Ibiza house & garden: Noah’s Garden – Educating through inspiration
Buying a villa in Ibiza is a dream of many, and attached to every dream, is a vision of a beautiful garden. Estate agents entice their clients to invest with talk of lush green lawns, palm trees and exotic plants, however the reality after you’ve signed the paperwork… water is scarce, soil is tough, conditions are harsh and maintaining that dream garden can actually become a very expensive, never-ending saga. This lack of education from the outset can put a dampener on homeowners’ dreams, however the landscaping experts at Noah’s Garden are big believers in changing your dreams to be in line with the rhythm of life in order to have an eco-friendly garden that thrives today, tomorrow and forever.
Founders Karen Sailer and Bernd Brosius possess a passion for sustainability and conscious gardens that has stood the test of time – 20 years and counting. “People come to Ibiza to escape and relax,” says Karen. “For some, buying a home can turn into a nightmare if it’s not what they expected. It’s a lot of work to keep your paradise alive, and with all the development and hype we see in Ibiza, we can’t keep drawing on the island’s limited resources.”
Founded in 1998, Noah’s Garden is named as a tribute to Karen and Bernd’s son Noah, with the idea that every garden created is a future for a child. Karen came to the business with the aesthetic skills from her former career as a carpet designer, transferring her skills and knowledge to the earth while Bernd, a former sailor, was born with a natural green thumb. The two were self-educated on plants and landscaping, learning on the job, throwing themselves into the process with passion and vigor. “At that time, no one ever spoke of water wise gardens,” recalls Karen. “But we always believed in following the rhythms of nature.”
Set on the ground of a beautifully restored ancient lime mill in San Lorenzo, Noah’s Garden grew quickly, with their environmentally friendly ethos attracting the type of clients who not only respected their vision, but who also encouraged them to be creative on their land. “Our focus starts with educating our clients about the environment,” says Karen. “When you tell people they are doing something wrong – for example, choosing the wrong plants for the area – they won’t learn. You learn by being inspired and seeing results. We like to make the process of developing a garden enjoyable.”
Noah’s Garden has been responsible for the design and development of many of Ibiza’s most beautiful and sustainable gardens and they practice what they preach. “We are very specific about the way we work,” says Karen. “We don’t do lawns or crazy gardens that require a lot of water. If you want this, you can go to someone else. We prefer to give our clients information the resources we already have. If you’re open minded and like to learn, we’re here for you.” In line with their philosophy, they quickly decided not to sell plants onsite as most garden centres do, preferring only to order in specifically what they need, from suppliers who have grown and nurtured the crops correctly. “The only plants we have onsite are for our projects,” explains Karen.
“We encourage our client to look towards nature,” Karen explains of her ethical ethos. “We follow the rhythm of life. We do what nature does – for example, we don’t have a seeded lawn. We let natural grasses and flowers grow and cut them over the rainy period in winter with a lawn mower. It’s a beautiful green, even flowering lawn-like area. We don’t water it, it dries out in summer and returns to life in winter. When you understand how and why it works, you start to love the pastel, burnt colours of the landscape. Parts of nature are designed to sleep, to return to their roots in summer, finding a safe space while keeping their energy. They don’t receive water and they disappear for a while but that’s how the cycle is meant to be. It’s beautiful.” Think of it as the same way your body needs to revitalise and restore in its sleep every night, but on a seasonal basis. It’s not necessary to try and force certain plants to thrive all year round.
Whether it’s a garden redesign or working with architects from the ground up on new builds, the first step when working on a new landscaping project is for the Noah’s Garden team to visit your site. “It makes no sense for clients to come here,” says Karen logically. “We need to meet on their land, where we can see the nature of the landscape. It’s important for us to know where the wind blows, where the sun falls, what kind of water you have, what kind of earth you have – there are so many different soils in Ibiza. Then the process starts.” Karen takes hundreds of photos and returns to her creative space to start drawing – old school, by hand, to really connect with her creativity – and creates a master plan advising on the most sustainable and ethical methods and options.
One of the key processes employed by Noah’s Garden is implantation using a bespoke system inspired by the wisdom of ancient indigenous people in the Amazon. “The truth is, Ibiza hasn’t got a proper humus level, and so we produce our own humus using all the cuttings from pine trees and the manure from our horses combined with a special charcoal ‘biochar’ to create the super fertiliser called Terra Preta.” Using this eco-friendly humus – which Karen calls ‘black gold’ – as a layer of fertiliser within the soil allows water to be retained under the earth, activating life and requiring less water while encouraging double the growth. With this method, there’s also less need for insecticides or herbicides – with Noah’s Garden always opting for biological formulas when needed.
Working with suppliers who try to minimise their impact on nature as much as possible, Noah’s Garden bring their plants and trees in from mainland Spain. “We work with companies who produce plants that need very little irrigation – that have been tested and proven to need minimal water. These are passionate people,” says Karen. Meanwhile, down on the ground, the earth needs to be covered which is why when you garden at home, you find weeds spreading fast across your land. To combat this, Noah’s Garden use many creeping plants such as rosemary to provide beautiful coverage. All gardens come with a six-month guarantee while rooting, and after this period Noah’s Garden also offer a maintenance service to ensure it continues to thrive.
“The reason I won’t offer my clients palm trees is because I want then to be happy,” says Karen. “When they buy a palm and later see it die through infection with a palm weevil, they won’t be happy – especially not after spending a fortune on them. My favourite type of gardens are those you can really use, not the sterile manicured ones you just look at. We love olive trees – we even help our clients collect their olives and bring them to the press to make olive oil – and fruit trees. We encourage our clients to have vegetable gardens. I love round shaped bushes, fields of wild grasses – a mixture of life and architectural forms. I want our gardens to look like the human can feel at home in them. To have a wow factor that gives you space.”