Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Corner View - Gardens

JARDIN MAJORELLE, MARRAKECH

ROYAL BOTANICAL GARDENS, KANDY


The theme of this week's Corner View is actually 'garden', but I'm going to look at more than one, as here in Oman we have an unispiring back yard with a bit of bougainvillea, which attracts Sunbirds, African Silverbills and White-eyes, but it's not particularly photogenic. Back home in Hampshire, we have a house with a typical English garden, but as we only go back to take care of it for a few weeks each summer, it's beginning to go to rack and ruin. Probably, the most interesting garden I ever had was when I lived in a little whitewashed villa in Spain. It had orange and persimmon trees and grape vines, and I copied the locals by growing most of my own vegetables there. Can't find any photos of it though. You probably noticed there were a few 'buts' there, which all leads me to the fact that I'm not going to show you any of them. Instead I'm going to look at a few public gardens that have particularly impressed me in my travels around the world.

I like minimalist gardens, maybe because they are so different to what I grew up with in England, and I've always been attracted to the exotic. My favourite is the Zen Rock Garden at Ryoanji Temple in Kyoto. It consists simply of a rectangle filled with a bed of gravel and fifteen rocks. Laid out in the fifteenth century, it is regarded as a masterpiece of Japanese culture.

"That is a description, but to understand its effect, and its purity, you have to go there. The design generates tension, drawing the viewer to contemplate the mystery of Zen. It can't be photographed in entirety, the dimensions could drive any photographer to distraction, but thats the beauty of it. All you can do is just put the camera away, sit down and contemplate it. Especially when you realize that no matter where you sit, you will only see 14 of the rocks at any one time. The longer you sit, the more the garden fascinates." Japan Travel Guide. So, again, no photos, but it left a lasting impression on my mind, as I'm sure it will on yours when you go to see it for yourself. I expect some of you already have.

My second favourite is Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech. Currently owned by Yves Saint Laurent, it was originally laid out by another Frenchman, Jacques Majorelle, in 1886. Like the Ryoanji rock garden, it is a place that inspires contemplation and wonder, although I'm sure that some visitors must walk round it once, which can be done in less than five minutes, and ask, 'Is that it?' The garden is indeed small and simple, but the cacti and palm trees are set off to perfection by the blue architecture. This time there are photos, but they don't really do it justice. Again, you should go to Marrakech and see it for yourself one day.

Third place must be shared by a number of botanical gardens which feature collections of rare and exotic plants and trees collected by Victorian botanists , including Kew Gardens in London and the Royal Botanical gardens of Calcutta and Kandy, the last of which is featured in the photos. They are vestiges of a lost empire, and, like my garden in England, many of them, especially the one in Calcutta, are becoming ovegrown and going to rack and ruin. The great Mughal Shalimar gardens on the shores of Dal lake in Kashmir have been abandoned and neglected for even longer, but you can still conjure up visions of their lost beauty as you drift by them in a shikara .

Do you remember that children's book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden? There is something intriguing about the idea of being able to enter a long-lost secret garden, isn't there?

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20 comments:

  1. These photos are beautiful!! I love the blue wall... so stands out!

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  2. Secret gardens are the best. Love all the blue in this one. xo

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  3. I don't know this book (I only know what Voltaire said about our garden to care) but I can imagine... I like secret minimalist zen (and may be "wild" too) gardens...

    Have a sunny day

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  4. I wish I could visit these places one day ...

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  5. I love the book The Secret Garden (once the nightmarish part about the plague in Indian is over)!
    I really like the photo of the cactus garden, the green of the cacti in-front of the contrasting bright blue of the building.

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  6. I like your taste in gardens, from the minimal to the...minimal. I did take a photo when I visited Ryoanji, of my bare-feet and my husband's bare-feet in the foreground. It's a cliche photo, but is a fun memory from our honeymoon, and in 10 years living in Japan still the only time I visited Kyoto. Your description reminds me that I'd like to go back...
    best wishes,

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  7. wonderful, dreamy photos!
    thanks for the tour:)

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  8. LOVE the secret garden and LOVE kew! They do sadly say that a garden rarely outlives it's gardener. The two need each other terribly.

    And yes, your descriptions give me such itchy feet. but which direction first?!

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  9. These are lovely gardens. I like minimal too but then I also like gardens full of flowers. I didn't really get the Zen-garden in Kyoto but then that's maybe just me......I did like the sand raked mounds at the Silver Pavilion though....and the moss garden there too!

    I too enjoyed The Secret Garden as a child...one of my favourite books.

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  10. Ian - thanks so for following my blog. And how lovely a post. I can just imagine my own secret garden. I love little hideaway places.

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  11. There are so many beautiful gardens spread all over the world. I would love to do a garden yourney once. I thought about visiting UK & France first, but now I see that choosing countries will be difficult.

    Thank you for sharing!

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  12. Very interesting. There are so many different types of plants in the world!

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  13. Love the blue in the first shots!

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  14. the gardens look lovely. the blue really stands out!

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  15. There's no garden like a Zen rock garden if you want a minimalist garden.

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  16. Very interesting Ian. I think I've completely moved away from the minimalism of my twenties, and now I like richer colors and inspiration, and I'd love to make my garden lush with a (seemingly) disorderly collection of plants, herbs, flowers ...

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  17. what wonderful pictures (no long necks I see) and a very inspiring blog. I look forward to reading more :)

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  18. Magnificent places and pictures in all your posts. Truly inspiring! Reminds me of what D.H. Lawrence said: "The world is big once you get out of your little hole."

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  19. hey ian, i love english gardens - so overgrown and romantic, but these exotic ones are pretty cool, too! love that shade of purple!

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