May the Best Patio Win

spanish patio ideas
Photo by K. Emily Bond
… or so goes the yearly patio-fest, officially known as the Battle of the Flowers, in Cordoba, Spain -- about a 45-minute train ride away from where I live.

The contest, sanctioned by City Hall, began in 1918. The Ayuntamiento’s thinking, I suppose, was let’s give the locals something to brag about. Tricked out with stone mosaics, ceramic décor, and a cornucopia of flowers, the patios of Cordoba beckon visitors from far and wide.

They win. Theirs are the best patios I have ever seen.  

What’s more, during the battle floral, scents of jasmine and orange blossom seep out into the narrow alleyways and streets, making for a very pleasant walk, indeed.


In America, our concept of the patio is a bit different than that of our Spanish counterparts. Sure, everyone loves a good patio, especially with some deck chairs and an umbrella. But the patios in Spain? Hombre, to give you more of an idea, think of it as the Spaniard’s equivalent of a really good lawn. Like TruGreen good.

Because of the hot and dry climate in these parts, homes and apartment buildings are traditionally built with a central patio. It’s an architectural feature that dates back to the Roman days. Therefore, the patio is often the centerpiece of the home, literally, and a cool place to chill when temperatures rise.

For multi-unit dwellings, patios are maintained by the community who, in turn, issue rules about what kind of plants are allowed and who waters what when. Our landlord recently issued a decree about what color pots residents are allowed to use. As such, I’m boycotting.

But if you wanted to create a Spanish-inspired patio of your own, experiment with some decorative wall planters. Construct a latticed wall covered with some climbing hydrangea. For the truly ambitious, install a soothing outdoor fountain.

Yours could end up being the best patio in your barrio. Take that.


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