Viña Concha y Toro Garden
Name of project: Rencoret Park
Garden surface: 2 ha
Construction year: 1993
Location: Lo Barnechea, Región Metropolitana, Chile
Architect of house: José Domingo Peñafiel
The design for this garden was based around the architecture of the house, which is built in a classic European style. Flowerbeds are enclosed by hedges while a large rose arbour –a structural element– integrates mature lime trees that were already present. Several imposing trees (not necessarily indigenous) such as holm oaks, walnuts and magnolia were added to complete the plan.
Name of project: Barros Park
Garden surface: 6 ha
Construction year: 1993
Location: Fundo El Alto, Chiñihue, Chile
Architect of house: Christian de Groote
This garden is situated approximately 50 km west of Santiago. The site, which forms part of a field of hundreds of hectares dedicated to fruit production, is located at the foot of an area populated with sclerophyllous woods native to Chile’s Central Zone.
The biggest challenge was to ensure that the garden was established in harmony with the surroundings.
The horizontal shape of the house and its position at the foot of the hills facing the valley made it look like a dam, an image that I tried to soften with the vegetation. A path was traced to access the house that shows it from afar and then climbs facing the hill and curving around the great meadow. The route advances under the trees through an enclosed and mysterious thicket. From there, the walker can no longer see the house and feels immersed in the landscape. Access to the house is by a patio that offers an impressive view of the surrounding hills.
The center of the garden is the meadow. From there one can appreciate the topography of the surroundings: horseshoe-shaped hills that open towards the valley. In this large space, smaller areas follow in succession: the swimming pool; the humid wood, shady with ferns; the garden that is seen from the main bedroom, consisting of araucarias, winter’s bark, roble beeches, and lingues; and the garden of cut flowers, where the owner is free to grow whatever flowers she likes.
These corners are essentially formed by native vegetation typical of the áreas: peumo, soap-bark tree, maitenes, boldos, lingues, and molle. The lagoon, located at the end of the main axis of the central meadow, consists of six reflecting pools; the sound of water falling from pool to pool accompanies the walker along its banks.
The swimming pool area is sheltered by groups of jacaranda, accompanied by an undergrowth of veronicas that, when in bloom, produce a broad carpet of turquoise and violet.
At the center of the meadow I placed two large groups of fuchsia and pink crepe myrtle, which frame and contrast vividly with the dark green of the molles and peumos, emphasizing the view and the meadow’s depth. In autumn, they add the purple tint of their leaves to the surroundings, whereas in winter, when they lose their leaves, the crepe myrtle trees appear to be sculptures in the landscape.
Before the front door, and framing the reflecting pool, I planted Chilean palms that merge with the native forest that envelops them. Together with the fuchsia-colored bougainvillea, they evoke the image of the historic parks of the Central Zone of Chile.
Since the color changes of the native forest in the area are slight, the introduced species responsable for producing the most dramatic color variations were the crepe myrtle and jacaranda tres, while at the same time, of course, giving identity to their respective environments during the four seasons.
Name of project: Chiloé Garden
Garden surface: 2.4 ha
Construction year: 2001
Location: Ahui, Chiloé, Chile
Architect of house: Mathias Klotz
Of all the gardens I have designed in my life, this one had the most genuine conception. Its sole purpose was to restore the original values to a piece of land that previous generations had partially cleared for agricultural purposes. By original values, I refer to the diversity and exuberance that characterize the coastal landscape of the Large Island of Chiloé.
Before I received this commission, the owners had hired other professionals to recover the land. They planted various species, including ornamental trees from outside, varieties of conifers, and even fruit trees. Their efforts were unsuccessful, largely because the trees, bought in nurseries, could not withstand the strong winds and salty environment of the place. For us the challenge was to make a garden that would flourish at the 41st parallel south, in a harsh climate facing the Pacific Ocean.
From my point of view, the practice of our job teaches us to go along with nature in what we do, and to recognize its processes so that we can intervene and obtain optimal results. This experience was a valuable lesson, forever useful.
Noting that there were native plants a few centimeters high germinating among the tall grasses, we decided to experiment and allow the wild grasses on the edges of our working area to grow, rather than cutting g them back. The idea was that if they were sheltered by the grasses, the native species would emerge, growing from the seeds that the wind carried from reserves located in nearby ravines. The challenge was to create a suitable on-site habitat to achieve a natural repopulation with native species. We were clear from the start that this project would only show results in the long term.
