Gardens of MONTJUïC, Barcelona: 4. Gardens of Mossèn Costa and Llobera

When you come to the southern end of the Miramar garden you’ll find a restaurant and on its right hand side, some stairs which allow you to descend into the Gardens of Mossèn Costa and Llobera. This is a delightful subtropical garden of palms, cacti and succulents perched over the harbour on the sunny and well drained eastern slopes of the mountain.

The green notices tell us that the garden was built by architect Joaquim Maria Casamor and gardener Joan Pañella in an area previously occupied by military batteries. It totals 6.15 hectares and was opened in 1970. It benefits from being sheltered from north winds and is generally two degrees higher than the rest of the city.

It’s surrounded by steep cliffs and old quarries. Huge Washingtonia palms from California and lots of large cacti create an amazing landscape.

Washingtonia robusta palms from California and Phoenix dactylifera date palms
An amazing landscape…

There are also some great views across the harbour.

Views across the harbour
Visiting cruise liners on show

It’s a pleasant way to walk slowly down the hill with plenty of plants to see. Who knows what you’ll find in flower, but I am sure there will be plenty whatever the time of year.

There are many of these barrel cactuses – Echinocactus grussonii – which rejoice in the Catalan name of “seient de sogra”, which translates as mother-in-law’s seat.

Mother-in-law’s seat – Echinocactus grussonii
Echinocactus grussonii in flower

A green notice in the garden tells us that E. grussonii grows fast and does not flower until it reaches maturity. It’s appearance and its easy reproduction make it one of the most cultivated cacti in the world. But in its natural habitat – Querétaro, in the centre of Mexico – it is restricted and almost extinct due to uncontrolled ploughing and the development of a reservoir.

In summer I saw these flowering cacti, but I don’t have names:

Amazing trees in this garden include the Australian flame tree, Brachychiton acerifolius, with its bright flowers and large characteristic seed pods.

Brachychiton acerifolius, Australian flame tree, with a view of the port
B.acericifolius: Intensely red bell-shaped flowers
B. acerifolius: Large pods containing seeds which are characteristic of the genus. The pods also contain irritant hairs so should be treated carefully

This is not the only Brachychiton species planted in Barcelona. Widely planted in parks and streets is B. populneus, a handsome tree appearing a little like a weeping fig when mature. However it has white flowers freckled pink inside and pods like those above but smaller. Be careful of the pods if you see them as they contain hairs as well as seeds which can be irritable.

B.populneus in flower in Barcelona in early June

Brachychiton trees come from the east coast of Australia. There are about nine species which are all generally called Kurrajong. The genus was classified in the family Sterculiaceae but is now considered part of the very broadly defined Malvaceae, as is the family Bombacaceae. See the Ceiba trees in the Porta de MontjuÏc.

Another member of the genus in the garden is the Pink Kurrajong, B. discolor, which I found flowering at the end of July 2016.

Brachychiton discolor, the Australian Lacebark Tree or Pink Kurrajong
Brachychiton discolor flowers

Other great trees are the Washingtonia robusta – the Californian palms which are a characteristic of Los Angeles and the southern part of the state. There’s a grove of Brahea armata – Mexican blue palms – with their long inflorescences. A native of Baja California.

Brahea armata: the Mexican blue palm

There are many desert plants to interest you and what you find will depend on the season. But I don’t think there will be a time when you will be bored!

Agave stricta in flower

When you’ve had your fill of cacti and desert plants, walk to the lowest most northerly end of the garden and leave by the lower gate. The path runs parallel to a major road and you will pass on your right the Forestier steps – an incomplete staircase intended for the 1929 Exposition.

The Forestier staircase – never completed but it can take you back up to the Miramar Gardens

You are now walking toward the Walter Benjamin Gardens and the Porta de Montjuïc: Moving from the blue area on the map to the yellow and the green.

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