Parc del Castell de Peralada blueprint (1877), François Duvillers.

François Duvillers, Parc del Castell de Peralada Designer

Engraving belonging to Historia Naturale di Ferrante Imperato.

Paper Gardens exhibition at the Library




The construction of the Peralada Castle Gardens can be seen as part of the nineteenth-century revival of the art of gardening in Catalonia, when bourgeois families and the landed gentry decided to enhance their homes by starting up these areas with the incorporation of tree and plant varieties.


It was four hundred years ago now that Antoni de Rocabertí, Count of Peralada, and Tomàs de Rocabertí, Count of Savallà, by moving to Peralada, began a series of renovations based on their education and relations with the French capital and their bonds with the island of Mallorca. In addition to the improvements carried out inside the castle and the Carme convent were those aimed at enhancing their environs, so, just as every French castle featured a great park or garden, the two brothers decided to honour that of Peralada à la façon française by integrating the neighbouring land, called Lo Bosch del Comte, with the appropriate arrangement and landscaping. One of the most acclaimed garden designers living in Paris, François Duvillers (1807-1881), ”Architecte paysagiste dessinateur de parcs et jardins” as he described himself, was commissioned, when he was 70 years of age, and it is probably due to his age (he would die four years later) that he did not come to Peralada, but kept in constant communication with Count Don Antoni.


The gardens at Peralada include the type typology that follows the Le Nôtre model – French geometric castle gardens of Versailles and Chantilly – that can be seen in the parterres of the south and east areas nearest to the castle, and the typical structure of the English landscape garden, with sinuous shapes, for the rest of the garden.




Originally, the garden covered 3 hectares and 38 ares (33,800 m2), and according to the enclosed key attached legend, there should have been up to 63 different areas, including the Avenue des orangers, the Chemins vicinaux, the Laberynthe, the Tir au pigeon, the Jeu de cricket, the Habitation du jardinier, the Gymnase, the Kiosque de Pinus Pinea, etc., although not all of them were carried out. The flora used by Duvillers is rich and varied, both with regard to the fruit-producing trees and to ornamental plants and trees, with species that he saw were well acclimatised to places on similar lines of latitude, such as Corsica and Monaco, and other exotic species from Oriental countries, reaching 158 varieties in all.


Years do not go by in vain, and both the layout of the space and the species that now make up the gardens have undergone modifications; some done voluntarily in response to aesthetic or pragmatic questions, first by the new owners and descendants of the counts in the 1900s, and later, in the 1930s, by Miquel Mateu, or in more recent times, the 1990s, whereas others were the result of the whims of the weather. So, for example, we know that “the year of the freeze” (1956) killed nearly all the eucalyptus trees and many of the orange trees.




In the present exhibition, visitors will be able to see documents such as the original plans; some of the correspondence between François Duvillers and Antoni de Rocabertí kept in the Archive of the Kingdom of Mallorca; the albums printed at the Escola de Palaci “Catalogue of Plants of the Park of the Count of Peralada” and “Catalogue of Fruit Trees of the Count of Peralada”, and the monograph by François Duvillers Les Parcs et jardins (1878), which includes the plan of Peralada, as well as a number of tools from the period, such as the old glass cloche. They will also get the chance to see interesting complementary material, with a rich sample of bibliography an extensive representation of the books acquired by the counts: in addition to journal subscriptions are books on horticulture, gardening, rustic furniture and monographs by contemporary botanists who worked in the Balearic Islands, Catalonia and the rest of the Iberian peninsula.


Inés Padrosa Gorgot