There is a world that is lying just outside your window. Pull up the blinds of your inner being and experience it. Let the sunshine plant a kiss on your forehead, allow the gentle breeze to caress your face, permit the butterflies to play with your hands. If you are cursing the cacophony of your urban existence, then don’t be disheartened. We are taking a trip around the world to visit some of the most surreal landscapes and experience nature in its purest form. Join us on this journey.
As the name suggests, Keukenhof was Countess of Hainaut’s Jacqueline kitchen garden. She was a great admirer of nature. In her brief lifespan of 35 years (1401 – 1436), the countess collected many samples of flowers, fruits and vegetables from her many journeys. She brought them back to plant them in her garden. Situated in Lisse, the Netherlands, Keukenhof is not only a piece of heaven on earth but a living history. Famous architects Jan David Zocher and his Louis Paul Zocher gave Keukenhof a makeover in 1857. The flower parade of Keukenhof is scheduled later in the month. Don’t miss the opportunity of participating in the flower parade, celebrated every year in this old Dutch town.
The highest joys spring from those possessions which are common to all, which we can neither alienate ourselves nor be deprived of by others, to which kind nature has given all an equal right – a right which she herself guards with silent omnipotence.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Villa d’Este is part of UNESCO World Heritage list. Besides, the mannerist architecture and huge collection of masterful artworks, the villa is renowned for its baroque garden. The project was ensued by Ippolito II d’Este who was ably assisted by such architects as Pirro Ligorio (1514 – 1583) and Alberto Galvani. But it really flourished during Cardinal Alessandro d’Este’s (1568 – 1624) tenure. The parkland, decorated with most ornate sculptures, served as a prototype of many a garden of Europe, both famous and not so famous. . In its heyday, the garden hosted frequent concerts of noted musician and composers like Franz Liszt. As you stroll under its century old trees, you will still hear music playing incessantly in the gentle breeze, rustling of leaves and gushing of fountain water.
Parc Floral de la Source
Parc Floral de la Source is spread on the banks of Loiret in Orleans, France. Created in 1963, it is a relatively new construction compared to the other famous gardens of the country. It boasts of elaborate rock garden, grassland, butterfly greenhouse, special areas designated for dahlias, irises and vegetables. But it is most famous for its rose garden. This rose garden is indeed one of the prime attractions of Loire Valley which you should never miss on your trip to this region. After all, there is nothing more enticing than spending an entire afternoon breathing into the fragrant atmosphere of Parc Floral de la Source’s rosarium. If you are still harbouring some doubt, see what Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has to say on the matter (courtesy his famous character Mr Sherlock Holmes),
Our highest assurance of the goodness of providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.
Powerscourt Garden existed since early 18th century in Enniskerry, Ireland. However, it took its present form more than a century later. Daniel Robertson, a 19th century British architect, integrated all his experiences of travelling in various gardens of Europe to create this ethereal piece of landscape for Vicsount Powerscourt. Subsequent members of the family took great care of the garden and even remodelled certain portions of it according to the prevailing fashion. “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need” – What Cicero said hundreds of years ago stands true to this date.
At this point we will take a long flight across globe to land in our next destination.
Okayama Korakuen is another place where you can really enjoy being a part of resplendent nature. Tsuda Nagatada, a local bureaucrat during the reign of Ikeda Tsunamasa, took orders from his master to start construction of this beautiful garden in 1687. It was completed 13 years later. Since then, the garden acts as one of the most gorgeous place to be during any time of the year, but more so during spring – summer months. Besides, fragrant flowers and trees you will also have many cranes for your company. It is situated in Okayama Prefecture of Japan.
Nong Nooch Botanical Garden
Since 1954, Nong Nooch Botanical Garden has been a place where you may experience the joy of being one with nature. Additionally, it also a acted as a conservation area for many rare plant species. Among other species of flora, Nong Nooch is most acclaimed for preserving several cyclads species. It maintains a gene pool for this tropical plant species.
I am aware that I have omitted many noteworthy names from this list. Though I intend to cover some more in my future posts it will still be insufficient for covering them all. At any rate, this is not meant to be a list of ‘world’s best gardens, ‘top gardens’, ‘famous gardens’ or ’10 gardens you must visit before you …’. Certainly, the patch of greenery you create at your own backyard or patio, through your own sweat and meticulous planning, remains the dearest place for you to be in.
This post intends to showcase what beauty we can create on earth if we only collaborate with nature just a little bit. And, what we will soon lose if we continue our mad rush of creating concrete landscapes. My experience also says, while we take a trip, closer to home or somewhere in the distant land, we often ignore visiting such places as gardens and museums or remain in a mad rush to just go through them. The wealth of any place, natural or cultural, can be found in these locations only.
