«Nature in its free will is unique, but we are not squirrels»

Fernando Nájera's gardens imitate a miniature nature with their rocks, small water resources, plants and trees that shade… «They depend on rainwater (and irrigation in the harshest times) and need little human intervention to reach its fullness,” he explains. They are called naturalistic gardens, although they are not enemies of aesthetics. Nor do they fight against free and sovereign nature; despite what some believe. Ultimately, the job of a landscape designer is to ensure that nature and humans get along well. For gardens, he says, they are already what politicians get into.

What does your naturalist garden seal mean?

The naturalistic gardens that I create aim to be highly integrated into the environment in which they are implemented – that is, in accordance with the climate and available soil – and, on the other hand, to be small, relatively self-sufficient ecosystems in themselves.

Have we destroyed the natural balance?

Human beings have destroyed the natural balance in many ecosystems. But others that are highly appreciated are the result of our intervention. We have generated new landscapes, like the pasture, that do not function with a natural balance, but rather a human one. We are at a crossroads: can we improve nature or is it unethical, and should we let it be…?

Where should we “put” more gardens?

Naturally, where it is most needed, which as a general rule is where we have become more utilitarian, squares, terraces, streets… nests of asphalt in general. We have become accustomed to there being no greenery in the streets, trusting everything to trees that are often poorly sized. Gardens are not cleaned with pressure washers and buckets, they require more care. You have to garden wisely, thinking that it is a living space, studying how it will be used and what resources there will be to maintain it.

Mentions the garden project at the La Paz Hospital. How are garden and health related?

First the La Paz Hospital, then the Niño Jesús and, for some time in San Louis or Chicago, there are numerous examples of hospitals that have wanted to humanize the stay of their youngest patients with play spaces closely linked to nature. It's funny that we call humanizing space the construction of “non-human” environments, right? But there are many studies on its benefits in improving recovery times. We are not talking about a healing garden, but it does help us heal.

There are those who criticize interventionism of any kind…

Nature in its free will is wonderful, unique and inimitable. But we are not squirrels, nor foxes, nor even chimpanzees. Human beings are physically very vulnerable animals that use technology to thrive. And that inevitably leads to modification of the environment. Therefore, wherever we live it will be almost obligatory that we intervene in that nature, “landscaped” it so that it does not have toxic plants, does not overflow onto our houses or is not burned by lightning. This does not mean that we should try to preserve as many natural ecosystems as close as we can, because they are almost perfect machines that regulate themselves and remind us that we are nothing more than crude imitators.

Non-native species are still planted today… How to avoid landscape damage?

I am critical of the indigenous concept. Nothing and no one is native. Olive trees, which come from Asia Minor, are not, nor are tomatoes, which come from America. Nor are we, who as a species come from Africa. But you have to be very careful with species that are not only alien, but are also invasive and supplant their already established cousins. These cousins ​​could also emigrate, but they have been here for so long that we have adopted them and they are part of our landscape. So the debate seems to be more about which ones we are going to allow in and which ones we want to remove. Nowadays, those responsible for parks, gardens and reforestation have a large bibliography to avoid repeating disastrous actions carried out in the past. Not only because of the origin of the species, but because of their density, voracity, little aesthetic value, high incendiary potential or poor root development to avoid erosion.

Do politicians understand green urbanism?

Honestly, and barring some honorable example, they don't understand anything, in fact they understand it the other way around. I have seen medians renaturalized with artificial grass, parks made sustainable because they have a pergola with solar panels, or boulevards landscaped by doubling the paved surface. Green is fashion. Putting “Green” or an “Eco” in front sells. And that is not ecological or responsible urbanism. Painting asphalt green does not make it healthier, at most it results in having to repaint it every two years. But assuming that green urbanism requires a slow implementation time, slow development and a political gain that can only be used by a distant successor is something that is still not accepted.

What would you propose to improve what comes from the public?

The public should think 10 years ahead, not three and one campaign. We cannot tolerate public money being wasted on painful and politically motivated interventions. Multidisciplinary teams are needed that approach public gardening with the same rigor and commitment that is applied in private work, where there are magnificent projects underway.


Naturalistic gardens, but “techno”

«I live from Monday to Friday on the outskirts of Madrid, but Segovia and Ávila are my biggest testing grounds, with difficult climates, very demanding soils and a stimulating variety of landscapes. Whenever I can, I draw on the central system to tend my own experimental garden in a hard pine land. Graduated in Archeology from the Complutense and Freiburg (Germany), he comes from a family strongly linked to forest management. This led him to train as a landscape designer at the Castillo de Batres School. The studio that bears his name is differentiated by the application of new technologies to the landscape and the passion for naturalistic design. He combines his projects with being General Secretary of the Segovia Forestry Association.