Monday, 14 January 2013

Garden Globetrotting

Generally speaking, our modern-day world concentrates life into the urban jungle. Everyday, we are surrounded by cars, concrete and crowds. Although the city is a dynamic and excitable place, we still crave moments of tranquility within nature. So we assembled some inspiration to remind us to connect back with the earth through a collection of our favourite gardens, both global and local.

We start in a mythical place where the ground is covered in moss within the gardens of Saihō-jia Rinzai Zen Buddhist temple in Kyoto, Japan - originally built during the 14th Century. Today, the garden contains 3 tea houses and is situated in the eastern portion of the temple grounds. It is arranged in two parts, with the lower area as a circular promenade around a heart-shaped "Golden Pond" covered in more than 120 varieties of moss and with an upper area containing a rock garden.

Our future travel plans definitely include spending a day sipping green tea and strolling (maybe even barefoot) through the moist, lush grounds.

Saihō-ji Gardens, Kyoto, Japan

Next we add a classic icon to our list: the famous Monet Gardens in Giverny, France. This garden is the epidemy of romance in an old world sense. We wish we could have witnessed the moment Monet first saw the garden through his train window, when he chose to move there from 1883 until his death in 1926 - first renting and eventually purchasing the house and the land outright. He then set out to create the gardens he wanted to paint himself, filling the land with archways of climbing plants, coloured shrubs, a water garden and a Japanese bridge. 

Monet Gardens, Giverny, France

It's innate to fall in love with the backdrops of Monet's work. These scenes are not only beautiful in the visual sense but also activate a peaceful sensation because of the natural perfumes that seemingly float in the air.
Monet Water Lillies, 1919

Our next spot is a local favourite, a small haven in our own city. The Kay Gardiner Beltline Park, an example of successful urban reclamation. An old railway passage previously owned by CNR and sold to the City in 1972, is a pedestrian and bike friendly trail located just south of Davisville, extending from Mt. Pleasant to Allen Road. Most of the trail is completely embraced in trees, and exudes a calm pace, elevated away from the high-speed city.

Kay Gardiner Beltline, Toronto

Similarly, The Highline Park in Manhattan is a more recent transformation of an abandoned freight line, however this time raised from the main street.  After traffic through these raised rails ceased in the 1980s, the line sat abandoned waiting for demolition.  The neighborhood of Manhattan’s West side rallied and saved the line, transforming it into an elongated green roof as an escape from the busy pace of the streets below.  James Corner Field Operations and Diller Scofidio + Renfro cooperated to turn this aging eye sore into a green place of peace for Manhattan residents in summer 2011.  The resulting park stretches across nine city blocks.

The Highline Park, Manhattan

Another modern day smaller scale marvel is a Greenhouse at Grüningen Botanical Garden in Switzerland. Buehrer Wuest Architekten has designed this stunning greenhouse to grow warm climate-plants like bananas and papayas. Inspired by organic shapes found in nature, the steel and glass greenhouse echoes branches that create a light-filled canopy for these delicious plants to grow in peaceGiant steel beams act as tree trunks and branches that support enormous glass walls and roofs. Different planting areas are separated by glass screens that keep the design open and continuous. The pavilion is so striking and simple that it harmonizes perfectly with the nearby forest.

One more garden which is close to our hearts is The Thornrose - A Garden of Thorny Delights designed by Nevena Krilic and Niels de Bruin, inspired by the tale of Sleeping Beauty. This garden was one of the winning schemes for a design competition for a garden show in the Loire Valley in France. In order to enter the garden the visitor has to find the way around a tall wall of roses. Once inside, an enchanted world presents itself, and one is free to discover the gazebo, where a set of swings awaits, be it for play or repose.

The Thornrose - A Garden of Thorny Delights, Loire Valley, France

We finish our tour with another example of classical perfection: The Gardens of Villa Farnese in Northern Lazio, Italy, just 50 km north west of Rome. The villa itself is one of the finest examples of Renaissance architecture, graced by the gardens which are equally impressive. 

All components seduce you, with two walled lower gardens containing sculptures and fountains symbolizing the seasons and regenerative cycles of nature. In the West are statues of Autumn and Winter and the Grotto of the Rain and in the North, statues of Spring and Summer and the Fountain of Venus. At the junction of the two gardens is the Fountain of the Shepherd. The upper gardens and a casino were built in the 1580s with an addition of two lower pavilions, 24 herms surrounding the parterres in front of the casino, gardens and fountains at the rear of the casino, and ramps connecting the front and rear gardens.

Villa Farnese, Caprarola, Italy

And now city dwellers, whether in your everyday routine or on a lifetime adventure somewhere exotic, take time to enjoy the earth's garden jewels or any moment of green in your day!

"The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses."    ~ Hanna Rion

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