Girona, Spain’s Temps de Flors Festival Blends Horticulture and Art

September 4, 2016 by


temps-de-flors-eiffel-bridge-side-hanging-plants-urbangardenswebGustav Eiffel’s Pont de le Peixateries Velles over Onyar river. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

The history of Girona, Spain is as colorful as the ocher and coral-toned buildings lining the banks of the Onyar river that flows through this ancient city, about an hour north of Barcelona.

The city’s annual Temps de Flors festival, which takes place every May, turns Girona into a vibrant and sprawling outdoor botanical art experience. The week-long event blends horticulture and art featuring site-specific installations created mainly of flowers and plants.

temps-de-flors-flowers-climbing-steps-urbangardenswebFlowers carpet the back side of Sant Filiu during the annual Temps de Flors festival. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-pallet-flowers-up-steps-urbangardenswebInstitute la Garrotya created these pallets filled with flowers on the steps of La Pera. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Girona is bursting with historical sites. Gustave Eiffel built a bridge there ten years before designing his eponymous tower in Paris. Jews and Arabs once lived side by side in harmony within the city’s medieval walls, and legendary Tour du Monde cyclists take advantage of Girona’s varied terrain and mild weather to train there.

eiffel-bridge-distance-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebEiffel’s Pont de le Peixateries Velles connects the new and old parts of the city. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Lymbus: A Botanical Art Installation and Multi-Media Performance
Together with talented Girona and Barcelona-based landscape artists Marc Grañén and Jordi Sanchez Sanmiguel of Simbiosi Estudi, I co-created Lymbus, a botanical art installation composed of hundreds of plants that filled the centuries-old steps of Girona’s oldest church, the Basilica Sant Feliu.

lymbus_vert-temp-de-flors_urbangardenswebDJs spinning sounds each evening at 6 pm for Lymbus on the steps of Sant Filiu. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Artisans from Girona-based Pont de Querós worked with us to create arches woven from live willow plants. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

An artistic narrative about the important connection between human beings and nature, Lymbus was a reflection of the climate crisis and the dire need for human beings to reconnect with nature’s life cycle. After the festival, all the plants were donated to local schools and regional parks.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

Plants, Performers, and Pyrotechnics
For the festival’s opening night, Grañén and Joan Font, Director of Barcelona theater group, Comediants, co-produced a spectacular 45-minute open-air multi-media sound and light show featuring all of the installation’s gardeners and designers. A crowd gathered in the church square as we marched along with stilt walkers in a musical parade carrying sparklers, flares, and fire. Electronic music and brightly colored lighting provided the backdrop for the event, which opened with a primadonna performing a live opera aria of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah from the cathedral’s bell tower.

Our Lymbus opening night multimedia performance featured sparklers, flares, fire, electronic music, a live opera aria, and fireworks. Using rope and sheer human strength, our team of 30 raised a two-ton tree that had been lowered by crane onto the cathedral stair landing. Photo: Marc Grañén and Comediants.

As part of the performance, our team of 30 used sheer human strength, rope, and thick wooden rods to raise a two-ton tree that had been lowered by crane onto the cathedral stair landing. We raised the massive tree together as a metaphor for the collective effort required to save our planet.

Filling the Plaça Sant Feliu and beyond, an audience of over 2500 viewed the extravaganza, culminating in a fireworks display that lit up the sky above the cathedral spire.

Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

More Than 100 Works of Botanical Art
In its 61st year, the annual Temps de Flors festival launched in 1955 as a floral exhibition in the church of Sant Domènec, has since evolved into a citywide event with more than 100 impressive works of botanical-inspired art occupying Girona’s major monuments, courtyards, and private spaces not normally open to the public.

temps-de-flors-umbrella-street-urbangardenswebStreets bloom with color during Temps de Flors. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-poster-2016-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-vertical-garden-floral-urbangardenswebA mannequin of flowers and plants at a shop entrance. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Citywide Plant and Floral-Inspired Culinary Art and Decor
Nearly all of Girona participates in the festival: shop owners dress up their storefronts and windows with floral-inspired decor, and little botanical surprises appear in hidden corners and on residential balconies throughout the town. Many of the restaurants offer special Gastroflors menus with unusual dishes of edible art prepared using flowers and plants.

temps-de-flors-stripe-bench-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-ship-window-rose-wigs_urbangardenswebLocal merchants dress up their shop windows. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-plates-urbangardenswebRestaurant La Penyora’s assemblage of plates and plants. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton. 

