There is a long tradition of love and dedication to the wolrd of vegetation, that goes back five hundred years and has converted the medieval estate of the "Torre de Ortigueira", into the garden with the largest variety of trees in Galicia. For the world of camellias, the estate now called "The Granja de Ortigueira", is one of the most important references for the "Camellia" in Spain. On the 11th. of December 2991 the estate was declared National Monument.

The Ibanez de Mondragon family in the first years of the sixteenth century along with the Armada family that were united in marriage between Pedro Manuel Armada y Taboada and Isabel Salgado de Mondragon y Castro, in the year 1676, converted this garden spot into what today is a monument of vegetation and where the Camellias hold a special position.

The botanist Carlos Rodriguez Dacal, who is famous for the studies of the gardens of the world and the public and private gardens of Galicia, noted in his doctor’s thesis, “Fora lenosa ornamental pacega de la Galicia occidental”, (1990) that the gardens of the mansion of Santa Cruz de Ribadulla like the rest of the gardens of Ortigueira, have an extraordinary variety of camellias, that are the protagonists because of their multitude and age counted. In the decade of 1980 more than one hundred plants of the Camellia japonica, four of the Camellia sasanqua and three of the Camellia retculata.

 

 

Today, almost thirty years later, both the species and varieties of the Camellia have multiplied, because of the conditions and variety of species, making the "Granja de Ortigueira", a world famous garden.  Besides Camellias, these gardens of Ortigueira, produce many other species of ornamental flowers, however, the camellias because of more than one hundred thousand blooms annually create the most colorful spectacle during their months of floridation.

 

Camellia japonica cv ‘Ortigueira’, a beautiful variety gets its name from this garden. There are many camellias that live all over the garden and serve as mothers for their proliferation.  Amongst them many old and famous can be found such as ‘Captain Rawes’, Alba Plena’,’ Fimbrata Alba’, ‘Saudade de Martins Branco’, ‘Eugenio de Montijo’, ‘Lavinia Maggi’, ‘Oranda Ko’, ‘Surpresa de Jose Marques Loureiro’, ‘Rubescens Mjor’, ‘D. Joao IV’, ‘C. H. Hovey’, ‘Margheria Colleoni’, etc. etc.

The mansion of Santa Cruz of Ribadullla is located in the County of Vedra, which is in the region called the "Land of Santiago" and very close to this city.  it is very close to the national highway and the superhighway that connects Santiago de Compostella with Ourense.  In the County of Vedra, the ruins of the roman way are found which for centuries united the towns of Iria Flavia and Lucus Augusti.  Crossing this road of the roman empire, existing today, is the medieval Royal Road or the Silver Route, that from the south and center of the Iberian Peninsuls, brought since the tenth century jacobean pilgrims to the city of Santiago de Compostela. 

It is located near the center of the region of Galicia, reaps the benefits of a mild climate, this land is located on hill that has a small declination toward the Ulla river, and lies between farms and manors of fruit tress.  The majority of the horticulture of these lands is vineyards, cornfields, fields of potatoes, and ornamental plants, that are dominated by the camellia. The Pazo de Oca is located close to the banks of the Ulla river, which is a unique location in the world for its content of camellias and its monumental gardens.

 

The entry to the Granja de Ortigueira is through a large gate, between stoned walls, which has a treed path of distinct varieties, which runs up to the mansion, the church, the corral, and the private garden and cultivated fields. This last location has ornamental plants, fields for the livestock, a forrest, and an old plantation of olive trees from the year 1525.

  The first thing that attracts the attention of the visitor of this location is the fantastic appearance of the building, without decorations except the royal shields of the families of Mondragon. Zubieta,  Ermuzqueta, and the Marquises of Santa Cruz de Ribadulla.  The serenity that this building projects, with its proportional sizing of its sections, built section ally by the famous galegan architec Domingo Antonio de Andrade, shows the wealth of its owners and the age of construction.

When the Canon of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, D. Juan Ibanez de Mondragon, bought the tower and mansion of  Ortigueira, he started the refurbishment that continues to the present day.  He started the renovation of the tower and the mansion.  During these years theprimitive chapel was built, and later up to the present day is the church for the inhabitants of Santa Cruz de Ribadulla.  at the same time, the gardens were renovated, especially the treed paths were modified to a reticulated form with hundreds olive trees, (Olea europeae), that were and hopefully will be for centuries the botanic jewel and attracts the attention of any visitor to this location.

