Category Archives: Historic gardens

The Jardins d’Essais, Rabat’s Historic Botanical Gardens, Part II: The Andalusian Garden

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Jardins d’Essai Botaniques, literally meaning Gardens of Botanical Trials, was classified a national heritage site in 1992.

These gardens were created between 1914 and 1919, under a joint initiative of the sultan  Moulay Hafid and the French Protectorate. They were designed by one of my favorite garden architects, Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, best known for the Rose Garden and the Iris Garden of Bagatelle outside Paris, but who created gardens in Spain and Morocco in addition to his city planning work as a French public servant, laying out the plans for the modern cities of Morocco.

The gardens were reopened by the current King in 2013, following extensive renovations after years of neglect. They include over 650 species of plants, including rare varieties of tropical, sub-tropical, and succulents, and an arboretum.

The Jardins d’Essais are separated by a road into two distinct gardens.  the western side includes the Moorish garden and museum, while the eastern garden is a bit larger and more formal, with distinct garden areas for various types of plants.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Because there is a good bit to see here, I am dividing this into several posts, and this is the second post on the western gardens.

Forestier was intensely influenced by the gardens of Andalusia, in particular the presence of water. He recreated for example the water canal running down the stairs of the Generalife in Granada, in the stairs of the Larribal Gardens he created in Barcelona. Here, he gives us a typical Andalusian garden, complete with plantings, water features, and a Moorish house used as the garden museum.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

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Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

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The Jardins d’Essais: Rabat’s Historic Botanical Gardens, Part I

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Jardins d’Essai Botaniques, literally meaning Gardens of Botanical Trials, was classified a national heritage site in 1992.

These gardens were created between 1914 and 1919, under a joint initiative of the sultan  Moulay Hafid and the French Protectorate. They were designed by one of my favorite garden architects, Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, best known for the Rose Garden and the Iris Garden of Bagatelle outside Paris, but who created gardens in Spain and Morocco in addition to his city planning work as a French public servant, laying out the plans for the modern cities of Morocco.

The gardens were reopened by the current King in 2013, following extensive renovations after years of neglect. They include over 650 species of plants, including rare varieties of tropical, sub-tropical, and succulents, and an arboretum.

The Jardins d’Essais are separated by a road into two distinct gardens.  the western side includes the Moorish garden and museum, while the eastern garden is a bit larger and more formal, with distinct garden areas for various types of plants.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Because there is a good bit to see here, I am dividing this into several posts, and this is the first post on the western gardens.

While inaugurated in 2013, much work remained to bring these gardens back to their former glory, and it is visible in particular in the western gardens were large areas remain to be cleaned up, and others have been planted or replanted in recent years so the specimens are still quite small. But while wandering down the alleys, Forestier’s signature style is unmistakable in the way he creates intimate garden spaces tucked away everywhere, and blends plantings and garden structures seamlessly for an element of surprise.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: the Garden of the Lions

Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain (1832-1897) was the younger sister of Isabella II, queen of Spain. She married Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, youngest son of the French King Louis Philippe, and became Duchess of Montpensier.

Most of the grounds that form Maria Luisa Park today where originally part of the Palace of San Telmo and donated by Maria Luisa to the city in 1893 to be used as public gardens. The palace , a magnificent example of Spanish baroque architecture was rehabilitated and converted in the 1990s into the seat of the autonomous government of Andalusia. It stands today just outside Maria Luisa Park.

French urban planner and landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, who also created the Bagatelle Rose Garden and the Laribal Gardens in Barcelona, started work on the park in 1911. Also in preparation of the 1929 World’s Fair, architect Anibal Gonzales began work on the Plaza de Espana building and some of the pavilions.

Under Forestier, who had been heavily influenced by the gardens of Andalusia and Morocco, the Park became a Moorish inspired extravaganza of tiled fountains, ponds, arbors, pavillions and other structures, planted in a lush Mediterranean style with vines, bougainvilleas, roses, palms orange trees and flower beds.

I discovered Forestier’s work when in Barcelona, visiting the stunning terraced Laribal Gardens on the hill of Montjuic.  These gardens lead from fountains to gazebos to arbors to rose gardens to the top of the hill where you discover the sweeping views down the hill with water stairs inspired by the Alhambra leading back down. This element of surprise and wonder is one I have found in all of Forestier’s gardens, whether in Paris at Bagatelle, Morocco at the Jardins d’Essais or here.

