Not your garden-variety nature fix: Urban gardening and vertical gardens in Madrid

community garden

Despite the fact that Madrid has the highest number of trees than any other city in Europe, the sensation of the lack of oxygen can sometimes be overwhelming when you find yourself navigating through heavy traffic all year round or struggling with immense heat during summer. Madrid offers a selection of green spots drizzled all over the city, but nevertheless, it’s easy to feel trapped in what seems like a contamination mecca, leaving you striving for fresher, greener surroundings.

No need to escape to the Sierra for oxygen though, because Madrid never ceases to amaze and there are plenty of green getaways within the M-30. Even if the city — as its inhabitants — is sometimes a bit slow picking up on new eco trends, it will get there eventually. After all, Madrid’s visual trademark is a bear hugging a tree.

Green workshops

If you’re not afraid to get some dirt under your nails, but you are as novice as it gets when it comes to gardening, you’ll be happy to know that the do-it-yourself workshop trend that Madrid is currently experiencing includes plenty of garden courses.

Gardening course in Madrid

Huerto urbano course in Madrid

Arranged by El Bio Cultural the botanically rich Parque de Retiro offers free courses on designing, planning and starting up your very own huerto urbano, and the always interesting Casa Encendida even has courses specialized in how to make the most of those terrazas or tiny balconies that many madrileño apartments are lucky enough to have. From building up a basic knowledge of Madrid’s floral life to how to keep your herbs from dying in the extreme summer heat, these courses will have you well prepared for starting up your own little green spot at home.

Green purchases

Now that your garden skills are covered, all you need are some pots and plants. Despite the fact that florists are spread all over the city, very few of them have a good selection and knowledge of seeds and plants. There’s always the suburban garden centers outside town but if you want to stay within the M-30, take a trip to Casla. Situated near hectic Paseo de la Castellana and Bernabéu, entering a urban garden centre that oozes such tranquility is a pleasant surprise.

From herb seeds to giant fig trees, Casla has everything and then some. Prices are reasonable and the sales assistants are patient, knowledgeable gardeners who will make sure that you go home with plants to fit your living situation and style. The place even has its own cafeteria – well, a coffee vending machine, but you are welcome to enjoy your beverage in the outdoor furniture under the shade of the trees.

Seed exchange in Matadero

Banco de Intercambio de Semillas in Matadero

If you are looking for an even more local city experience, swing by the überhip cultural center Matadero for the monthly seed exchange. Every first Thursday of the month, farmers and agricultural aficionados meet to discuss and challenge the conventions of the seed control and produce of Madrid by exchanging seeds and experience. This green network’s main focus is on organic and sustainable gardening but also serves as an introduction to the world of seeds and Madrid’s agricultural potential.

Green practice

Community garden in Madrid

Huerto urbano in Madrid

Madrid’s green community gardens are everywhere but chances are that you probably haven’t seen them if you don’t know where to look. Spread all over the city in the cement jungle near rail tracks and abandoned buildings and used by everyone from children to seniors, the community gardens are in bloom (pun intended). So if your fingers are itching for some outdoor dirt, visit the  Urban Garden Network where you can find a map that covers all the urban garden projects around Madrid for your green urge to be satisfied.

Some of the gardens have risen from an urge to reinforce the local community, others have started with a single focus on organic produce. Either way, many of the huertos listed on this page grow produce with the purpose of selling it at local farmer’s markets, but creating a strong community feeling in the neighbourhood seems to form just as big a harvest as the actual produce coming from these urban green spaces.

Green art

Like gardens but don’t want to get your hands dirty? One of Europe’s most famous vertical gardens is situated in Madrid, and the fact that this huge piece of live, green wallcovering can be considered art goes well with its location: right next to CaixaForum with the Prado and Reina Sofía just around the corner.

Caixa Forum

Caixa Forum’s vertical garden

Another vertical garden, not as big, but equally impressive, can be enjoyed in the Cheese Bar Restaurant that specializes in… well, cheese. To maintain the fresh and clean air in such a surrounding the Cheese Bar has gone to the extreme of interior decorating and has plastered an entire back wall with live plants, creating the perfect backdrop for a pleasant dinner.

Would you rather enjoy some upside-down gardening in the comfort of your own home? Visit Flowerbox at Calle Fuencarral where you can get your own outstanding piece of garden art in a frame for as little as 20 EUR.

Mona Hoelzer

About Mona Hoelzer

I am an anthropologist turned music producer turned full time knit and craft nerd, for business and pleasure. I love exploring cities in quirky manners and hope to guide you through hidden treasures and adventurous paths in Madrid.

Image Credits: d-olwen-dee, Mumumío, Ecosecha, Huerta Agroecológica Comunitaria "Cantarranas", Dan

4 Comments

  1. Nora

    September 17, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks for this amazing tips!

  2. Chris Wright

    October 7, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Thanks Mona really interesting tips. I just watched a cool TED video about urban gardening in LA. http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html

    • Mona

      October 7, 2013 at 11:34 am

      I know that video, and I love it! I wish something similar existed in Madrid. If you hear about such a thing let me know, thanks!

  3. iaiacocoi

    October 22, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Thanks! Super interesting! Really!

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