Whenever we talk about lifestyle in the Algarve and begin the process of designing the house of our client’s dreams, the phrase “inside/outside living” immediately pops up. The climate in the Algarve is so gentle that it is a real pleasure to open up huge windows and use the outside and inside areas as living space, for dining and just generally lounging in the sunshine.
So what should the outside space look like? Generally, gardens in the South of Europe are not as formal as those in the North, they are much less manicured, less stripey lawns and small flowers, one of the fundamental reasons for this is water. Or rather, the lack of it in Portugal. Lawns use a huge amount of water and, in Portugal, require pesticides to maintain them in good condition. The pesticides are not good for children or pets and water is an increasingly scarce resource, so lawns are not a great idea.
What is wonderful in the Algarve is the opportunity to have what are, for people from Northern Europe, quite exotic and glamourous trees and plants. Tall palms and cypress trees can look amazing. Olive trees with their silver-green leaves are so beautiful and, unlike humans, truly dramatically improve their looks with age!
Orange and lemon fruit against dark green leaves are just stunning and the spectacular reds and purples of species such as Bouganvilla work particularly well against the natural stone walls which are common in Algarvian gardens.
In the inner courtyards of grand palaces in ancient times, water and planting played important roles, not just looking beautiful. Numerous small fountains produced “white noise”, allowing business and political conversations to remain discreet. Aromatic trees, such as orange lemon, frangipani, etc. were planted in sunken gardens, meaning that the scents were at nose level and therefore far more effective. What is becoming increasingly fashionable in current garden design is the use of dry or ”desert” gardens. Planted with all shapes and sizes of cactus and other succulents, these gardens require virtually no maintenance and certainly no watering. They are also particularly elegant and stylish.