Without using plans or drawings, the design of the site involved a central meadow of trimmed grasses whose edges were shaped into curves inspired by the existing vegetation, cliffs and surrounding beaches. First, we considered the topography and shapes of some hills surrounding the field at its edges and then we tried to have them climb up to the meadow by creating waves that advanced from the edge and closed towards the center. The grasses in this strip were left untrimmed. During the first five years trees and shrubs appeared that germinated naturally because of the soil’s fertility and the two thousand millimeters of rain that fall annually in the area.
Once the spontaneously growing plants were established and had reached about 70 cm in height we began to incorporate new ones of the same native species to increase the population, now of course grown in nurseries. The former gave protection to the latter. Only then could I begin to manage the design, that is, organize the heights of the vegetation from the smallest to the tallest, allowing perspectives, views, and twists.
Over time, the plants grew, providing shelter for one another and protection against the windy and brackish climate. Maintenance involved only cutting back the grass of the central meadow, no irrigation, no other pruning of trees or shrubs, and no disinfection. The result was a lush natural Chiloé garden. The predominant species are chilcos (fuchsia magallanica) and Arrayanes (Chilean myrtle), which were the first to thrive. They were followed by the escalonias (escallonia rubra), the chupones (Greigia sphacelata), the berberis (barberry) the ulmos (Eucryphia cordifolia), and the canelos (winter’s bark).
After the success achieved years later with the growth of the plants, we could appreciate how the garden had been created, a place that hid what had to be hidden and opened perspectives on what was truly interesting. At that moment, we proposed to the owner to continue trimming the grass until the site returned to its natural jungle state. I remember very well his answer: “NO, because then I’d be left without a garden”.
Name of project: Morita Garden
Garden surface: 4 ha
Construction year: 1995-1998 / 2007-2008
Location: San Martín de Los Andes, Argentina
Architect of house: Guillermo Rey, Pablo Velasco, Eduardo Negro
This garden was my first commission outside Chile. It is the summer home of a family from Buenos Aires. The property has over 200 hectares and has an interesting topography with a practically untouched native roble beech forest.
From the house, placed in front of a clearing like a lookout point, the river Chimehuin can be seen in the foreground. The view is then lost in an infinite succession of distant hills covered with abundant native forest, composed of a few varieties of evergreen tree species and some that are deciduous in autumn. The river is constantly audible, especially when it is swollen. The long walks lead to extensive forests of Andean mountain cypresses and radales in which roble beeches and Antarctic beeches can be appreciated, especially in autumn. The fields are covered with coirones and pampas grass that sway with the wind like natural ground cover. All is framed by the peaks of the Andes, permanently snow-capped in winter.
The garden itself has been developed around the house and its main objective is to merge seamlessly into the natural landscape. To achieve this, I first designed a paved area that served a supportive role and, given the slope of the terrain, acted as a nexus between the house and the garden. I then drew the grassland in curves following the twists of the topography, between the trees and shrubs that had remained after the removal of the exotic species. The effect was as if a liquid has been spilled, trickling down from the highest part of the land to the river’s edge, and thus determining the spaces for the plants.
The design of the vegetation was structured around shrubs of similar textures and colors to those of the surroundings, with the aim of leading the eye toward the distant perspectives. The cypresses and maitenes that existed in the clearing were integrated into the undergrowth that advanced to their base, as if their own shadows were being cast on the ground.
In the center or heart of the garden, identity is provided by the implementation of a landscape that produces associations similar to those of the distant setting of which it forms part. I used few species of shrub here. And although they are not native, they look similar in color and texture to those of the surrounding forest, especially in autumn. Each plant in the landscape has its match in the garden: the Andean mountain cypress is paired with creeping junipers, deciduous Antarctic beeches with glossy abelias and spiraea, while the evergreens of the landscape, maitenes and radales, with cotoneaster, hebe buxifolia, and prickly heath.
This center is the only part that has a formal, maintained lawn. As one moves away, whether by joining the access roads, going down to the river or heading off towards the neighbouring fields, the main garden blurs, becoming looser and wilder at every step, until the walker finds himself immersed in the natural and untouched landscape.
The main access to the house is structured with roble beech groves, while the road that runs parallel to the river to the north creates a mysterious impression, structured as it is with coihues and Antarctic beeches planted very close together, generating a natural forest that is somber and intimate. However, the owner also wanted a cutting garden, something that at first seemed difficult to incorporate in such a stark landscape. The solution was to create a circular pergola, hidden in an existing thicket of radales that was accompanied by fruit trees, roses and other flowers. The place became a secret garden.
