Friday, 19 August 2011

Marrakesh Gardens - The Marjorelle

We pass through Marrakesh frequently. After Taroudant we are unimpressed by the "genuine" "moroccan" tourist atractions  or the frenetic activity of the souks and Jemaa el Fna but we relish the restaurants in Gueliz, particularly the Casanove, and , if sweetheart is with us, the Vietnamese on the Boulevard Mohammed Zerktoun. Also my pet passion is the gardens of which the city has  several.
Louis Marjorelle was the son of the famous art nouveau furniture makers (try the Louvre for some spectacular examples). He became a painter, took himself off to Marrakesh and made a garden which was then outside the city but has since been enveloped by it. It is an interesting and striking garden and seems to have acted as a template for other schemes round the country but like other painters' gardens (Giverny comes to mind) not really a plantsman's although the planting is of course the antithesis of your standard Gertrude Jekyll/Edward Luytens english garden.
The garden is based on strong lines and very strong painted colours on walls and pots. The predominant colour is generally described as cobalt blue although it reminds me of International Klein Blue. It is a colour which does not translate to our dim northern light but is vibrant and ubiquitous in  morocco and close to the traditional blue of the Toureg. Together with yellow and orange it is in contrast to the deep greens of the foliage, although this is by no means a green garden ,there are bright blossoms which remain in flower most of the year round. It is strange to see plants such as Kalinchoe and Begonia Rex which are small pot plants in the UK growing as huge almost weed-like thugs.
After Majorelle's death the garden was taken over and restored by Yves St Laurent and his partner and he brought a replica to Chelsea in 1997 which caused a sensation. There is now a memorial to him in the garden.  There is a pavilion usually containing a small museum of Marjorelle's collection of exquisite moroccan handicrafts and an exhibition of his paintings. Last time we were there it had been replaced by a temporary exhibition of YSL's couture designs -no photos allowed unfortunately.  It made me very discontented, wanting to be 40 years younger, 6" taller and size 10......Well one can dream.

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