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Posts tagged ‘Gardens’

My Travel Sketchbook: The Parque Genovés

The curves, the twirls, the uninhibited wonder of the topiary of the Parque Genovés could not help but sew the seeds of creation in my head. From one creator to another, the spirit of free and unhindered artistry traversed the air like pollen flying on a Summer’s breeze. Within minutes of entering this verdant wonderland I put pen to paper, and this was the result.

Sat on a bench in this hallway of manicured box-hedge, it was difficult to feel totally at ease. Somehow those twisted and tailored trees took on an anthropomorphic quality; like statesman gathering for a discussion of grave national import. Yet at the same time, the quality of the air, filtered through a haze of botanical layering, and the sound of nearby birds fluttering from one crafted bush to another, induced a somniferous sense of tranquility which pervaded the moment, and this sketch.

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The Parque Genovés, Cadiz (©2018, Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, pen on paper)

Lucky I had my trusty travel sketchbook with me to capture this scene. As gardens go, the Parque Genovés is a true mark of humankind getting creative with nature, and nature seemingly condescending to the mark of beauty which ensnares it.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

Compendium // Cádiz > Bounteous Botany: Alice’s new Wonderland

What was I expecting of Cádiz, Andalucia’s strange, almost island city, set within ancient fortress walls on the Westernmost end of Spain’s Southern coast? Not this. I imagined a tough, worn-out yellow city, battered by the waves of the sea and of history; hardened edges, hardened people. I never even considered the softness that may lie within.

Yet  after a 3 hour bus journey, which took us through a landscape peppered with new power-generating windmills exhibiting something strangely melancholy, yet unique in the surrounding landscape, we arrived into a city which was very different from the Cádiz of my imaginings.  Yes, the city is substantially fortified, a facet of strength exhibited by its mighty domed Cathedral and tight narrow streets, large merchant palacios each built topped with solid stone towers. But what I wasn’t expecting was the greenery: the softening of those fortress edges with a bounteous outpouring of tropical botany and verdant greenery.

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Almost all along the old fortress walls that encase the city you can stroll within the shelter and under the sun-dappled canopy of a multitude of trees set within gardens paved in a checkerboard effect of black and white. In the Jardines de Alameda Apodaca, there is a real sense of Alice’s adventures in Wonderland as you stride between the squares of black and white, pondering whether you are in fact part of an enigmatic chess game, the various sculptures and busts peppering the space providing the pieces… or are they the players? For the victor, what worthier prize than gardens abundant with flamingo pink bougainvillea, or those tree-framed views over the volatile ocean – a heady mix of blue punctuating the jungle of greens.

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Make it safely through the garden’s game of chess, and the next space steps up the surreality of the experience one notch further. For in the Parque Genovés, you will truly start to wonder whether you have entered another Cádiz park, or into the warped imaginings of a garden genius. Possibly both. For here, a botanical garden is spruced up as though for a masquerade ball, with long pathways bordered by topiary plucked, trimmed and trained to form impressive twists, twirls and curving figures which take the ephemeral magic of this garden space to new levels. Alice had surely reached her Wonderland with this one.

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A morning or an afternoon spent strolling through Cádiz’s gardens is an utterly fulfilling experience. Cádiz does not feel like a particularly fast-paced city, but in its gardens, things grind to a somniferous halt as the surreal shapes and near-claustrophobic intensity of the planting opens up another world of the imaginings. For something a little more bustling, head for the Plaza de Mina – a delightful shady park/square lined with little cafes and containing little antique kiosks which have been transformed variously into sweet shops and bookstores. Then there’s the Plaza Candelaria – another leafy plaza, where some of the city’s best restaurants can be found. But more about that another time.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Compendium // Porto > The secret side of a garden city

It’s hard not to get comfortable in among the wash of blue and white tiles and the swill of a good sweet port served alongside them, but to rest on ones laurels in Porto is to miss out on one of the city’s best kept secrets: its gardens. Though not obvious from the heart of the Ribeira, even when the city is seen from the rooftops, it’s remarkable how frequently this densely packed city is punctuated by an exquisite green space. And in fact Porto’s gardens not only provide respite from the bustle of the centre: they also provide the perfect viewing platform from which to admire the city… in utmost tranquility.