After some time, I was commissioned to build a garden for the homes of two of the owner’s daughters, requiring me to connect the houses with each other. Climbing upwards along a narrow path, a different landscape and a new view of the river appear, bordered by yellow willows in autumn and by stretches of neneos and natural pastures. With the idea of making these gardens more sustainable, requiring less maintenance, and remaining closely linked to a more open environment with fewer trees, dressed in neneos, michay and pastures, I decided to leave large areas populated with long grasses as well as varieties of coihues, like Magellan’s beech, raulíes, Antarctic beeches, roble beeches, oaks and lengas. In autumn, the blond grasses contrast with the red-orange hues of the deciduous trees. In this case, the wide, right-angled and grassy paths are the meadows that allow one to walk and contemplate the trees and the forest. To create intimacy in the gardens near these two houses, I placed other trees and shrubs, such as cherry laurel, photinia, crimson spires, and large expanses of lavender.
Considering that the owner is Japanese, as a culmination of this walk I designed a small garden with the special characteristic of being a fusion between a Patagonian and a Japanese garden. It consists of a wooden deck surrounding a space of stones of different sizes, linked with grasses and ground-cover. As in the Japanese garden, the surrounding landscape is interpreted to a different scale. The larger stones can represent the mountains; at night, the bed of white sand can reflect a bath of moonlight, and the round stones evoke the presence of the nearby river.
Name of project: Boher Garden
Garden surface: 3.250 m2
Construction year: 2009
Location: Lo Curro, Santiago, Chile
Architect of house: S3 Schmidt Arquitectos
This garden extends over the slopes of a hill in a residential neighborhood of the city of Santiago. The large number of adult trees on the site, mainly enormous eucalyptus and aged elms, restricted the view from the house to the distant landscape.
I had the opportunity to participate in the design stage of the house with the architect, which permitted us to define certain elements of the project together, such as the inclusion of waters from a nearby spring. As a structural element in the garden, water is used as a kind of guide that accompanies the path at all times. Its source is a spring at the highest point of the land; it flows through ditches and falls, and ends its journey at the lowest point, in a small pond in the shade of giant trees.
The pure and transparent volumes of the architecture allow the enormous trunks of the oaks, eucalyptus, smooth-leaf elms, and surrounding acacias to be enjoyed from inside the house. Without eliminating any of them, my design consisted of incorporating other trees and shrubs with the purpose of generating an undergrowth between those natural columns.
The idea of a garden without limits was achieved in the following way: on the one hand, we planted some evergreens, like Chilean acorns and cork oaks next to the borders and they mingled with the trees of the neighboring sites. And, on the other, a profusion of shrubs “ambushed” the walks, making this small garden feel like a forest of great mystery. One is really not aware of where the garden begins and where it ends.
The absence of far-reaching view of the surrounding landscape, combined with the exuberance of the vegetation, focuses attention on the details of the surroundings and sharpens the senses. In addition, the watercourses, with their different tones of sound, have a powerful effect and prominence, allowing one to read and understand the garden as the Japanese do with their dry rivers of stones.
Due to the exuberance of vegetation and wetlands, the plants of the garden, such as the giant rhubarb, saplings, and ferns, sprout spontaneously. This growth lends the garden a natural and feral atmosphere with a great identity. The main shrubs are hebes, spiraeas, Mexican orange blossoms, Japanese pittosporum, viburnum, Chilean myrtle, giant rhubarb, and ferns.
This is a dark garden, where the changes of spring and autumn are fully appreciated. The place is cool, damp and mysterious, which produces a very interesting counterpoint to the architecture of the house, which appears to float amidst the trees and the plants that embrace it.
Name of project: Allende Park
Garden surface: 8 ha
Construction year: 1985-2012
Location: Parcela Esmeralda, Quillota, Chile
Architect of house: Edwards y Soffia Arquitectos
This garden is one of the most significant I have created, as I have been working on it for almost three decades. The way it has been planted has allowed me to observe the growth and development of the plants over many years.