This park being such an expansive and complex creation, I am featuring it through several posts.This first one showcases the Garden of the Lions (11) and the Fountain of the Alvarez Quintero Brothers (14) just behind it. Both are stunning in very different ways. The Fountain of the Lions features large fountains surrounded with sculptures and geometrical borders with a clear Moorish influence. The Quintero fountain is a masterpiece of tile work that ties in with the incredibly detailed allover moasaics of the Plaza de Espana at the other end of the park.

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Montjuic’s Greek Theater Gardens in Barcelona, Spain

The Greek Theater Garden started out as a rose garden, the second in Barcelona, and was created in 1929, like many of the gardens in the Montjuic area, for the International Exhibition.

You may think the greek theater itself is older, but it is a replica, also built in 1929. The Epiduro Theater in Athens, Greece, was used as the inspiration, which may be why it looks so authentic. The theater is used for cultural events, first and foremost the Greek Festival, during which many plays and performances take place there.

This lovely garden is adjacent to the Laribal Gardens, and starts with a larger terrace at top with a formal layout of rose borders and trees overlooking the greek theater, then a long pergola allows for sitting and enjoying the view over the rest of the mountain.  Click here for an excellent article on these gardens.

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The Hassan Tower Gardens in Rabat, Morocco

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, One of the most famous and distinctive landmarks in the city is the Hassan Tower. Begun in the 12th century, it was at one time the second largest mosque in the the islamic world, but little remains of it besides the tower of minaret, reminiscent of the Koutoubia in Marrakech.

At the foot of the tower, are some pleasant gardens, typical of Moorish and Andalusian gardens, with landscaped terraces, meandering paths, and of course the ever present water features connecting multiple levels with canals, ponds and fountains.  While not extraordinary in any way, these are very pleasant gardens worth visiting on a trip to see the Hassan Tower.

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Castle of Trevarez: The Italian Garden

The castle of Trevarez near Chateauneuf du Faou in northern Brittany, France, is one of the last great castles built in France. Construction began in 1892 for a French politician and brought together all the faste and excess of the Belle Epoque, frescoes, carvings, marble, mosaics, ornate panels and fireplaces.

It is often referred to as the pink or red castle, because of the pink color it gets from the bricks used.  It was unfortunately bombed in the 1940s, and has not been occupied since, but it is being renovated by the government who purchased it in the 70s.

The gardens were neglected as well for many years and have been slowly brought back to their original glory, one area at a time. The grounds are extensive, with stables, a large wash house, theme gardens, formal gardens and much more.

In this post, I am featuring one of my favorites of the Trevarez gardens, the Italian garden. It features a pond and grotto, a row of unusual fountains, and a lawn all along the side with a small water canal leading to the stairs going to the Romantic Garden. The Italian Garden is just to the side of the castle.

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Castle of Trevarez: Castle and Formal Gardens

The castle of Trevarez near Chateauneuf du Faou in northern Brittany, France, is one of the last great castles built in France. Construction began in 1892 for a French politician and brought together all the faste and excess of the Belle Epoque, frescoes, carvings, marble, mosaics, ornate panels and fireplaces.

It is often referred to as the pink or red castle, because of the pink color it gets from the bricks used.  It was unfortunately bombed in the 1940s, and has not been occupied since, but it is being renovated by the government who purchased it in the 70s.

The gardens were neglected as well for many years and have been slowly brought back to their original glory, one area at a time. The grounds are extensive, with stables, a large wash house, theme gardens, formal gardens and much more.

In this post, I am featuring the castle itself with the formal gardens in the front. The castle is sited so as to overlook the valley in the back and enjoy a stunning view of the gardens terraced below, including a large collection of azaleas and rhododendrons directly below which were unfortunately not in bloom at the time of my visit.

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Formal gardens with sundial and birdcage in axis
Formal gardens with sundial and birdcage in axis

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Front view of the castle
Front view of the castle

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The azaleas and rhododendrons below
The azaleas and rhododendrons below

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Ovelrooking the Italian garden to the side below
Ovelrooking the Italian garden to the side below
Alley of hydrangeas below
Alley of hydrangeas below

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