The gar­dener’s bucket list

MA­JORELLE GAR­DEN in Mar­rakech, Morocco

Gardening Australia - - DECEMBER - words and pho­tog­ra­phy KIM WOODS RABBIDGE

Ma­jorelle Gar­den in Morocco

The vi­brant, bustling city of Mar­rakech is home to Ma­jorelle Gar­den, a work of art cre­ated by a painter and later restored by an iconic fash­ion de­signer

Morocco, lo­cated in North Africa where Ara­bian, Ber­ber and Eu­ro­pean cul­tures meld, is a mecca for artists and mu­si­cians – and gar­den lovers! While the buzz of daily life is al­lur­ing, I love the place most for its se­cret nooks where you find mur­mur­ing foun­tains and mo­saic tiles.

Just a short walk away from the jostling crowds in the souks (bazaars) of Mar­rakech is a must-see sanc­tu­ary that has had visi­tors un­der its spell for decades. Jardin Ma­jorelle, de­signed by French painter Jac­ques Ma­jorelle nearly 100 years ago, is a hor­ti­cul­tural haven of al­most half a hectare. It is renowned for its very ex­otic plant­ings and vi­brant colours, pre­dom­i­nantly yel­low and blue.

Ma­jorelle ap­proached the land­scape with the same artis­tic flair as his paint­ings. The gar­den was con­sid­ered one of his most daz­zling works, with him adding plants from his trav­els through five con­ti­nents over 40 years or so. A blue cu­bist villa, built in the 1930s, was used as his stu­dio space un­til shortly be­fore his death in 1962.

Decades later, fash­ion de­signer Yves Saint Lau­rent and his part­ner Pierre Bergé res­cued Jardin Ma­jorelle, which had fallen into de­cay and was un­der threat from a ho­tel project. They restored the gar­den along the lines of Ma­jorelle’s vi­sion.

Jardin Ma­jorelle is en­tered through a court­yard fea­tur­ing a serene blue and green, Moor­ish-tiled pool sur­rounded by colour­ful pots. A dec­o­ra­tive wall is framed by tow­er­ing palms and stands of bam­boo. From here, you wend your way along board­walks and path­ways, taking in care­fully chore­ographed col­lec­tions of cacti and sculp­ture.

Bold colours on the pots and struc­tures through­out the gar­den re­main the artist’s sig­na­ture. The ul­tra­ma­rine-cobalt blue that he’d first no­ticed in tiles around Mar­rakech has been used ex­ten­sively, and this colour is now known as Ma­jorelle Blue.


Ma­jorelle Gar­den is open every day of the year. Open­ing times vary slightly in dif­fer­ent months and dur­ing Ra­madan. En­try to the gar­den and mu­seum is sep­a­rate; the gar­den is 70Dhs (about

A$10) and the mu­seum is 30Dhs

(about A$5). As the gar­den is pop­u­lar, it’s best to visit early in the day or wait un­til late af­ter­noon. If you go with a tour group, you may not need to queue to en­ter. Give your­self plenty of time to soak up the at­mos­phere. Sit awhile or visit the cafe.

Be sure to in­clude a walk through the villa, now home to Ma­jorelle’s paint­ings and the Ber­ber Mu­seum, which dis­plays arte­facts from the col­lec­tions of Saint Lau­rent and Bergé. In the stu­dio is an Islamic Art Mu­seum with North African tex­tiles from Saint Lau­rent’s per­sonal col­lec­tion, and Musée Yves Saint Lau­rent re­cently opened on the site as a tribute to the de­signer’s legacy in haute cou­ture.

CLOCK­WISE FROM MAIN The colour Ma­jorelle Blue is syn­ony­mous with the gar­den and was patented by the owner, painter Jac­ques Ma­jorelle; there are about 30 mem­bers of the cac­tus fam­ily in the gar­den and plants from five con­ti­nents; the en­trance foun­tain is by US dec­o­ra­tor Bill Wil­lis.

CLOCK­WISE FROM ABOVE Bam­boo lines both sides of an ir­ri­gation canal that runs be­tween a pav­il­ion and the build­ing that was Ma­jorelle’s stu­dio; an ar­bor fes­tooned with bougainvil­lea; boldly painted pots are a sig­na­ture style in Ma­jorelle Gar­den.

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