Claire Curran
Flanked by pots of purple fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum,  'Rubrum'), the entry gate opens onto one of Calvo's many garden rooms. The cherub fountain inside is a focal point.

Calvo shares her tips

Sharon Cohoon,  – November 6, 2004

Water is an essential element of a garden, says Maria del Carmen Calvo. The Moors occupied Spain for 700 years, and their gardening style, she says, permanently changed the country. Water is always central to a Moorish garden. “I’ve created a garden where I’m never far from its sound,” she says. Though Calvo’s garden is not large, she has included seven fountains, most of her own design.

Garden rooms with pleasing human proportions are something else this artist strives to achieve. (“You can’t help but feel good when you’re in them.”) Calvo’s garden is divided into many rooms, some big enough to be shared by the family, others cozy enough for a tête-à-tête or solitary retreat. But Calvo isn’t quite satisfied. “I’ve got a few more improvements in mind,” she says, smiling.

The patina of age adds charm to a garden. And it’s the most difficult element to achieve in the West, where everything looks like it was just taken out of its wrapper five minutes ago. Calvo achieves it by collecting antiques–large architectural pieces such as gates, windows, and doors, which she stores until she finds inspiration for their use. Or she’ll commission a new piece that replicates something older.

The things that make Calvo feel centered in her own garden may not be yours. But we can all find what we need to fashion our own beauty. “All you have to do,” Calvo says, “is think with your soul.”

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