The first garden on my list is the Jardim da Cordoaria. Nestled in between some of Porto’s principle sights – the blue tiled Igreja das Carmelitas and the tall, narrow Torre dos Clérigos, the Cordoaria gardens provide an oasis of calm in the city centre. There, an avenue of what look like birch trees but which seem to grow out of huge almost deformed trunks sets the scene for a garden which is dappled with filtered sunlight and which benefits from a very tranquil pond surrounded by perfectly placed benches. The park is not only peppered with pretty pink flowers and curving meandering paths: it is also a veritable outdoor art galley, filled with amusing sculptures depicting groups of men in conversation or at play. They make a perfect little selfie spot… for those so inclined.

Jardim da Cordoaria

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Next up in the garden which satisfies every element of the kind of magical secret garden you long to find in childhood dreams: the Jardim das Virtudes. Literally lining the sloping sides of a masterfully terraced valley, blink and you will miss the discrete entrance to this garden which only starts to come into view when you enter the verdant valley. Once down there, what opens up is a place of spiritual magnitude, with seemingly deserted moss-covered fountains managing only the most meagre trickle into green ponds, while all around, stone walls, topiary and wild flowers give the garden the impression of carefully constructed desertion. And best of all, look between overhanging boughs and around mighty tree trunks and you will be treated to beautiful views over the Duoro river.

Jardim das Virtudes

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Down the road from the Virtudes gardes is the biggest and perhaps the most impressive garden of them all – the Jardim do Palácio de Cristal. Because here, the visitor with time of their hands (which we sadly lacked) will be treated to not one but a whole handful of differing garden styles and topography, each sharing unbeatable views over Porto’s rooftops and the breathtaking Duoro as it widens on its way down to the sea. In these gardens, asides from a peculiar flying saucer-style construction at its centre, you will see nature at its manicured best, with knot gardens and tropical palms swaying in the breeze, a cafe next to a Monet style waterlily pond and bridge, and roaming free, peacocks and cockerels who defy any form of control on the extravagance of their coats of many colours.

Jardim do Palácio de Cristal

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My final tip would be to leave yourself time to explore these gardens and sink stupendously within their atmosphere of mesmerising stupor. It’s the only way to really experience a garden at its best, leaving thoughts of city life and travel far, far behind.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1001 | Your favourite ever Daily Norm article

Continuing the week’s celebrations of reaching 1000 posts on The Daily Norm, I wanted to revisit the post which, statistically, was the most popular of my original posts. When I say “original”, I am referring to posts containing my own photography – for the posts when I reviewed art exhibitions scored the most visits of them all. But with over 20,000 visits, this post, which originally went out on 5 July 2012, is my post popular ever collection of photos. And happily, some 6 years on, we are still very much enjoying this little corner of urban garden paradise…

First posted 5 July 2012: My Urban Balcony Garden

When you live in a city, like I do, here in the big smoke of London, every inch of greenery becomes important. When I travelled down to Glyndebourne the other day, surrounded by all of those lush green hills, and the conspicuous silence interrupted only by the occasional sheep cry, it made me realise just how lucky rural dwellers are to be surrounded by that constant beauty and tranquility. Yet it is only human nature not to appreciate what we have when we’ve got it. For all I know, the residents of those sussex country manners probably envy we Londoners who have the whole cultural world right on our doorstep.

I do like to count my blessings however, and I actually think writing a blog, which encourages one to reflect more on one’s life, making the most of occasions, events and opportunities for the sake of sharing and recollecting interesting and unique snapshots of life, makes us bloggers appreciate life with a renewed vitality and a very sharp focus. And one thing that I have always appreciated, albeit perhaps more so as my time living in London grows longer and my hours of work increase, is the green space around me.

