Villa Harmony, Málaga, Spain by

2024 Private Gardens / Spain / Built in 2023 /

The commission was to designed a garden out of the standards that reign in the coast of Malaga, where the tendency, still yet, is to create lush, tropical gardens. The client wanted a different approach, sustainable and biodiverse, where they could have their pets play freely in the garden. Water constraints drive the design, but aesthetics was too on top of the priorities list.

The coast of Malaga in the past years, due the increasing tourism and the scarcity of rain has had continues water cuts, especially last year and the former one. The site, sits in the hard rock mountain where each plot has being carved in the stone, which in some areas left us enough depth to create our own technical soil (full of drainage material) up to 60cm; but other areas, on top of the ‘escollera’ –rock- containment walls, we were not that lucky, and we were constraint by 10cm depth for the planting beds.

The surrounding landscape is mainly bare rock with scarce ruderal vegetation. The house sits at the top of the city of Malaga where wind can blow fiercely.


The garden is divided in three plots. The main house sits in the middle, the left area is for gathering and recreation next to the pool, and the right side, a few steps up, sits the garage and the guest house.

It was very important to create a welcoming space at the entrance but taking into account that the guest should be comfortable but not too comfy, so they always tend to expend time in the main house and the garden next to the pool.
This is why the garden is built allowing a lot of architectural plant species in a sea of gravel and grasses intermingled with Lavandula dentata & canariensis and Tulbalghias mainly, but too with Hesperaoles and Anygothanthus. Among the planting the main green structure is given by balls of Operculicarya decaryi with small and bright green leaves, plus yuccas, aloes, and Agaves attenuata. They all sit among rocks (all reclaimed from the same plot or the adjacent ones) and recycled eucalypts gigantic branches and roots (already dry by the years of abandonment. Fruit trees (orange, pomegranate, fig, lemons and olive) form the main canopy along with an Aloe barberae and tall cactus.

The back garden of the guest house, is where the allotment sits. To big boxes made of cherry wood sit behind, among the tropicalish banana tree.

The area around the main house is mostly paved, apart from the front, where no more that 10cm of soils gives the chance to low spreading species such as lampranthus, showing of among a carpet of succulent leaves. To reduce the pavement, white terracotta bespoke made pots keep palms with hanging species such as of delosperma and senecio.

The garden next to the pool, has a very small patch of grass, where rabbits spend their mornings and dogs the evenings. The planting is here predominant of opuntias, yuccas, euphorbias –different species-, succulents, bulbine and limonium plants. A grand false pepper tree (Schinus molle) made all the way to the spot to give shade among other trees and big shrubs (nerium, callistemon, cassia, etc and climbers).

To make sure we used as efficiently as possible the water in the garden we make sure during the execution that the soil mix drained perfectly while we add a little of organic matter (as the plant selection does not crave for a lot of nutrients). And, we make sure to have at least 7/8cm of gravel mulch on top of all the planting areas.

The gravel mulch has being essential to keep fresh the soil and retain the water. And, the slightly bigger size of gravel used helped us to prevent animals from running and playing and damaging the plants.

The only bit of grass we planted was Zoysia to make sure water and maintenance was minimal.


The garden water regime, in the areas where soil is deeper (up to 50/60cm before the rock), has been very much control and restraint making sure plants were stressed to train for dry spells.

After the first month of establishment, July 2023, the garden water irrigation in those areas was reduce planned every 15 to 20 days (except for trees or plants planted in less than 10cm depth soil that were watered once weekly). This meant that in plain August we manage to irrigate once every 2/3 weeks. Succeeding in this regime helped us to understand how we can push gardens in a more water efficient way, changing beliefs and typical water management.

This water scarcity training has helps us developed a strong root system, making a strong garden, that has being extremely efficient during autumn cut spells too, but with a continuous never ending season of sequence flowering during the whole year of its establishment.

Recycle material

All the garden walls and rocks within the garden have been reclaimed or recycled from the original plot. To huge dried eucalypt roots and spare branches were carved in benches, while the rest, was cut in different pieces and placed on the top of the roofs to induce biodiversity; a biodiversity of reptiles mainly, as dogs and cats do not encourage birds to get close (although they still come to feed from the aloes flowers in January).


The garden is not only about its plants. The pergolas where design exclusively with stainless steel to withstand the salt. The main pergola, to shelter the car park, has its pillars slightly inclined and the stainless steel mesh sits loose on top, to give a sense of movement. The railings with cherry wood and stainless steel mesh, and the lattice design of the terraces is an extension of this.

Two bespoke wood benches where designed, one of them mimicking a George Nakashima interior bench style.

Location: Málaga, Spain

Design year: 2022

Year Completed: 2023


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