At the start of the project, in 1985, the site for development was a lot of approximately 5000 m2 within a large estate. There was a house with some plants, surrounded by hills with very sparse, rain-fed native vegetation. There was also a reservoir for agricultural irrigation, surrounded by scrub, some agaves and hawthorns to protect the water. There were few noble species, only a few quillayes, a large cork oak, a group of jacarandas near the reservoir, a few young crepe myrtles and adult pepper trees. There were also many eucalyptus and varieties of pine that are no longer there.
We started our work by opening views towards the hill and leading the eye into the distance. To achieve this, we planted large groups of trees on the slopes-cork oaks, pataguas, quillayes- and added more crepe myrtles to the existing clusters. The reservoir began to change into a lagoon, eventually becoming the heart of the park. We encircled it with pataguas, cork oaks and pin oaks. A border path edged with shrubs and flowers was designed to lead around it.
Over the years, we added spaces with different characteristics to the first garden, each one related to the existing landscape, topography, natural water channels, etc. A palm grove emerged, which we filled with Chilean and pindó palms, accompanied in turn by large expanses of groundcover plants and flowers such as agapanthus and varieties of daylilies. A natural spring hidden between blackberries and undergrowth became the Stream Garden, framed between pataguas and winter’s bark, with Japanese maples as a backdrop. Giant rhubarb, ferns and other smaller water plants were planted at its edges.
In front, on one slope, there was a plantation of almond trees of low productivity. We decided to transform the place with conifers and ferns. Over time, these species, including star pine, cedar, and parana pine, owing to their tall heights, framed the garden from a distance. On one side of the conifers, a small path leads to a forest of poplars and natal lilies, which the owner had grown in large quantities.
As the garden progressed, the space in front of the lagoon gradually became the most favored spot. The owner then decided to build a house facing it, since the place had acquired a remarkable atmosphere, populated with hydrangeas, papyrus and bald cypresses. The next stage was the creation of a new landscape: the entryway. There, in the space planned for the parking lots and stables, we planted oaks, cockspur coral trees, jacarandas, ligustrinas pekinensis, silk floss trees, flowering laurels and stretches of ground-cover plants.
As the garden grew and took over other sites that responded to its characteristics, it became necessary to weave together its different parts which are, ultimately, a sequence of landscapes. We did this by implementing transitions between them: the thresholds. This garden’s identity comes from the mystery of passing from one place to another through thresholds formed by walls of dark vegetation.
After some years of work and many exchanges with the owner, he came to understand my proposals very well. I gave him some guidelines and he took the initiative of planting the slopes of some hills that can be seen from the garden–and which previously offered a poor view–basically covering them with native trees. This was a big contribution to the garden as a whole, both as a support as well as a limit.
I remember several productive dialogues about which plants to incorporate, which plants did not adapt to the place, how to prune them, etc. For example, some time ago a bald cypress, that had been planted near the edge of the lagoon two decades ago or more, began to lean.
The doubt I shared with the owner was whether to prevent it from falling into the water by propping it up in some way, or simply to let nature take its course. We opted for the latter. A couple of years ago, Pedro Tomás called me to let me know that the huge tree had fallen. But this painful event was attenuated because it brought with it an unexpected gift: the fall of the cypress opened a distant view of a group of sycamore trees that had taken many years to grow to their present size.
It is relevant to mention here the relationship I have enjoyed with Pedro Tomás Allende, the owner of the garden and a passionate nature lover. He is always researching and assembling new collections, whether of orchids, new varieties of water lily, and even birds and fishes.
Pedro Tomás’s deep love for the place and his knowledge as a horticulturalist have made it possible to maintain the garden carefully through all these years, a maintenance he has personally directed. Something that began as a relatively small garden has transformed into a grand park that today covers nearly 8-hectares.
Name of Project: Urubamba Garden
Garden surface: 12 ha
Construction year: 2009
Location: Sacred Valley, Urubamba, Cuzco, Peru
Architect of hotel: Bernardo Fort
From the outset, this assignment seemed fascinating, as the chance of relating to the architecture of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a civilization that I admire so much, plus the possibility of having species that flourish in that latitude of the Andes Cordillera as part of the design, is not something that occurs every day.
The task was to implement a landscaping Project in a 14-hectare park, the grounds surrounding a luxury hotel situated on the river Vilcanota, near the village of Urubamba, 70 km from Machu Picchu. I was asked to preserve a 3-hectare forest of native species, a strip of old eucalyptus trees at the edge of the river. For everything else, I was granted complete freedom.
