I didn’t go to Morocco to visit gardens, but I definitely wanted to visit gardens while in Morocco. In particular, I was looking forward to touring through the Dades Valley, famous for its pink Persian roses and the production of rose water. Unfortunately, the time was not right and there was little to see. But an unexpected display of roses in Marrakech made up for any disappointment.
The gardens on either side of the reflecting pool in front of the Koutoubia Minaret present a photo perfect approach to the 12th-century mosque, the largest in Marrakech and a definite orientation point for city’s famous medina located behind the mosque. The minaret, which reflects the influences of Hispano-Moorish architecture, is purportedly the most visited site in Marrakech. Including the orb and spire, the minaret is 253 feet in height. Situated between the reflecting pool and the mosque is a three-tiered fountain with tile work that accentuates the color of the pool, the plantings, and the minaret design.
To either side of its approach through the Koutoubia Gardens, also known as Lalla Hassna Park, are palm and citrus trees and a formal display of roses.The beauty of those roses demands a post of photos rather than words. Therefore, I am offering some images larger than usual; there is no better way to share their loveliness.
There are roses in small gardens, roadway medians, and roundabouts throughout Marrakech. But for me, accustomed to the mid-Atlantic and southeastern gardening zones of the United States, I was most enthralled throughout Morocco and especially in Marrakech with the vibrant and vast bougainvillea bushes that prefer hardiness zones from 11 to 9b.
The most impressive display of bougainvillea, though, was in the Jardin Majorelle, an absolute gem of Moroccan color and horticultural surprise. The garden was designed by French painter Jacques Majorelle in the early 1930s and opened to the public in 1947. But it was abandoned at Majorelle’s death in 1962. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé purchased the garden in 1980, as it was about to fall victim to real estate developers, and restored it. It is now maintained by The Foundation Jardin Majorelle founded after Saint Laurent’s death in 2008.
The approximately two-and-a-half-acre garden in the heart of Marrakech is comprised of bamboo, palm, and cacti expanses framed by vibrant water features and lush drapery of bougainvillea. Built by Majorelle, and now a Berber museum, an Art-Deco style studio-villa overlooks the garden, establishing the striking yellow and Majorelle blue color palette that dominates the architectural features of the garden—an entrance pool, a water lily pool, and a pavilion linked by a reflecting pool to the Majorelle blue fountain that serves as the feature photo for this post.
The final garden feature is a simple but elegant memorial to the French designer, Saint Laurent. At this point, I am going to allow the garden to speak for itself, except to say that such small, but stunning jewels of garden design remind me that after Eden, the human vision and drive to create beauty—and to share it—find amazing richness in creation and color, expressed on canvases large and small. Painters, fashion designers, backyard gardeners, are artists alike.
© Susan K. Hagen and After Eden, 2018