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I may only have a balcony to exhaust my green fingers, but that balcony, which runs along the front of my entire flat, is my pride and joy. There is much to be said for the urban balcony. Not only does it help to make urban life more bearable, more colourful, and more sensorily enriched, but also helps to give nature a bit of a kickstart – there have, for example, been reports of huge rises in the numbers of urban dwellers keeping beehives, so many in fact that there are now a surplus of bees for the numbers of suitably pollinating flowers available across the city. I don’t have bees, but what I have created on my balcony is my own piece of tropical paradise. I’ve surrounded my small table and chairs and my all important sun lounger with my own little slice of Spain. There I have a large brugmansia (whose flowers are spectacular bell-shaped blooms which smell glorious at night – they’re not out yet but rest assured, I will share on The Daily Norm once they are), a passion flower, an olive tree, grasses and plenty of geraniums. I’ve also encouraged honeysuckle to grow up the wall, and this year, for the first time, introduced some strawberries into the mix.

Because my urban balcony garden is a natural extension of my lounge which has a very contemporary red, black and white colour scheme, I have attempted to continue that out onto the balcony, with modern galvanised steel planters, and plenty of vivid red geraniums, which mark a wonderful contrast against the building’s crisp white washed walls and the black and grey grasses I have planted intermittently amidst blood-red cala lillies and those red-burst strawberries.

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Whether you’re a city-dweller or otherwise, I strongly recommend you import some plants into your life – even if it’s only a window box hanging out of the window. The introduction of plants always creates a new geometric mix into any design scheme, bringing curves and floral bursts into often boring square buildings, which are enhanced further as day turns into night, and interesting plant-shaped shadows dance across the surfaces of your home. Whats more, as a plant grows and changes with the seasons, your home too will adapt to the altering cycle of the year, and as the plants rise and fall, you will find a great sense of achievement in tracking their story and progress in your home (just remember to water them, occasionally!)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part II: The Town

The title of this post is perhaps a little misleading. For as any visitor to Windsor by train will know, Windsor is not a town that flies solo. Rather, just across the river is the equally prestigious town of Eton, and together they make up an inseparable twosome with only a narrow stretch of tranquil water flowing between them. So today’s post will look, photographically speaking, not only at Windsor, but Eton too, for each one of them is historically important and aesthetically quaint, and both are surely the very quintessence of the picture-postcard English town.

The little town of Windsor is very much shaped by the castle which sits at its heart. The main high street encircles the vast outer walls, and every shop and business is turned towards the Castle as though they are spectators at a show. Given the size of the Castle, it is perhaps unsurprising that Windsor looks small and cute by comparison – much like Queen Mary’s dolls house which resides famously within the State Rooms of the Castle on the hill. But it is this scale which characterises Windsor as being an idyllic little urbanisation, with history oozing from its shops and houses as much as from the Castle.

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As though playing up to the English stereotype, the town is a hotpot of quaint little English pubs, sweet shops and of course fish ‘n chips – tourists must flip out when they stumble upon this paragon of Britishness. Not quite as entertained by the English ideal, I was instead enamoured by the chocolate-box quality of the place – by the houses which appeared to be leaning and creaking in every direction, as though reminding all visitors that their foundations are historical, a far cry from the modern lines and standard shapes of the 21st Century.

This charming idyll continues across the river to Eton, which is of course famous for its school, educator of Kings and Prime Ministers from across the ages. While Eton’s high street will greet you, long before the school, it is clear that Eton is very much subservient to its principal offering: hence why the shops are in business to take photos of the students, to dress them in their Sunday and uniformed best, and to boast, through souvenirs, the great educational treasure which the town holds within its midsts.

