The garden at The Adelante House provides a relaxing and calm oasis and is one of the most important features of the guest experience. The various plants provide pleasing aromas, varying textures and colours as well as comfortable shade and privacy. We wanted to find out more about the designer of our Mediterranean oasis, so we sat down with landscape architect Toni Ballester and asked him a few questions.
How did you get interested in gardening and why did you decide to study it?
The town where I grew up, Pedreguer, is an agricultural village, where many families have a house in the town and another house in the country. When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents country house. It was a house surrounded by citrus trees, in which there was an area dedicated to the cultivation of other fruit trees; such as figs, medlars and plums. There was also a greenhouse where he grew winter vegetables, while in summer he planted vegetables outside. I followed my grandfather in his day-to-day life, and I watched what he did. As I got older, I started helping him with his labours. These experiences awoke an interest in me towards plants and trees, which grew day by day, and influenced my studies, always opting for branches of science, until I reached university.
How do you begin to design a garden?
The garden design process has 3 stages. I start by interviewing the client about their needs. It is important to listen and understand who the client is, and how they will use the garden. Later, I visit and evaluate the space to be designed, paying special attention to the orientation, orography, vistas, access points, existing elements, surrounding areas, architectural style of the house and the distribution of the house. During stage 2, I spent time being inspired, looking for and studying ideas that would fit into the project and translating them into a mood board. At this point, the conceptual part begins where I sketch and study different options for the project. At this point, we hold a second meeting with the client where we present the preliminary ideas of the project through the mood board and 2D plans. In this meeting, both the client and I are able to evaluate which ideas we would like to follow and which to discard, defining the guidelines of the project. The last phase of the design process includes developing the final guidelines of the project which includes a full list of the plants, materials, lighting and budget.
What sort of questions do you ask your clients?
During the interview, I ask them how they are going to use the garden, if it will be used for contemplation, sports or relaxing. It is very important to know how they plan to use the space and how frequently (if this is a daily residence or second residence). It is also important to consider who is going to use it. If there are small children in the family, we will take them into account in the selection and location of plants that may be dangerous or toxic. I always take into account in the selection of plants if the customer is going to enjoy the house only in the spring and summer (if this is a second home), or throughout the year. It is important to design a garden that will be at its best when you are going to enjoy it. Another important aspect is allergies. For example, practically in all my designs, several varieties of grasses are included. If someone has a grass pollen allergy, I select alternatives. I like the client to tell me what they like and have them send me pictures of plants that they has seen and liked. We often share these inspiration photos on a Pinterest board, Instagram accounts, and other social networks. These help to define the specific tastes and interests of the client.
How do you decide on which particular plants you end up using?
The selection of plants rises from the integration of the profile we have created for the client through interviews and the design proposals. From there, we search for and create different lists of plants that would be suitable for the project. We will choose plants for specific parts of the property; such as areas with heavy daily sun, partly shady areas, seafronts, different soil types of soil and more. . . Finally, once we have selected the plants to be used in the project, I consider it very important that the client sees them, touches them, smells their fragrance themselves. Whenever possible, we will visit a nearby garden center together to see and select the plants.
What do you love the most about a Mediterranean garden?
Without a doubt, I love the diversity of the plants we can use. The flora is much richer in the regions with a Mediterranean climate than in those with a temperate climate. There are 75,000 species that are adapted to the conditions of the Mediterranean climate across the planet. This diversity of plants allows us to create an infinite number of different gardens, so that each garden has its own unique identity. In my projects I use plants that come from different regions with a Mediterranean climate; such as Salvia leucophilla from California, Polygala myrtifolia from South Africa or Callistemon laevis from Southwest Australia.
What is your favorite tree?
For sure, the olive tree. The olive tree has been part of the Mediterranean landscape since ancient times, becoming the symbol of the Mediterranean landscape. In addition to its history and presence in the Mediterranean landscape, I love that depending on how the wind blows, we will see its grey-green leaves on the top or the silver-grey underside. It is a tree that adapts to different environments and soils with low hydraulic and maintenance needs. It is a tree that integrates perfectly with both traditional Mediterranean architecture and the more contemporary architecture that has been built in the area. And besides that you can eat the olives or produce a nice olive oil. What more could you ask for?
What is the one thing that every garden should have?
Every garden should include a variety of plants. For years, gardens have been built where the vast majority of the space was dedicated to grass. This predominance of grass, where watering is by sprinkling or diffusion, has limited the range of plants in the garden. A good zoning of the garden, allows us to have in any garden, regardless of the size available, spaces dedicated to grass, gravel spaces that combine with succulents and cactus, more naturalized space combining plants harmoniously adapted to the Mediterranean climate, combined succulents, aromatic, native species, species imported from other areas with Mediterranean climate and grass, and spaces dedicated to the cultivation of fruit trees.
What do you think a garden should provide for people?
The garden must provoke pleasant sensations for its users and we achieve this by stimulating their senses. The garden should stimulate one or more senses at a time. Stimulating the sense of sight with the use of plants of different colours and textures; stimulating the sense of smell with the fragrance of the flowers and leaves of the plants; stimulating the sense of touch with different textures that we can find in the gardens, such as water or the different textures of the plants, stimulating the sense of hearing, by means of the sound caused by the movement of the leaves produced by the wind, or the presence of insects and birds in the garden; and stimulating the sense of taste when we eat the food produced by the trees or the garden.
What is your vision of a perfect garden?
Foremost, it must be a sustainable garden, therefore the lawn area must be kept to a minimum, and plants and trees adapted to the Mediterranean climate must predominate, on a base of ground cover and gravel. It should become an extension of the house, creating different spaces in which to carry out activities: spaces to relax, spaces to contemplate and spaces to be active. The vegetation and other elements that make up the garden should interact with harmony and should be integrated into the type of architecture of the house.
What, who or where inspires you?
I’m very inspired by the landscape around us. We are lucky to live in a place with a fabulous landscape, where we can gather a lot of inspiration just on a simple walk through the natural and agricultural areas. Travel is another great source of inspiration. Walking around the residential areas and seeing what they look like and what plants are used in the gardens is my favorite activity when I travel. On a professional level, I gather inspiration from studying design studios and landscape designers from around the world, especially Spanish, Australian and California, through their books and social media.
And lastly, what do you love the most about the garden at The Adelante House?
The orientation and the width of the plot gives the garden a lot of light. I also like that, despite being in a residential area, the space is very still and quiet, allowing the sound of birds to be heard. This, together with the spectacular views of Montgo and the Benitatxell mountain, provoke a sensation of peace and relaxation. About the garden design, I love how is integrated with the house. The way as Jessica Bataille studio connected the indoor with the outdoor throught furnishing with natural materials and creating different areas on the porch made an easy connection of both areas.