Category Archives: Travel

Jardin Majorelle, Marrakech

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The house was originally constructed for Jacques Majorelle in the 1930s and from the beginning, the walls were painted in ‘Majorelle blue’.  He designed a garden around the Art Deco house with the rare and exotic plants he’d collected worldwide.dsc00128

The garden was first opened to the public in 1947, but fell into disrepair after his death in 1962.  It was saved from developers when Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent bought it in 1980 and since then the garden has been restored, with many plants added.

Following Saint Laurent’s death in 2008, the garden passed to a new non profit ‘fondation’ to ensure the conservation and maintenance of the property.  The fondation has already opened a fascinating Berber museum within the grounds and are currently working on the ‘Musee Yves Saint Laurent’ which is due to open later this year.

I previously visited this garden in 2006 with two primary age children in tow.  I remember worrying that a garden visit was likely to be very painful, but actually the combination of spiky cacti, bright colours and, most particularly, turtles in the pool proved a winning combination.

Fast forward to 2017 and the turtles have gone, but the other elements are still very much in evidence.

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Unlike the Jardin Secret, this garden is outside the centre of Marrakech and the entrance is off what feels like a residential street, but like the Jardin Secret, there is significant use of water in the design.dsc00135

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It doesn’t have the striking layout of the Jardin Secret, and is definitely busier, but its still a fascinating space with much to recommend it.  Perhaps I’ll return in another ten years to check our the new museum.

Oh, and if you’re wondering how they keep that blue paint looking so fresh…dsc00113

 

 

Le Jardin Secret, Marrakech

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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.dsc00221

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.dsc00264

Whilst not a huge fan of battleship grey, it makes a striking back drop for the wonderfully textured planting and the colourful Aloes.dsc00247

I love this Dasylirion acrotrichum – it reminds me of Heatherwick’s ill fated ‘B of the Bang’.dsc00257

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.dsc00156

The grasses really were extraordinary en masse like this.dsc00200

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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.dsc00238

An exhibiton shows numerous photos taken during the renovation, including this one of the painstaking tile workdsc00165

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From the Islamic garden we climbed up to first floor level above the Oud el Ward pavilion to lunch in the new cafe.

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From here we climbed a further beautifully tiles staircase

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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.

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Just time to admire one of my favourite plants, Melianthus major, before running the gauntlet of the hawkers once more….dsc00148

(New) England summer

IMG_3896Years ago I holidayed in New England, pregnant with the son who turned eighteen last New Year’s Eve, an event which in part triggered the creation of this blog.  

And this summer we returned, with son and daughter in tow, conscious that this may well be our last family holiday.  

The first week was spent in Boston where I felt quite seriously devoid of floral life.  There were however, some incredible ‘faux’ flora to entertain me.  Firstly those at the Harvard Museum of Natural History.  The museum has an extraordinary collection of glass flowers (including the Penstemon above) made by German father and son Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, who were commissioned to produce the incredibly detailed and accurate flowers for use in teaching botany at the university.  

The blooms were made by softening the glass – initially painted and later the glass itself was coloured – and then blowing or shaping it, often relying on wire supports for structure.  As well as creating the blooms they often created magnified models of plant parts:

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There are over 3,000 models representing 830 plant species, and whilst some were a little dusty and uninspiring, the vast majority were perfectly astonishing.  I find it hard to fathom the expertise required to create accurate botanical drawings, but the idea of creating these models in 3D is just extraordinary – particularly bearing in mind the commission began in 1886. 

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Keeping with the glass theme, the Museum of Fine Art had a magnificent sculpture by American artist Dale Chihuly.  I remember when he exhibited in both the V&A and also Kew Gardens and think he is an amazing innovator.  

See ‘Lime Green Icicle Tower’ below, admittedly not very flowery, but you’ve got to admire the scale!

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And to finish the faux theme, a gorgeous little crocheted fig.  IMG_3967

With regard to real blooms, the only garden I managed to visit in Boston itself was the Boston Public Garden, where the planting was, whilst not really to my taste, certainly striking.

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I’m still in New England as I post this (Rockport MA actually), so if any of of my US readers have any suggestions for gardens to visit in the area I’d be delighted to hear from you.