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Not far up the high street, that great bastion of refined education and privilege looms from beyond the buildings like a Tudor palace. It wasn’t possible to gain entrance, but peeks inside from the grounds betrayed a college which, like the Castle over the river, plays to the global mythology of a Harry Potter-like college oozing with age and historical significance. This is an expensive school, and the ravishing historical lines of its red-bricked building, its gardens abound with flowers, and its grounds running straight down to the river betray an establishment where students will benefit from the very best education and exposure to England at its verdant, bucolic best.

There was no hiding our pleasure at walking these grounds, smelling the fresh air and sitting back to enjoy the somniferous trickle of the calm river Thames. And even though a hint of envy might have entered our afternoon tranquility, when our own schools compared, somewhat less favourably, with this, it was largely with a sense of pride that we traversed the grounds of Eton. For as English stereotypes go, this is a ravishingly beautiful one, and something which the lucky few should enjoy to the full, never taking for granted the unspoilt beauty and prestige with which they will formerly enter the world of adulthood.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part I: The Castle

The myths and legends surrounding England’s valiant past are so intertwined with our history that it’s sometimes hard to remember what is fact and what is fiction. The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a typical example of this, and while many have determined the magic surrounding Merlin to be the stuff of fairytales, the fable of King Arthur and his Knights certainly resonates as being a more realistic depiction of historical England. Whether or not the round table existed, the image it evokes – of brave knights, lion-emblazoned coats of arms, and of shiny coats of armour ridden into battle – very much captures a sense of the England of old. And if one place were to lift that image off the pages of legend and into the real light of day, it’s Windsor Castle.

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Grand, imposing and the very epitome of a medieval-style castle, Windsor is not only a historical monument worthy of legend itself. Rather it always has been, and continues to be a favourite royal residence, and today boasts the record as being the longest occupied palace in Europe, as well as the favourite weekend retreat and place of entertainment of the UK’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. With roots stretching right back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, Windsor Castle has been constantly remodelled and expanded to suit the tastes of each succeeding monarch, from the lavish baroque of Charles II to the Georgian flourishes of George IV and the modernisation of the Victorian and later eras.

While on the outside it appears as stark and imposing as a great stone castle should, on the inside it is very much a palace in the true sense of the word. While some rooms are emblazoned with sparkling armour, decorative weaponry and historical coats of arms, others are masterpieces in rococo and baroque, glistening with gold and chandeliers and filled with the most lavish of palatial furnishings. In 1992, much of this beauty was almost lost forever when a ferocious fire tore through the building and destroyed many of the most important State Rooms. But today, after an award winning restoration, Windsor is not only back to its beautiful self, but much improved, with many interim changes reversed to take the Castle design back to its early glory days.

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But Windsor is not just a single-building castle, but a complex with gardens, out-buildings and places of worship making up a mini town within a town. Chief amongst these ancillary sights is St George’s Chapel, which is probably one of the most beguilingly beautiful churches I have seen. Gleaming with light filtered through intricately conceived multi-coloured stained glass windows depicting the Kings and Queens of old, the chapel is a masterpiece of the perpendicular gothic. Its lattice stone-weaved ceiling is a work of genius, and in such a good condition that it is hard to think that for the most part, this is the work of 15th Century craftsmen. Its Quire (where the choir sing) is simply magical. The home of the Knights of the Garter, it is a true homage to all things Round Table, adding to the myth which surrounds British history and expressing in a stroke of true theatricality the historical importance of this preeminent body of royal knights. Meanwhile, peppered throughout the chapel are some of the most important monuments you are likely to see in any single one place in England: here lies Henry VIII, the Queen Mother, George V, George VI and Charles I to name but a few. And for those not buried here, monuments to the likes of Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte (who died in childbirth leading to the ascension of Queen Victoria) are masterpieces of pathos carved in stone and crafted in the suitably melodramatic Victorian aesthetic.