temps-de-flors-bottle-planters-street-urbangardenswebRepurposed plastic bottles turned into planters on pipes throughout the city. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-red-planted-dresser-urbangardenswebFurniture restoration shop’s planter from a recycled chest of drawers. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-storefront-urbangardenswebIn front of a home decor shop. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-hanging-lamp-urbangardenswebImpromptu lighting fixture hanging from a recycled wood branch. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-fabric-flowers-pot-urbangardenswebUpholsterer’s potted flowers are constructed from textiles. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-planted-vespa-urbngardenswebLoving this floral-adorned scooter. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

My Temps de Flors Favorite Picks
We were not the only group working long hours right up until the festival’s opening day. I really enjoyed watching the creativity unfold as others prepared and built their installations throughout the city. Here were some of my favorites:

pallet-flowers_temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-floral-arch-urabngardenswebVines draped elegantly around a fountain’s arch on a street in Bari Vell, by the Associaciò Floral de Girona. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-girona-city-hall-urbangardenswebIn front of Girona City Hall, hanging pieces were planted by vocational trade students. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-gold-bicycle-urbangardenswebMaking hay in a courtyard at Plaça Bell-Lloc with this bicycle spray-painted metallic gold. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-flower-box-in-street-urbangardenswebLittle surprises at every turn off the Plaça Bell-LLoc, Travesia Auriga. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-blue-chair_urbangardenswebSitting pretty outside Casino Gironi. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Kokedama Stretching the Length of the Eiffel Bridge 
Eiffel’s circa 1877 iron bridge, Pont de les Peixateries Velles aka El Pont de Ferro (ferro means iron)stands at the confluence of four rivers, one of the 11 bridges connecting Girona’s eastern ancient walled city with its newer western side. Although most tourists do not know Eiffel built a bridge in Girona, it is one of Girona’s semi-secret historical highlights and therefore a special honor for those assigned to create an installation there.

I wonder what Gustav Eiffel would have thought of the spectacular series of hanging plants flanking the sides of his bridge. In their interpretation of traditional Japanese kokedama, floral artists from Rosa Valls Formació suspended flowing kokedama arrangements embellished with raffia from each side of the bridge.

temps-de-flors-eiffel-bridge-length-planted-urbangardenswebEiffel’s Pont de le Peixateries Velles. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Kokedama, a variation of bonsai often called “string gardens,” are balls of peat moss-covered Akadama soil substrate from which an ornamental plant grows. With the cascading raffia floating softly in the breeze like dancing plants, the installation complemented the bridge’s geometric lines and symmetry while respecting the integrity of Eiffel’s design.

temps-de-flors-eiffel-bridge-closeup-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-hangingraffia-planters-eiffel-bridge-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Floral Curtain Suspended from Gomez Bridge
From the center of another bridge, the Pont de la Princesa, aka Gomez Bridge, artists suspended a simple but stunning curtain of plants attached to corrugated iron bars.

temps-de-flors-gomez-bridge-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Art i Argent’s hydrangeas and hanging foil disks rose up the steps of Carrer de Miquel Oliva i Prat.

temps-de-flors-hydrangeas-hanging-spheres-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton. 

temps-de-flors-spheres-urbangardenswebLittle bouquet surprise floating among the gold disks. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

In the Passeig Arqueològic, a taste of lime blossom tea and yours truly posing with teacup and teabag to demo the scale…

temps-de-flors-teacup-urbangardenswebYours truly. My cup runneth over. Photo: Ariadna Sicilia.

temps-de-flors-teabag-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-matches-sideways-urbangardenswebMistos (matches) at Riu Galligants: the “flame” is a red plant I could not identify. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-matches-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

umbrella-lrg-off-balcony-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebColorful umbrellas and paper flowers hanging from above and down the length of the street. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton

umbrellas-sidewalk-row-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-umbrella-on-sidewalk-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-paper-flowers0side-building-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

umbrella-on-balcony-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton

temps-de-flors-little-street-urbangardenswebPlant-filled hollowed log and potted plants in a courtyard at Plaça Bell-LLoc, Travesia Auriga. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-chalkboard-urbangardenswebChalkboard invited visitors to create an interactive piece of floral-inspired artwork. Plaça Bell-LLoc, Travesia Auriga. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-chalboard-ladder-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Cinematic Clematis
As though they were long overgrown from the interior to exterior, clusters of dried branches protruded from the windows in front of the Antic Cinema Modern, a former movie theater a short walk from Girona’s town hall. In an installation that was more a piece to be experienced than viewed, designers brought the disused empty space to life, creating an al fresco theater where flowers and plants “performed” before an audience of empty white chairs.

cinema-museum-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

cinema-museum-exterior-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebPhoto: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-clothesline-planters-urbangardenswebMulti-hued flower pots hanging upside down on the Carrers Calderers Barca, Pujada Sant Feliu. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-window-urbangardensweb Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Rolls of turf, below, leftover from the main cathedral’s installation were infinitely more interesting than the installation itself.

