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The People, Plants and Stories behind Cordoba's Patios

The Cordoba Patios Festival is a historic custom of the Andalusian city of Cordoba. “Patios” translates to courtyards in English and refers to the private courtyards which are hidden behind the walls and gates of the homes in the city. These patios have a interesting story and are an integral part of the rich history of Cordoba.
 
 
They were originally built to provide a place of relief and shelter from the intense summer heat, but over time they evolved into miniature oases, filled with bright flowers, tropical plants, delicate water features, comfortable furniture and eclectic decoration.
 
The central element of the patios however, are the hundreds of plants and flowers which create blankets of colour on every wall and corner of the patios and the homes to which they are connected.
 
 
The majority of the patios are connected to private homes and so the patios are lived in, loved and enjoyed all year round by their owners. Of course, hundreds of plants and flowers require many hours of care and behind these spectacular patios are their hardworking owners, who devote hours to the upkeep and maintenance of their beautiful patios.
 
 
The owners dedication to the patios comes from their passion, enjoyment and love for plants and flowers. Although the Cordoba Patios Festival only last two weeks, the patios are maintained all year round and so for the owners, the work never ends. They generously open up their patios for the duration of the festival so that visitors from all over the world can experience and enjoy the beauty inside.

The Association of Friends of the Cordoba Patios 

The Association of Friends of the Cordoba Patios is made up of a group of voluntary members and lovers of the patios tradition. Their goals are to share their knowledge and passion with visitors to the festival. The association also have their own patio, which is located the San Basilio neighbourhood of the city at 44, Calle San Basilio and is cared for by a full time gardener who is employed by the association itself.
 
 
Teo Fernandez, Director of the Association of Friends of the Cordoba Patios, says: “The reason for which the Cordobeses invest so much time and energy into maintaining their patios is simply for the love of the tradition and the desire to keep it alive. We have a full time gardener and during the summer he can spend between three and four hours per night maintaining the patio in preparation for the guests.” 
 
 
There are plenty of plants to look after, from the famous “gitanilla” or geranium, fuschias or "queen’s earrings” as they call them in Cordoba, carnivorous plants, carnations, bougainvillea, strawberry plants, hydrangeas and more. This fantastic collection of flora earned the association the first prize in the category of “arquitectura antigua” or antique architecture in 2015. 

The Martín de Roa Patio   

The majority of patios in the city are of course, privately owned and maintained as they are part of people's own homes. Very few of the residents are trained gardeners, but simply families of flower-lovers and the knowledge of how to care for the patios is passed down from generation to generation.
 
 
Many residents were born in the homes in which they still live and often, two or three generations of the same family will live together in one home. Gardening techniques are learnt from parents or grandparents and in turn, knowledge is passed onto children and grandchildren who take the care of the patio over in the future.
 
 
Araceli López and her three daughters care for the Martín de Roa Patio, she says: "The year round care consists of the general cultivation and basic maintenance of the plants, but a few days before the competition in May starts, the planning begins. Walls, plant pots and ornaments are repainted, plants that were in the shade are moved to the sun and visa versa, everything is finished off and although it doesn't seem like much, it's a lot of work."
 
 
"My daughters and I spend about seven or eight hours per day working in the patio, but for us it's a tradition, my grandmother had flowers in all her houses and my mother as well. Yesterday, for example, when I went to pot some plants, my grandson sat down next to me and started playing with the soil and said to me "well I'm going to pot some plants too", this is a family tradition."

The Céspedes Patio

A normal day at the Patios Festival means that owners have to care for their patios outside of the visiting hours. Rosario Torrealba of the Céspedes Patio explains: "We don't look after our patio just for the festival in May, we look after the patio for ourselves. The fact that we already have this beautiful patio ready to be seen, means that we don't mind opening our doors to the people that are visiting the city for the festival so that they can enjoy it the way that we enjoy it the whole year."
 
 
"On the days that I have to care for the patio, I come down from the house, take off any dead leaves or dry flowers, water any plants that need it and add fresh compost or fertiliser if necessary. You don't need to do this every day, just as and when each plant requires it."
 
 
"During the festival, the we open our doors from 11am to 2pm in the afternoon and from 6pm to 10pm at night. You do have to rush a little bit because you have to get everything in the patio ready and take care of things at home as well like preparing our meals. I stay in the patio while it's open until I shut the doors at 2pm, then I can eat and relax until 6pm."  
 
 
Rosario lives and shares the responsibility of her home and patio with her brother, she says: "Plants, just like domestic animals are very grateful creatures. They are grateful to you, for the care that you give to a plant they thank you by giving you their flower and that relaxes me. Or it's the green which relaxes me, I'm not sure. I don't have a favourite flower, to be honest, I like all the flowers."  
 
If you'd like to visit this wonderful city and get to know its people and its traditions then don't hesitate to book a holiday home in Cordoba, so you can immerse yourself in this enchanting culture. 
 
A special thanks to Teo Fernandez and Rafa Porras at The Association of Friends of the Cordoba Patios, Araceli López and Rosario Torrealba for their collaboration on this article.
 

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