Occasionally I like to review a garden outside the United Kingdom and a recent trip to Lanzarote revealed to me that this little island is not just a holiday destination for people wanting sunshine & sangria. The former home of landscape designer and artist, César Manrique, Lanzarote serves as a portfolio to the talented Manrique whose mission was to transform the island into a cultural destination and to banish high-rise developments & advertisement hoardings.
Architect, artist, sculptor & latterly gardener, Manrique’s works pepper the island from James Bond style lairs built within the volcanic lava-flow to wind-mobile sculptures on roundabouts. His final piece was the spectacular Jardin de Cactus in Guatiza on the east coast.
Completed in 1990 shortly before his untimely death in 1992, the cactus garden is set within a disused quarry and features over 1000 species of cacti. The garden has a typical Manrique appeal with every detail thoughtfully designed to complement the setting.
You can’t fail to miss the garden since an enormous cactus sculpture sits outside the main gates. Approached through curved volcanic brick walls set with forged metal ‘cactus’ windows, the garden is revealed before you, offering a 360° view of Manrique’s vision.
Sloping black volcanic paths, steps and terraced walks are all dotted with hundreds of cacti and succulents ranging from broccoli-shaped trees and fabulous spaghetti western style giant cacti to small hairy cucumbers and flowering cushions of spikes. The garden is complimented by bridges and flowing water dotted with goldfish and the curved paths wind around the garden allow you to walk beneath & amongst the giant cacti.
Presiding over the quarry is a restored windmill which visitors can explore. Of course the café is as aesthetically pleasing as the rest of Manrique’s projects, being simple yet functional white and varnished wood with a spiral staircase and chunky curved bar. Even the loos are imaginatively arty with the male and female sides illustrated graphically, much to the amusement of many visitors.
If you happen to find yourself in Lanzarote, a visit to this garden is an absolute must. In fact you could base your entire holiday around visiting Manrique’s masterpieces. After all, a suntan only lasts a few weeks but memories of visiting Manrique’s legacy will remain in your memory for a lot longer.