temps-de-flors-sod-rolls-cathedral-urbangardensweb Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

The Jewish Quarter: El Call
Dating from the 12-15th centuries, Girona’s is one of Europe’s most well-preserved ancient Jewish quarters. Its labyrinth of narrow streets and courtyards weaves through the Força Vella–-the old walled part of the city where a vibrant Jewish community once thrived during the medieval period.

temps-de-flors-jewish-museum-garden-red-bottles-urbangardenswebGarden of Center Bonastruch. Taller de Magnnèsia transformed the garden space with a liturgical theme. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Girona was the birthplace of an important branch of Kabbalah studies, the mystical and intellectual movement that non-Jews such as Madonna have popularized in the past decade. Until 1492, when all Jews were forced to leave Spain unless they converted to Catholicism, this community frequented their synagogue, bought meat from the kosher butchers, and bathed in the mikvahs, or ritual baths. The Museum of the History of the Jews offers a detailed narrative of Girona and Catalonia’s Jewish population before their expulsion at the end of the 15th century.

temps-de-flors-jeish-museum-garden-sticks-urbangardensweb Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-jewish_museum-garden_urbangardensweb A tribute to the intensity and force of the universe, the power of water, essential to natural growth in Casa Lléo Avinay’s garden in the old Jewish Quarter, El Call. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton. In the courtyard of Casa Sambola, students from the School of Art and Design of Tarragona and Reus tell the story of a couple in love separated by war. The sad and reflective woman pulls petals from the daisies day after day as she says “he loves me, he loves me not.” Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-blue-spheres-hydrangeas_urbangardensweb A trail of blue hydrangeas and spheres by Art i Argenti weaving up the Escales del Carrer de Miguel Oliva i Prat. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

temps-de-flors-bench-hanging-laundry_urbangardensweb Artful laundry was hanging at the Plaça de la Terre Carlemany, and a funky “bench” atop two planters (how’d they do that?) by Jardiners de la Vila d’Albi. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Family Affair: Mother Passes Down the Tradition to Her Daughter
My friend and host, festival organizer Angels Artigas Claret, is the owner of Flor a Punt, a gorgeous little flower shop that is a highlight for anyone strolling through the old part of the city. Stop in just for the scents and to say hello!

flora-punt-girona-angels-urbangardensweb Angels Artigas Claret, owner of Flor a Punt. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Tales of Tires and Salvador Dalí
Angels’s mother, Anita Claret Sargatal (below), posed in front of the installation constructed from recycled tires at the Església Sagrat Corin, a collaboration with florists from the Escola Portuguesa Rui Rodrigues.

There’s a backstory to Sargatal’s choice of tires for this installation. She and her late husband, Salvador Claret, who had been a mechanic since 1928, returned from a trip to America where they’d observed numerous roadside hotels that offered services for motorists. Upon their return to Girona in 1945, they were the first in Spain to open the “American-style” Hotel de la Selva whose large sign was mounted on Pirelli tires. The hotel included a restaurant, garage, gas station, and towing service–-everything tourists traveling by car would need. Around the same time, Claret began collecting vintage cars and auto parts which now fill the Salvador Claret Automobile Collection, a museum in Sils.

temps-de-flors-sargatal_urbangardensweb Anita Claret Sargatal, one of the early founders of Temps de Flors. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

Bartering Tires For Dali Paintings
At dinner one night at a local wine bar, Angels shared with me that her mother was a friend of the Surrealist painter Salvador Dalí. He lived nearby in the town of Figueres and once offered his paintings in exchange for several of Sargatel’s vintage Pirelli tires. She declined to barter for Dalí’s artwork, insisting instead on collecting the small amount of change the artist could offer at the time.  Sargatel now owns an original Dalí and the family laughs about the collection of valuable paintings they would now have had she known her artist friend would become one of the icons of 20th-century art. Dalí had already painted The Persistence of Memory at the time, his famous work featuring surrealistic images of melting pocket watches.

temps-de-flors-window-planters-urbangardensweb Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

la-rosa-wine-bottles-temps-de-flors-urbangardenswebSalut! Bottles of Spanish rosé (one of my faves) fill the window of the wine shop next door to my hotel. Photo: Robin Plaskoff Horton.

My deep gratitude to the City of Girona, the Hotel Ciutat de Girona, and most of all to my friends Angels Artigas Claret and Marc Grañèn for including me in the 2016 edition of Temps de Flors.

The next Temps de Flors is May 13-21, 2017.

Disclosure: The City of Girona and Temps de Flors sponsored my trip to Girona. I was not paid to write this post; all opinions expressed herein are uniquely mine and not indicative of any sponsor opinions or positions.


  1. Jessice Lenney said:

    Very nice view. Flower arrangement are so amazing.

    — January 30, 2017 @ 09:41

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