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Unfortunately the splendours of Windsor’s interiors are the preserve of the eyes only, as photography is banned throughout. I must therefore content myself with sharing with Daily Norm readers my photos of the joys of Windsor’s grounds, from the incredible exterior masonry and gothic façade of St George’s, to the beautiful moat gardens which, filled with roses, so perfectly soften the hard lines of this mighty castle beyond.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

London, Rediscovering My City: Ham House & Gardens

There’s nothing like a good old National Trust property. With some of the finest country estates that the UK has to offer, the National Trust is a true beacon for Britain’s finest cultural heritage, offering visitors the chance to stroll around like Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy…to relive the Brontes, Thomas Hardy, Wordsworth, Tennyson. Some of the best memories of my childhood flood back when I enter a National Trust shop – that most prized reward at the end of a visit, when the excitement of a souvenir – maybe a lavender filled drawer sachet, a candle or a wooden mouse – was heightened by the delicate fragrance of rose and lily of the valley which always pervaded these most gentile of English boutiques.

Now in adulthood, those halcyon days feel far removed, and in London, the idea of visiting a country estate is perhaps as exotic a concept as a trip to Thailand. So it was with some delight that on a recent weekend, a trip merely 20 minutes away brought us to  the Royal Borough of Richmond, and just beyond the delights of Ham House.

The House from the River and the gardens

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Set just inland from the meandering banks of the River Thames, the solid and grandiose symmetrical red brick facade looks from afar like a dolls house, whose perfectly apportioned facade might swing open at any moment to reveal the chequerboard floors and exquisitely painted ceilings within. Upon our approach, the very human scale of this grand mansion became clear, and Ham House revealed itself as one of the grandest Stuart mansions still standing.

The kitchens

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While perhaps a little gloomy, the elaborate interiors hung with large scale mythological paintings and finished with exquisite balustrades and richly carved furnishings are a reflection of the tastes of the House’s 17th century owner, the Duke of Lauderdale, who transformed Ham after its original owner, a childhood friend of King Charles I, came to no good during Britain’s great Civil War.

Details of the interiors

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For me, the greatest charm of Ham (the lavender-filled gift-shop asides) was not its house but its gardens. Expanding way beyond the house, the gardens offer a mix of the formal with the more tempered wilderness, as a beautifully trimmed topiary garden leads onto expansive lawns, a richly planted South terrace border, and walled gardens within which a wilderness of grasses and wild flowers is the perfect setting for a very philosophical stroll. Appropriately for England, the highlight comes of having afternoon tea in the garden’s very well appointed cafeteria, from whose tables the heady perfume of peonies and rose permeates a beautifully presented afternoon tea.

The formal gardens

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We left, via the gift shop, feeling that much more gentrified after our interaction with history, and the finer things in life. Ham’s handsome house and gardens bid their farewell and led us gently onto the leafy riverbank between Richmond and Teddington… perhaps one of the finest of all stretches in the remarkably green capital city of England.

 …and the less formal gardens

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© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Sicily Series | Part V – The views that put Taormina on the map

Despite the chic which characterises the burgeoning boutique-lined streets and bustling café-filled piazzas of Sicily’s Taormina, the attraction which really put the town on the map was in situ long before the fashionistas took up residence. For the picture-postcard undisputed highlight of Taormina is its ancient Greek Theatre, a stone semi-circular auditorium which benefits from a stunning altitude which gives its stage the most enviable of backdrops of the sea, the coast and the magnificent silhouette of Mount Etna beyond.

Taormina’s Ancient Theatre

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Imagine the scene: a balmy summer’s night, a bustling old theatre, a chorus of masked greek players performing Antigone or Media, and beyond, the silhouette of Etna, cloud slowly smoking from its crater like a wise old onlooker smoking a pipe in the distance. Yes your bottom might be a little sore from the stone seats, but imagine the view, and the naturally occurring brilliant acoustics which somehow manage to transport the voice of the actors on the stage to the very highest seat, despite there being no speakers nor modern day technological intervention. Sadly our trip to Taormina’s theatre did not coincide with one of the festivals when this magnificent theatre is put back to use, but that did nothing to dispel the magic of the place which was omnipotent across its ancient structure.