 

 

The magnificent mansion, the Santa Cruz church, and the Coca fountain, that is supported by the walls that encloses it, surround the plaza. Next to the church, which usually the custom for all galegan churches, is found the olive tree, which is the oldest, probably planted for the inauguration of the original chapel, that next to it can be found a young and lovely "Chamaecyparis lawsonniana".  There we find the first examples of Camellia japonica, creating a hedge that protects the private entry to the garden of the mansion.

 

In front of the main building, the Coca fountain is located there, a fountain with and abundance of decorations, built by Diego de Romay the compostelano builder, also famous for building many items of the famous barrocan compostellan architects Fernando de Casas and Novoa and Simon Rodriquez.The building of the fountain was first requested by the Marquis de Santa Cruz de Ribadulla,Andres Ibanez de Mondragon and Ozores de Sotomayor. The "Coca" is the gallegan mythological name for the dragon given to this fountain. Tthe surrounding dragons are the ancient symbol for the royal lineage of the Mondragons amd the Marquises of Santa Cruz and are found on all the coats of arms throughout the mansion. 

The Santa Cruz church is connected to the mansion by a passage in the form of an “L”.  It was used in early times as always in the galegan mansions, as a private access by its owners for religious services.  In this part of the building that gives access to the church is a great arch that gives passage to the olive grove, the fields for harvesting, the nursery, and the forrest. 

The original chapel, with its beatiful baptismal basin built by the constructors of the Royal Hospital of Santiago de Compostella in the early XVI century, and the gothic dome of the same period, started the construction to connect the chapel and the mansion.  The first Marquis that converted the chapel into its present form initiated this. In 1754 the construction was completed of the magnificent baroque altarpiece of Santo Cristo and of Nuestra Senora del Rosario.

 

 

 

Through the arch that connects the church with the mansion and with the permission of people in charge of the mansion, there is an access to a garden containing a famous vintage of century old olive trees and nurseries for ornamental plants.  We first find below the arch, a spectacular Phytolacca dioica, and a pond with ducks.  We begin to see a rare variety of floridtion, including rare species like PInus montezumae and other large typical tress like the oak trees (Quercus robur) or hollies (Ilex aquifolium).  Beyond the lineation of the century old olive trees opens to the paths that lead to the harvesting fields and nurseries. 

Also you can see the stoned columns that support the structure of the typical gallegan vineyards, which are oriented to take advantage of the heat of the sun and protect the walls of the ancient buildings

 

The formation, made up of over five hundred olive trees, has varying ages of trees, because of replanting or the disappearance of some caused by different misfortunes over five centuries for them, and has the historic fame for uniqueness as this botanical garden. In various rows, without a lot of effort, the difference in ages can be seen. Bordering them with a double row of trees are the roads that lead to different types of farming and livestock installations of the Granja de Ortigueira.  The huge fields and the lay of the exterior lands falling gently toward the waters of the river Ulla, create a lovely view of the lanscape for the visitor.

During the XVIII century, endless botanical and farming modifications occurred initiated by the Armada family, highlighting in this period, Juan Antonio Armada e Ibanez de Mondragon, called The Lightened One.  Very closely related to the Economic Society of Friends of the Land, was the person that introduced farming and ornamental novelties.  He was a constant protector of the gallegan modernization, establishing prizes to the farmers that improved their farm and livestock productions. He was instrumental in pushing new types of harvests especially in fruits and oils with plantations of olives and mulberries.

 

 

When we arrive at the end of the olive groves, we find the nurseries and greenhouses that produced decorative plants, especially the Ca,ellia.  A huge oak tree (Quercus robur f. ‘fastigiata’) receives us next to the nurseries. From the limits of the field dedicated to the production of the Camellia, the greenhouses can be seen and the installations for the protection of young plants, and returning to the mansion, through the forrest that is typical for western galicia, there are a mixture of oaks, pines, walnut and eucalyptus trees, bordering the forrest can be found the installations of Camellia plants that are grown to be sold, live in their natural form without the necessity of protection from the elements. It is possible to for the visitors to purchase these plants, simply talk to the person in charge.

 

© Daniel Domínguez/José C. García/Ed Valent- 2008