, particularly for older members of the community who come here even in winter to sit on one of the many benches and soak up the sun. A similar social function, though on a much smaller scale, can also be observed in yet another park on the other side of the River Gilão called Jardim da Alagoa and located in a square known as Praça Dr. António Padinha. It, too, has very varied and colorful plantings of annuals and perennials, exotic trees, and many benches forn people to sit down and rest. You can also read a little bit about its history and vegetation on Tavira's town website under Alagoa Garden.
View to the park from the street
A bed freshly planted with pansies (Viola x wittrockiana) for the spring season
A triangular bed of common daisies (Bellis perennis) at the edge of the garden
A hybrid tea rose (Rosa sp.) surrounded by seasonal bedding plants
Mixed flower beds and topiary shrubs
A large cabbage palm (Cordyline australis) as well as other trees and mixed beds of shrubs, annuals, and perennials
Throughout this post you might have noticed that none of these parks or gardens have extensive lawns; in fact, cut grass is used almost exclusively as edging around flower beds. No doubt this is at least partially due to the hot and dry summer climate of the region, which makes large expanses of green lawn difficult and expensive to maintain. I also think, however, that lawns are not really necessary in these gardens because the function they usually fulfill as social spaces is taken on by the enormous number of benches scattered along the wide paths. As far as I am concerned that is not a bad thing - after all, it leaves more space for flowers...