The earth laughs in flowers.–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.–Sigmund Freud
I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses.–Charles A. Miles
Had Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé not fallen in love with Jardin Majorelle on a visit to Marrkech in 1966, one of the most famous gardens in the world would have suffered the fate Joni Mitchell lamented in “Big Yellow Taxi”: “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Slated to be a hotel complex, the property was saved by the Parisian clothing designer (whose ashes are scattered in the rose garden) and his partner.
The pair pledged to complete the vision of Jacques Majorelle, a fellow artist who created the space. Mission accomplished, the urban renewal breathes life into city residents and tourists. I recently wrote of my love for gardens. I’m so grateful for this one, located just down the street in my neighborhood in Gueliz, where I find shade, shelter, green space, in the midst of a frenetic city.
The painting studio of Majorelle was convereted into a Berber museum, educating expats on the natives of Morocco, and an irrigation system installed. A legacy of art and beauty, Jardin Marjorelle is the result of one who planted, two who watered, and God who grew a creation all now enjoy.
All gardening is landscape painting.–William Kent
In 1923 French painter, Jacques Majorelle, bought land in Marrakech. He had studied architecture and was an avid amateur botanist. He was also influenced by his father, Louis Majorelle, a famous furniture designer, and the Art Nouveau movement which took inspiration from nature.
A garden must combine the poetic and the mysterious with a feeling of serenity and joy.–Luis Barragan
The composition of his masterpiece includes indigenous plants and those he gathered from his travels across five continents—palms, agaves, cacti, weeping willows, jasmine, agaves, cypress, and my favorite, cascading bougainvilleas. A paradox of serene stimulation, bursting blooms against the buildings’ primary colors—yellow and ultramarine, now known as “Majorelle blue” –energizes while the green of fauna, ripples across ponds, and whispers of fountains calms the soul.
Though Majorelle’s art exhibitions were appreciated world wide, Jardin Majorelle is considered his greatest achievement. Sadly, however, his life did not end with the serenity he gave others. An accident that took his leg and broken relationships led to financial burdens which forced him to sell much of his land and open the garden to the public for entrance fees. He died before seeing the culmination of his vision, never knowing future owners would finish what he started. Still Majorelle said of his passion project: “This garden is a momentous task, to which I give myself entirely. It will take my last years from me and I will fall, exhausted, under its branches, after having given it all my love.”
Since moving to Morocco I’ve wanted bougainvillea to spill over my balcony. Though I see it everywhere climbing buildings several stories high and have asked locals where I can buy blooming plants at least 3-feet tall, they’ve all said it is best to plant small cuttings without flowers. Finally, I felt heard. I showed a Moroccan friend exactly what I want in pots perched on a riad rooftop. I showed him the size and color, repeating I don’t want to wait… I want beautiful, large plants now, not knowing how long I’ll be here to enjoy them. He nodded, agreed, and produced three single vines. Each spindly…bud less… only inches tall. The Charlie Brown Christmas tree version of what I’d envisioned. Disappointed, I thought, I’ll probably be on another continent by the time these bloom.
But then I decided to do it the Moroccan way. No hurry. Plant. Have patience. Wait and see. Teaching should have taught me this. Whether or not I see the fruits of my labor, I’ll tend. I’ll love. I’ll bloom where I’m planted, believing life–in whatever season–is beauty.