Practicing in Paradise

Picture this: you’re warm, relaxed, and in heaven, enjoying the fresh air, infused with the delicious scent of lemon blossoms. You’re living and breathing gorgeous landscapes, fully immersed in abundance, trees dripping with lemons, overripe fruit underfoot. In the shade of an orange tree, you capture the essence of an orange. When one falls from the tree onto your head, you eat it for a delightful afternoon snack. When you finish your painting for the day, you are welcomed to the dinner table by freshly cooked vegetables, local wine, and charming hosts. The fun continues as you cool off with a dip in the saltwater pool. Your eyes close as your head hits the pillow, and you wake up to enjoy paradise again the next morning. 

In May 2022, we held a botanical drawing workshop in Spain at the Garden of Lemons, known as a retreat center for people seeking experiences, peace and contemplation in beautiful surroundings. Our charming and helpful hosts / chefs / tour guides, Henrik and Ingo, have truly created a slice of heaven on earth. 

For 8 days, our group of botanical artists immersed ourselves in the old and fruitful trees, dripping with lemons, oranges, and olives, and delighted in the collection of delicate roses and other plants. Sam shared that the plant that stood out most to her was the caper berry; “It’s such an alien, awesome looking thing! I also love capers, and it’s cool to learn all about where they come from and how they grow.” Some days we had fun hiking and nature journaling, drawing plants as well as the gorgeous landscape view. I love watching students surprise themselves, when they initially think their drawing will be terrible, but instead, the landscape sketches they create are beautiful.

Our weekend excursions to Las Alpujarras and La Alhambra were rich with history and culture, old stone walls and irrigation systems, narrow streets designed for walking (not cars), and olives (freshly fallen from their trees) squishing beneath our feet around the village.

Everyone worked hard and played hard! By day, we observed the plants that spoke to us and practiced our botanical illustration technique, and by evening, we had so much fun hanging out at the saltwater pool, drinking wine, and enjoying the surrounding beauty and each other. In between, we enjoyed ourselves and ate delicious food. Henrik would run out to the garden to collect herbs for dinner and then present us with amazing, mostly vegetarian, mediterranean meals, featuring their own fresh olive oil and fresh vegetables from their grounds. 

“It was unanimous amongst us in attendance that we have never had such a unique and wonderful experience of location, food, wine, good company, and art! We all came for the art workshop knowing the south of Spain would be a beautiful setting, but we never imagined eating so well!” -Leslie G.

“Every dish was an experience in taste, aroma, color, and a perfect texture.” -Sheila Y.

“These two amazing men have captured Paradise and recreated it in Andalusia, Spain.  The Garden of Lemons Retreat, originally built on the footprint of a chicken coop, now sprawls with two more structures across a piece of land nestled in the mountains that allows you to immerse yourself in nature in every sense.

Henrik and Ingo harvest a multitude of crops from the trees and plants on their land and use them to feed their guests, while the natural splendor of their gardens feeds their souls.  My favorites include the desserts made from avocado and plucking an orange right from the tree for a mid afternoon snack.” -Nancy W.

“A stay at the Garden of Lemons of Andalucia is to indulge all the senses:  the sights of the local hills and quaint towns, the smells of fresh lemon blossoms, the sounds of the birds, the refreshing feel of pool water on a blazing hot day.  And most significantly, the tastes coming out of the kitchen are a sensuous immersion into flavors and textures, as well as visually delightful.  We are taught of the health benefits of “eating the rainbow”, and every meal during my two week stay was a riot of color.  Henrik, and sous chef Ingo, have a knack for combining vegetables, grains, legumes, fresh herbs, spices and fruits into interesting and scrumptious dishes.  Each meal contained imaginative preparations, with many of their ingredients having been plucked out of their gardens, or off their trees, just hours earlier.  Being fortunate to arrive during avocado season, I loved the myriad of ways we were served these luscious fruits: in soups, salads and even desserts!  The routine use of garbanzo beans and other legumes would be enough to convince one to abandon meat forever.  The generous toppings of mediterranean olive oil, lemons, capers and parmesan cheese, as well as herbs and spices, made every mouthful a burst of flavor.” -Leslie G.

“We wouldn’t change a thing,” and “When can we come back?” were the most common responses from participants. The Garden of Lemons created an atmosphere of community, generosity, and abundance. Everyone was just so happy to be there, connecting to the plants, each other, and ourselves. We couldn’t have asked for a better group, better hosts, or a better experience. 

Take a look at some of the awesome work that was done by students and instructors:

Where would you like to go next?

Comment on this post or email info@drawbotanical.com to request a location for a future botanical drawing workshop.

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