Slowing down to soak in the charm of the perfumed atmosphere, holding a silent conversation with that century old tree and join in the merriment with birds and butterflies may just prove to be an experience you have never considered indulging in all your life. Besides, it will also be a wonder drug for rejuvenating your body and mind.
Footfalls echo in the memory,
Down the passage which we did not take,
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose–garden.
T S Eliot
And the spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the spirit of love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
~ Percy Bysshe Shelley
I miss the breaking of the sweet slumbers of the flowers in the garden. The blushing faces of the pretty blossoms touched by the kind rays of the spring sun remain hidden from my eyes. Being a part of tropical country’s urban jungle hardly allows me to view the glorious culmination of winter months into spring and nature’s rapturous mood perceiving this change. Nonetheless, spring remains very close to my heart. I am a child of spring. The vernal equinox brings me messages that my heart is only capable of sensing or deciphering. It is the spirit of spring that I embrace with my whole heart. Like many things in life which remains deep rooted in our psyche, the spirit of spring remains alive in my consciousness even in the middle of winter and I embrace it with my whole heart on its arrival.
Still Life with Pansies by Henri Latour Fantin (1874)
A Flower–Piece By Fantin by Algernon Charles Swinburne (5th April, 1837 – 10th April, 1909)
Heart’s ease or pansy, pleasure or thought,
Which would the picture give us of these?
Surely the heart that conceived it sought
Surely by glad and divine degrees
The heart impelling the hand that wrought
Wrought comfort here for a soul’s disease.
Deep flowers, with lustre and darkness fraught,
From glass that gleams as the chill still seas
Lean and lend for a heart distraught
To Spring by William Blake (28th November 1757 – 12th August 1827)
O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Thro’ the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!
The hills tell each other, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turned
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth,
And let thy holy feet visit our clime.
Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumed garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our love–sick land that mourns for thee.
O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languished head,
Whose modest tresses were bound up for thee.
Flowering Garden by Vincent van Gogh
Universal Prayer by Alexander Pope (21st May 1688 – 30th May 1744)
Father of all! In every age,
In ev’ry clime ador’d,
By saint, by savage, and by sage,
Jehovah, Jove, or Lord!
Thou Great First Cause, least understood,
Who all my sense confin’d
To know but this, that Thou art good,
And that myself am blind:
Yet gave me, in this dark estate,
To see the good from ill;
And, binding Nature fast in Fate,
Left free the human Will.
What Conscience dictates to be done,
Or warns me not to do;
This teach me more than Hell to shun,
That more than Heav’n pursue.
What blessings thy free bounty gives
Let me not cast away;
For God is paid when man receives;
T’ enjoy is to obey.
Yet not to earth’s contracted span
Thy goodness let me bound,
Or think thee Lord alone of man,
When thousand worlds are round.
Let not this weak, unknowing hand
Presume thy bolts to throw,
And teach damnation round the land
On each I judge thy foe.
If I am right, thy grace impart,
Still in the right to stay;
If I am wrong, O teach my heart
To find that better way.
Save me alike from foolish Pride
Or impious Discontent,
At aught thy wisdom has denied,
Or aught that goodness lent.
Teach me to feel another’s woe,
To right the fault I see:
That mercy I to others show,
That mercy show to me.
Mean tho’ I am, not wholly so,
Since quicken’d by thy breath;
O lead me whereso’er I go,
Thro’ this day’s life or death!
This day be bread and peace my lot:
All else beneath the sun
Though know’st if best bestow’d or not,
And let Thy will be done.
To Thee, whose temple is of Space,
Whose altar earth, sea, skies,
One chorus let all Beings raise!
All Nature’s incense rise!
Love and Harmony by William Blake (28th November 1757 – 12th August 1827)
Love and harmony combine,
And round our souls entwine
While thy branches mix with mine,
And our roots together join.
Joys upon our branches sit,
Chirping loud and singing sweet;
Like gentle streams beneath our feet
Innocence and virtue meet.
Thou the golden fruit dost bear,
I am clad in flowers fair;
Thy sweet boughs perfume the air,
And the turtle buildeth there.
There she sits and feeds her young,
Sweet I hear her mournful song;
And thy lovely leaves among,
There is love, I hear his tongue.
There his charming nest doth lay,
There he sleeps the night away;
There he sports along the day,
And doth among our branches play.
Cupid & Psyche by Antonio Canova (1st November, 1757 – 13th October, 1822)