Situated north of Comares in the Axarquia region of Andalucia, Los Perros sculpture garden
Situated north of Comares in the Axarquia region of Andalucia, Los Perros was conceived in 2007 as a project to keep me occupied after moving here from the UK. It is still a work in progress, as most large gardens are, but for several years now the site has been open to the public, raising funds for a local animal rescue charity. I am Dave Axon. Welcome to my world.
When I first found the house, a small bungalow-style building, all I could see was the view; a 180 degree panorama taking in La Maroma, a snow-capped (it was January) mountain to the east, Comares, impossibly perched on a cliff 2 km away front and centre, and Mazmullar, the site of an ancient Roman settlement on a plateau to the south west. It was and still is, a stunning vista, as the guide books say. After a cursory glance inside the property and a vague awareness of a menagerie of cats and dogs, I spent the next half hour clambering around the garden taking photographs with an early digital camera. Los Perros is the only house I have ever bought with my back to it.
That first viewing was supposed to be part of a reconnaissance trip; I had no intention of buying anything, nor did I have the funds. So, that night I put an offer in, haggled and bought it.
Eleven months later (long story), a week before Christmas 2006, I moved in, sort of, as the removal van was held up by a storm in the Channel and all I had was hand luggage and a gardening book. But with a little help from my friends, including the estate agent and her mum, we started to clean and tidy the house. It needed a little TLC - and light fittings, a fridge, washing machine, oven, shower, toilet, in fact everything but the kitchen sink. No, wait, it needed a kitchen sink too. However, every so often, amongst the chaos and expletives, I would wander outside and gaze at the view – and the garden, falling away from the house at an alarmingly steep angle and blessed with an equally scary quantity and variety of weeds – and I knew I was home.
Over the next several weeks we made the house habitable, clean and functional, with a back-up water storage system, electrical work and a bulk domestic appliance purchase which left a white goods salesperson on the coast looking slightly bewildered.
Gradually, I found more time to explore and assess the garden and realize just what I had taken on. For a start, there was no easy access as the land dropped steeply away from the house in all but one place and that was choked with weeds. When I say weeds, I mean vegetation that had been untouched for years as the plot was surrounded with chain-link fencing which kept grazing animals out, unless snakes eat weeds. Some of the stems were as thick as your arm with roots to match, so I organised my first visitors, but somehow failed to let them know that it would be a working (weeding) holiday. There were several bonfires that week, all illegal as I discovered later. In the campo, ignorance is no excuse for a bonfire, even in February.
And so began a 15 year (and counting) journey which has provided enough material to fill a book, let alone 32 compost bins, one of many unusual and quirky features at Los Perros.
As the garden took shape, with hard landscaping (including 200 rough stone steps), the odd installation and accumulation of weird and wonderful ornaments from all over Andalucia, the idea of sharing the garden with other equally weird and wonderful people (gardeners) slowly germinated. And around 6 years ago, the first official visitors were welcomed to Los Perros, for free (although a donation to Axarquia Animal Rescue is always appreciated).
The site slopes away from the house and even with the steps which encircle and criss-cross the plot, walking round is still a challenge, in fact the PR material says, “This is a private garden and visitors come at their own risk. It is not suitable for the elderly, very young, infirm, or anyone without a sense of humour. Typical tour times, including refreshments; 2-3 hours”.
So I devised a way of slowing visitors down with a Statue Quiz. There are 20 or so numbered objects scattered in ascending order, of course, around the garden. All they have to do is match those numbers to the descriptions provided. Easy, right? Well, so far only one entry has managed the full score, with the worst being 1 out of 20 (must try harder, Sam).
Of course, current circumstances are not favourable for garden visits, so the Quiz is now on-line, as part of the Comares web site, another of my projects.
Here's the link:
We are hoping to be open again before the end of 2021, but don't hold your breath, and if you do make it here - wear stout shoes.
Here are a few of the features for visitors to see:
• A working Chicken Tirolina (Zip-wire) complete with flying rooster in a basket.
• Gnomenge – a scale model of the ancient British monument with a gnomic theme, designed using CAD software, constructed from old Spanish railway sleepers, concrete and steel reinforcement bars. And it lights up at night.
• Cactus Gardens – this is a hot, dry site, especially in the summer, so the natural choice for planting is anything drought-proof.
• Plant Nursery – there are always plants, shrubs and trees in the making, so the outside of the house resembles a garden centre in crisis most of the time.
• Bonsai Collection – a little hobby I started a few years ago with the help and tuition from a Bonsai master based on the coast.
• Organic Vegetable Garden – the first piece of land to be cleared and weeded. No pesticides or herbicides have ever been used and most of the compost is home-made in one of the largest domestic compost farms in the Axarquia (probably).
• Model Village – inside one of the largest terracotta pots you have ever seen. It lights up at night, too.
And here are a few Los Perros statistics, as if you haven't had enough of those recently...
• 1 Giraffe
• 2 Crocodiles
• 32 Compost Bins
• 40 Tonnes of locally quarried stone
• Unaccountable gnomes
• Several dragons
• 199 Trees and conifers
• 200 Steps
• 615 Ornamental grasses
• 2 Replacement hips and a heart condition
Not to mention the concrete kangaroo, so we won't.
Los Perros Sculpture Garden
El Romo / Las Cuevas
Mobile: (+34) 650 360 865
Facebook: Los Perros Garden