When it comes to gardens children tend to experience a space in a very different sense to how adults do. Where we adults immediately assess the garden in terms of our experiences of other gardens, style associations and flowers we may recognize, a child will most likely think, what part of this garden can I have fun in most? It is only when we become older that we start to think consciously about the aesthetics of a garden and how it has been designed. A garden with masses of Lavenders may remind us of that trip to the Provence we took years ago or an Orchid may send us right to the time when we saw them growing on a tree in South America. This got me thinking about this: when it is that we start to recognize that a space,or a garden has been purposefully designed?
The first time I remember having this actual thought cross my mind was when I was about six years old and we were visiting friends of my parents who lived in a the middle a busy German city. Everywhere you looked there was traffic, concrete and glass but when they invited us into their home, an amazing vista opened up to their back garden. Within a relatively small back garden they had created a stunning city haven, a kaleidoscope of riotous summer colour. I think the best way to describe my memory of this well designed and masterfully planted space, and probably a word I whispered to my mum at the time, would be ‘paradise’.
Many years later, when studying garden design, I learned that the word garden has its origins in old Persian language. I loved learning that the original meaning of paradise was a ‘walled in compound’ from pairi, meaning around and daeza or diz, meaning wall or brick and that it aimed to create a paradise on earth for the user.
The origins of all gardens can be traced back to Persian gardens, the oldest having been recorded in the fourteenth century in Iran by the legendary Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta. These well thought out spaces of beauty were places for relaxing, entertaining and praying. Sophisticated design elements dealing with sunlight, water, and blending inside with outside spaces are still the basis of our practices today as designers and inform many of my own design choices on a daily basis.
Interestingly, the Persian buttercup- or Ranunculus asiaticus, also has its origins in what is today called Iran. The pretty flower has a beautiful shape and form, its delicate, crepe-like petals reminiscent of lush roses and filled poppies. The perennial flower which is also used in floristry, is available in a vast array of colours from dusty and deep pinks to golden yellows, rich oranges and pure whites.
This plant is a tuber plant and would be planted in a similar way to the bulbs of a Tulip or Crocus. They like loose, sandy soil and full sun. One important thing to keep in mind is that these delicate flowers will not survive temperatures of under 10 degrees so unless you dig them up for the winter months like Dahlias, then these will likely be an annual flower.
The particular variety I chose for this planter have a riot of lovely gem coloured pinks, oranges and whites with a little dot of yellow for added interest. These jewel colours would brighten up any garden at this time of the year and really bring a bit of the Paradise feel into a space. For the most effective combination I think planting masses of these in one area, perhaps along a pathway or a formal water feature, would be fantastic. Plant them in groups of 3,s, 5’s and 7’s and in irregular patters and blend the colours into each other for a really stunning display.
Now, far from Persia, I think back again to my first experience of a paradise garden as a child in Germany and I know these gorgeous flowers would be a perfect starting point to your very own paradise on earth.
For plants like the Ranunculus with all its colour splendour it is worth pairing them with a plant that will underline the plant and create a little calm at the corners. Some lime green grass, a few taller blocks of hot pink and a more structured tree shaped shrub. Here are my favourite companions:
I love this semi-evergreen grass for many reasons. The bright lime green of the new growth is so vivid and the texture of the shiny leaves very rewarding.
Tom Stuart Smith is a master of utilizing this grass in his designs and he often uses the grass as edging for borders or along pathways and you can see why-it cascades beautifully over edges, softening boundaries and framing other plants. It likes a cool and moist spot in sun or shade and can even be planted under dappled shade of trees.
These pretty hot pink tulips will only grow to about 45cm in height so are a little taller than the Ranunculus but yet not so tall that they show their stems. Perfect for spotting in between the purples of the persian buttercup. They have a very conventional shape meaning they are not filled but look like a real tulip and due to their compact size will do well even in slightly windier sites. They should be dead-headed after flowering and once the foliage dies down it is best to lift the bulbs and store them somewhere cool and dark.
The tree peony is a very special flower that when in bloom puts any other plant to shame. The Paeonia lactiflora ‘Angel Cheeks’ has large showy flowers born high up on stems feathered with green foliage. This perennial will bloom slightly later than the Ranunculus so something to look forward to in early May when buttercups are starting to flower slightly less. The pink colour will look fab with the deeper shades of pink and purples of the persian buttercups and will grow sufficiently tall (about 70cm high) so as not to cover them.
The most stunning gardens I have ever been to are those of the Generalife at the palaces of the Alhambra in Granada. I have now been to visit them three times and I simply have to return. These Moorish gardens in Andalucia, Spain are an incredible example of a Medieval Persian paradise garden. The gardens are so incredibly sophisticated in structure and build, the water features so flawless in finish and super effective in naturally irrigating the gardens. I love each and every part of this magestic palace and its gardens. From the incredibly symmetrical design of the Nasrid Palaces- the court of the Lions with its carvings so intricate one would swear no human hand could have carved, to the refreshingly cool court of the canal with its fun water games. This treasure shows true design genius and is absolutely timeless.
The gardens are at their best in Spring and early Summer when everything is lush in bloom and scent. For more go to alhambradegranada.org
Speaking of Jewels, the award winning Irish designers behind JUVI jewellery use an beautiful selection of carefully sourced gemstones in their lovely designs. Many of the designs are inspired by the warmth and vibrancy of nature such as the Bamboo ring pictured here in silver and Ruby and the Egadi long multi-gem necklace features some Brazilian Amethyst and smokey quartz. The designer collaboration behind the brand is a husband and wife team made up of silversmith Vincent Tynan and the Interior Designer Julie Danz -this makes sense as the results are bold design that meets delicate and detailed workmanship. The couple’s fascination with the colours and shapes of gems which lie hidden under the earth beneath reflects in the designs, where the gems are brought to life vividly in the pieces.
JUVI is available at The House of Frazer, Dundrum town centre and Arnotts in Dublin as well as other Irish stockists. For more go to: www.juvidesigns.com