Category Archives: Historic gardens

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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The Alhambra’s Gardens in Granada: The UpperTerraces

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada and the best known gardens are those of the Generalife, the vacation palace on the other side of the Alhambra complex.

The gardens of the Alhambra proper however,  while often overlooked, deserve a visit. They are laid out as a series of terraces starting at the lower terrace with a pavilion and large reflecting pond, and then arbored stairs leading to a series of terraces landscaped in a very Mediterranean style and reminiscent of some of the gardens found in Provence or Italy. I am featuring in this post the upper terraces.

Although some of the terraces feature borders formally edged in boxwood, the upper terraces have the feel of a much more intimate garden: paths and stone steps meander from terrace to terrace and along small ponds, designed for a casual promenade rather than for grand effect.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: Fountain of the Frogs and Island of the Birds

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 one showcases the Fountain of the Frogs (34 on map) and the Island of the Birds (6, Island of the Ducks on the map).   The whimsical Fountain of the Frog has colorful Andalusian ceramic frogs surroundinga fountain, followed by a pond that leads the Garden of the Lions to the Isleta de los Patos, or Birds Island.  The island provides a sanctuary for the many birds inhabiting the park; its focal point is the Pavilion of King Alfonso XII, which dates back to the time it was part of the San Telmo Palace.

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Sevilla’s Alcazar: Ladies Garden and Hydraulic Organ in the Mannierist Gardens

The Alcazar of Sevilla is an outstanding example of Mudejar architecture and one of the most beautiful palaces of Andalusia. Originally built by the Almohades dynasty, it was expanded upon by later rulers through the Middle Ages until the Reconquista by the Catholica rulers, who subsequently added to the palace as well until the 19th century. The Alcazar remains to this day the official residence of the King of Spain in Sevilla.

The gardens were developed in the Moorish style as an integral part of the palace design, with extensive patios, fruit orchards, produce gardens and landscaped grounds, to produce food for the palace as well as aesthetic pleasure. As with all moorish gardens, water features are everywhere.

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The formal, or mannierist gardens, are laid out at directly along the palace and bordered by the fantastic grotto gallery. They are made up of several smaller gardens and architectural elements. In this post I will concentrate mostly on the Ladies Garden, with the Fountain of Neptune, the Hydraulic Organ and the Lion Pavilion.

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Alcazar Gardens, Sevilla

Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: the Glorieta de las Conchas and Arbors

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 northern section of the park. The Glorieta de las Conchas (8) features statues and planted borders arranged around a central fountain. Glorieta de Dona Sol (9) has a beautiful mosaic surrounded by hedges, and Glorieta de Ofelia Nieto (10_ is a meandering arbor covered in trumpet vines and bougainvilleas. At the end of the avenue is the Museum of Archeology (30), also built for the 1929 Exhibition.

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Leading towards the Fountain of the Lions is Gurugu Mountain (15 on the map), a small mad made “mount” with an observation point and gazebo up top. This is a perfect example of Forestier’s playfulness in garden design, interjecting surprises at every turn throughout his gardens.

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