The objective of this project was to maximize the potential of the site’s own landscape, which has a mountainous and fertile character. I was inspired by the geometry of the Incas, from the great efficiency of their layered cropping systems and from the immense hydraulic wisdom behind their irrigation systems.
For the design, I considered elements of water and stone, the incorporation of native flora and the layout of pedestrian paths.
In the access to the hotel, we formed a sunken garden, cleft by three canals that represent the slopes of the Andean mountain ravines. The mountain range is located in front of the façade, so that the waters descending from it symbolically cross the valley and feed the pond situated at the entrance to the hotel. With the garden surrounding it, a circuit is established that the passengers walk along when they enter the hotel.
Because not all the hotel rooms had a river view, I suggested creating a lagoon in the heart of the garden that would act as a center of attraction both for the moving water and for the surrounding vegetation. And so, we created a new landscape in that place.
To give identity to the garden I took advantage of the site’s topography and used elements such as stone platforms, gutters, waterfalls, ponds, paths, shapes with angles, and breaks. All these components respond to the sculptural look of the Andean range and evoke it in the design.
With respect to the vegetation, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were no nurseries in the area to supply the plants, which forced me to study the local flora and go out with botanical specialists to collect seeds and cuttings. With these, we formed a nursery for the native species that belong to that majestic landscape. We were very successful in achieving the first objective, which was to supply the project. With the passage of the years, now that the garden is established, permits are in process to declare it a botanical garden in view of the collection’s unquestionable patrimonial value, the excellent development of the plants, and the site’s compatibility with the necessary requirements.
Bahía Azul Garden
Name of project: Bahía Azul Garden
Garden surface: 4.000 m2
Construction year: 1996
Location: Bahía Azul, Los Vilos, Chile
Architect of house: Juan Grimm
About twenty-five years ago, I started looking for land on the north coast of central Chile with the idea of building a house for the summer and weekends. The landscape has fascinated me since I was a child because of its unique and special characteristics. The site I found, facing a huge blue ocean, surpassed any expectation: spectacular views, the richness of the topography marked by hills and cliffs of sculptural rocks.
For the design of the house, I decided that its volume would act like one rock more amidst the surroundings. I planned the architecture with a simple structure of two black cubes and a wall covered with the local stones. I opened large windows to the sea and the northern hills. The main access follows the rhythm the garden generates until you arrive at a first patio. Then, along a gently curved path, you discover the first view of the house, next to a hillside of native vegetation that embraces the rocks typical of the place. Further on, you reach the steps that access the house, which are submerged in the bushes, as happens in some natural spaces of this zone where the volumes are surrounded by vegetation.
During the first ten years, I dedicated myself to building the paths, the greenhouse and planting the different species of vegetation. When deciding which plant varieties to use, I imagined how they would cover the arid, rocky slopes of the site in the future; how they would combine with the existing sparse vegetation; how they would hide unwanted views; and how they would fit into that wonderful coastal landscape and the house at the top of the site, right on the edge of the cliff.
This garden was conceived to merge with the existing landscape through lanes, paths or steps, using curves or breaks to allow the continuity of vegetation from architecture to infinity. The access garden, the native hill garden, the cactus garden, the swimming pool garden, the greenhouse garden and the garden of the sea rocks, that I am in the process of building, particularly stand out. Each of these has its own distinctive features.
I distributed the shrub species to the east, so that the house protected them from the saline wind. In the same direction, along the boundaries of the site, I planted Monterey cypresses and Myuporum laetum, forming a dense wall of vegetation to separate me from the neighbor and gain greater privacy. To the west, facing the sea, I planted vegetation in which succulents, bromeliads and cacti predominate and in order to emphasize the hillside, I reinforced the presence of already existing species: more puyas, more cacti, more Chilean bell flowers and rock purslane, which trail along the slopes of the cliff to merge with other species of succulents. Different shades of greyish-green predominate.
The Bahía Azul Garden has been my laboratory. I have been able to experiment with new plants and learn from their behavior, for example, how much sun exposure they need or how much watering is required to achieve optimum development. I now clearly understand under what conditions chaguales grow best, and I know exactly at what time of day the scent of the heliotrope and the featherheads is strongest. I have also observed how birds help in the reproduction of the flora.
Nowadays the garden contains only shrubs, since the Monterey cypresses and the mousehole trees that I planted along the border with my neighbor were destroyed by a storm years ago. Thus, one of the many learnings left behind by the successive events of nature became clear: trees do not belong in that landscape.