The orchards are located on the third terrace and, at just under 10 acres, they are a hugely prominent feature of the complex. In the 18th century, the palace orchards showed the power and wealth of their owner, whether a king, prince, or nobleman. Also, the fact that these orchards are incorporated within the palace grounds makes them a rather unique design detail. For example, in Aranjuez and La Granja de San Idelfonso, the orchards are outside, or off to the side, of the palace.
The restoration of this space has been overseen by Lucía Serredi, an Italian landscape designer who also restored the palace gardens. Just as she did with the gardens, she is using as her reference the 1868 property map and other historical documents, such as the orchard diagram from the Royal House of Zarzuela in 1759, which no doubt inspired the king’s brother.
According to Ms. Serredi, this is one of the finest examples of Bourbon orchards in Europe, in the traditional French style of their ancestors. We should note that Prince Luis was King Philip V’s youngest son and that his grandfather was King Louis XVI of France.
Originally, these orchards yielded a wide variety of produce, with fruit trees, vegetables, beans, cereals, linseed, and other crops planted there.
"Restoration Plan from 1868."
The Restoration Project
The purpose of this restoration was to reinterpret this space down to exacting historical and artistic details, with the challenge of balancing how it was back in its day with its present use, in order to create a living orchard with educational value.
Even though the parcel map that was used for reference covers only half the orchard, extrapolations were made from it to reproduce the same design in the other half. That led to the creation of 32 planting grids that form two symmetrical shapes on either side of a north-south axis which brings together the palace, the fountain, the monumental staircase, and the orchards.
The plantations that existed here in the 18th century have been recovered, exposing sections of the orchards, gardens, meadows, fields, and croplands. There are vegetables, aromatic plants, meadows of clover and fescue (a dark green flowering grass), and fields of wheat, alfalfa, and sunflowers. Over time, the new pergolas that were installed will become covered with creeping vines and rambling roses, which will provide shade. Along the rest of the paths, which were raised to prevent puddling and to improve the view of the orchards, over 700 fruit trees have been planted.
There is minimal lighting in the orchard and few ornamental details. The irrigation line also blends in with the natural aesthetics of the environment.
In the second phase, there are plans to build service pavilions, a small café, restrooms, and even a shop with informational materials about the orchards.