March 4, 2024

Talking with someone who is at peace with himself, and with what surrounds him, gives a fresh and renewed vision of the world. This is the case with Enrique Montoliu, for whom doing things for the benefit of nature and society has become his day to day. In 1990 he decided not to let time go by without creating his own garden, and managed to establish a beautiful and impressive five-hectare orchard called L’Albarda. We can find it in Pedreguer (Alicante), very close to Jávea. Subsequently, his energy and passion also led him to launch a very special foundation, Fundem, with which he wants to give back to nature what humanity denies it on too many occasions: dignity and respect.

Ask. When was the first time you thought about building a garden?

Answer. Practically since I was a child, although it took a few more years (smiles), because I didn’t have time or money. When I turned forty is when I seriously considered making my dream come true. At first I thought of buying a ready-made, old garden. But I didn’t like the ones I saw: they either had a road next to them or horrible buildings. So in the end I thought of going back to the area where I spent the summer as a child, in Jávea. I looked for a piece of land inland, with views of the Montgó. This is how I started my house, surrounded by orange trees and a garden.

Q. And where does this early interest in gardening and plants come from?

R. My father liked to fish with a rod. Every weekend of the year we went to areas where there was water: rivers, reservoirs, any place was good. I was bored while my father enjoyed looking at the cork. He didn’t mind spending eight hours without catching anything, because for him that was therapy. But I, with the vitality of a child, devoted myself to exploring the surroundings. I was amazed to see the life that was in a river or in a pond. I even once caught a snake thinking it was an eel, and I proudly showed it to my mother, who gave a huge scream of fright. The love that I took to nature then accompanies me all my life.

Q. To create your garden, which is more of a garden of gardens, what references did you take into account to design it?

R. Well, I didn’t have a specific point of reference, but it was clear to me that I wanted to make a formal garden around the house, to later merge it with the landscape. Later I found out that this was what the Renaissance garden consisted of. So, it can be said that L’Albarda is a Renaissance garden, although later I added other parts inspired by the Valencian and Arab gardens.

Q. It is striking that he decided to open the garden to anyone who wanted to visit it.

R. Practically from the first moment I wanted the garden to be shared. Shortly after starting it, I began to make free guided tours, so that people could see it. I did not think of making a totally private garden. I have always liked to share; visits don’t bother me, on the contrary, they enrich me. This is how I have met wonderful people. I think that whoever has the sensitivity to sacrifice a morning of their free time to visit a garden is already someone special.

Q. The construction of his garden led him to think about other projects.

R. That is curious, because at first the land of the future garden was a stony ground. After three or four years, nature had built marvelous corners in those forgotten places. It is then that I became aware that if I bought land that had an important ecological value, and let nature be the only creator, something beautiful could be made.

Q. And that is how the Fundem foundation was born.

R. That’s how it is. The idea arose to buy land and give it into custody to environmental groups in that area, so that they would have a place to experiment with their hobbies and could increase biodiversity. Little by little we have already achieved more than 1,000 hectares bought by more than 50 spaces. With that we are sowing little seeds so that the local people realize that they have jewels in their town that are worth preserving. Not all have to be natural or national parks, but in each place there can be a place for and for nature.

Enrique Montoliu in L'Albarda.
Enrique Montoliu in L’Albarda.Garden of L’Albarda

Q. The roots of its foundation are the partners.

R. Making partners has the advantage that anyone who has the illusion of fighting against deforestation or climate change has an opportunity to do so with little money. We make partners with 50 euros a year, which are also tax-deductible in the income statement, and with that 100 square meters of land are bought a year. A partner who spends ten years with us will save 1,000 square meters from human depredation. We are buying land throughout Spain, including the islands.

Q. Because a contract is made so that this land cannot have another type of use.

R. That is, neither sell nor build. The idea is that this land is for nature and that no type of benefit is taken from it: neither agricultural, nor touristic, nor of any kind.

Q. Let’s go back to his garden, which also seems to be full of music.

R. We do cultural activities to raise funds, but also because we love listening to music inside the garden while the birds are singing and we feel the aromas of the plants. You can not ask for more.

Q. What do you think a good gardener should have?

R. What a good gardener has to do is create the habitat for the plant and nature to finish it. Nature will always do better than you. Therefore, a good gardener must observe nature. The best plants are those that are born there in your garden, spontaneous. What I never do is remove a tree where it was born, because that is going to be the most beautiful of all.

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