If you want a wonderfully detailed account of this garden, including the history, do head over to the Frustrated Gardener who visited late last year (and in much sunnier weather!)
I realised when we were forced to land in Casablanca to refuel (due to a 40 mile wide thunderstorm sitting over the Marrakech airport) that the weather for our short trip was unlikely to be balmy, and indeed it wasn’t. Having said that, by Saturday the weather had improved, and by Sunday (when I took my ‘Aloe Aloe’ Wordless Wednesday picture) the sky was a fabulous blue. Sadly, on Friday when we went garden visiting, all was rather grey.
Le Jardin Secret is situated in Marrakech’s central souk and is an extraordinary oasis amongst the chaos. It has been open less than a year after a redesign by Tom Stuart-Smith and a fabulous renovation. It is an absolute triumph.
The space consists of two separate gardens, the first square and the second rectangular which abut on a corner, each largely invisible from the other.
In this photo you can see the exotic garden to the middle right, with the second, larger, Islamic garden in the main part of the picture. The link between the two is deliberately small, creating a contrast between the narrow link and the wider gardens themselves.
The first photo is of the exotic garden, looking back to elegant reception building seen at the rear. The view looking the other way, as you first enter the exotic garden, is below.
Whilst not a huge fan of battleship grey, it makes a striking back drop for the wonderfully textured planting and the colourful Aloes.
I love this Dasylirion acrotrichum – it reminds me of Heatherwick’s ill fated ‘B of the Bang’.
Although the exotic garden is segmented and symmetrical, the larger Islamic garden is even more strictly laid out. The rectangular shape is split into four quadrants, with each quadrant further split into four.
And whereas the planting in the exotic garden is contemporary and from all over the world, the planting in the Islamic garden is much more traditional with repeated planting of olive, pomegranate, fig and date. Only the herbaceous planting underneath the trees is a modern interpretation of the original swept earth.
The grasses really were extraordinary en masse like this.
Throughout both gardens are beautiful rills and fountains, with water being an essential element in Islamic gardens.
The original water system in Marrakech utilised ground drainage tunnels (established in the late eleventh century) which carried water from the Atlas mountains into the city’s mosques, hammams and some of the great houses, including Le Jardin Secret.
An exhibiton shows numerous photos taken during the renovation, including this one of the painstaking tile work
From the Islamic garden we climbed up to first floor level above the Oud el Ward pavilion to lunch in the new cafe.
From here we climbed a further beautifully tiles staircase
to the top of the tower, from where the layout of the garden was clear. As the website says “The garden is as a matter of fact a metaphor of heaven; it is a sacred place, laid out according to rigid geometrical rules, in which the Muslim order asserts itself over the wild disorder of nature.” Heaven indeed.
Just time to admire one of my favourite plants, Melianthus major, before running the gauntlet of the hawkers once more….