The Botanic Gardens of La Concepción
A miniature garden of Eden, at once romantic and exotic, historical and contemporary. The air is cool and fragrant, it is a verdant wonderland of sub-tropical splendour
The Botanic Gardens of the Finca de la Concepción are located just at the city's northern edge and offer a remakable environment rich in history and ecological diversity. It is a sumptuous park filled with dense sub-tropical vegetation, with over fifty thousand plants from nearly three thousand different species. It is one of the most comprehensive and varied botanic gardens of sub-tropical species in Europe, and its all in the open air.
A visit to La Concepción is to slip into a parallel reality, a verdant time warp. The parks were laid out over 150 years ago in the grand style of the Enlightenment, taking inspiration from the great English landscape artists with strong neo-classical nods. Its early fame was less to do with its beauty, and more to do with its collection of archaeological remains, including Roman mosaics and relics recovered from Roman villas and sites discovered in the region.
The Marquisses of Loring were the owners who originally built the neo-classic features and laid out the initial gardens in 1859. When the Loring dynasty fell bankrupt in one of the periodic crises, the Finca was bought by a wealthy Basque family, the Echevarría-Echevarrieta who significantly enlarged the gardens. It received government status as a significant icon of cultural heritage. Despite this, from 1963, the remaining heirs of the family abandoned the upkeep of the buildings and garden and the whole park was left to run wild until in 1990 the Malaga town hall purchased the property for 3,6 million euros (six hundred million pesetas in old money!) Over four years it was painstakingly renovated and adapted for public use.
Today the gardens offer a magical experience- With its dense mature foliage, the air is moist and fragrant, cooled by the deep shade and numerous fountains. Architectural features include the famous Doric temple, the Paladian mansion, and various arbours, terraces and walkways.
The nucleus of the gardens is the Jardín Hístorico, the histroic gardens. This was the smaller original park with the neo-classical ornamentation through warterfalls, fountains, terraces, bridges and glasshouses. It covers the flanks of the mountain and is the oldest part of the gardens.
Surrounding the historic garden is the botanical garden, where the collections of plants are organized according to botanical types. Thus you can see near the entrance a collection of aquatic plants, another one of "prehistoric plants", "the rock of biodiversity", a greenhouse with insectivors, bromeliads and orchids; a collection of African plants and a collection of bamboos. To the north you can visit the route "Around the world in 80 trees"; the collection of palm trees, which enriches the extant older species in the historic garden; a collection of varieties of Malaga vines and another of olive trees in the area of "The plants of our land". The upper edge of the historic garden is traversed by the forest route and the viewpoints over the city and gardens, both with native plants. In the southernmost part is the collection of cacti and succulents, that of subtropical fruit trees and a traditional lemon orchard.
While most major cities have 'green lungs' at their heart, Malaga's Jardín Botánico offers a small paradise, at once romantic, exotic, historical and contemporary. In July and August it plays host to a guided theatrical animation in the gardens with actors and musicians. Its theme is based on some of the historical figures responsible for the gardens, and the tour allows you a special view of the newly installed nocturnal lighting features and visits to the old palace interiors.
La Concepción truly is a botanical marvel and an unforgettable experience, not to mention a sometimes welcome change from the hubbub of Malaga centre.