But the ancient theatre is not the only place from which Taormina’s trademark views can be enjoyed. From the Municipal Gardens, crafted as they were by Florence Trevelyan along another ridge of high hillside, the views of Etna and the coast are uninterrupted, and delightfully framed by the bounty of cypress trees and pines, flowers and topiary which fills the happily verdant gardens.

The Municipal Gardens

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Taormina’s location is undoubtedly the reason for its historical roots and its current popularity, and views are by far the town’s most ravishing feature. But ultimately it’s the happy combination of history, views, boutique shopping and café-culture-comfort which makes the town such a pleasure to visit. After all, what better way is there to contemplate a view than with an aperol spritz in one hand, and a few bags of shopping in the other?

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Marrakech on Paper: The Majorelle Gardens with Majorelle Blue

The gift shop adjacent to the house of Jacques Majorelle was very chic. As touristic destinations go, it was very chic indeed – a true boutique – which exhibited all of the hallmarks of Yves Saint Laurent, the subsequent owner of this dazzling blue house and gardens. When, amongst the spectacular YSL pieces and beautifully crafted bottles of exotic Moroccan inspired perfumes I saw a pyramid formed from little cans of paint, my heart skipped a beat. It was Majorelle blue! And while the paint is clearly intended for outside use, I knew as soon as I saw it that with this actual authentic blue, I would paint a work dedicated to the garden: The Majorelle Gardens with Majorelle Blue!

The resulting work, posted here, focuses on the wonderful geometry of the 1920s construction at the heart of the gardens, whose cubist architecture reflects the trends of the time, while the arabesque and arches are truly Moroccan in character. But of course the real star is that ravishing colour, that blue so iconic amongst gardens. But as for the  diverse array of cacti which, in reality, almost hide the house, whose wavy, almost quivering shapes are like the hattifatteners of Tove Jansson, vibrating in the moonlight… these I confined to illustration in shadow, hinting at their presence, but not allowing it to dominate. It was a controversial choice for a garden so famous for its abundance, but in this painting I wanted the house, and the colour to shine. Not the plants.

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The Majorelle Gardens in Majorelle Blue (© 2017 Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, gouache and Majorelle blue on paper)

I have no idea whether the idea for painting garden walls this resplendent shade of blue came first from Majorelle or is more deeply imbedded into Arabic culture, but it’s funny to observe how entrenched this colour has become into the idea of the Moroccan garden. For me, the place was a true highlight of our Morocco trip, and this painting a highpoint of my Marrakech collection.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the artwork of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, visit http://www.delacybrown.com 

The Colours of Marrakech, Part 5: Majorelle Blue

This post commences with a warning: You are about to be bombarded by blue. An intense, electric, ultramarine blue which defies the senses and energises the mind. And when the more natural colours of citrus and verdant green are set against it, they too become alive, as though infected by the sonic grove to which this blue vibrates. The result is a panoply of vivid colour, a palette so strong that these photos should not be viewed with a hangover. But rather, with a clear head, get ready to revel in this most glorious colour of Marrakech, a shade which has defined the idea of the avant-garde garden paradise, ever since it was first used in the Moroccan garden of French artist, Jacques Majorelle and later the home of one Yves Saint Laurent. This is a post dedicated to the colour so synonymous with its creator and his lavish Marrakech garden that it was named after him: Majorelle Blue.

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The Majorelle Garden is one of Marrakech’s most popular sites. No doubt the legacy of YSL –  who recovered the abandoned masterpiece of fellow ex-patriot Majorelle in the 1980s and returned it to its former glory – is a prime attraction. But beyond the YSL gloss, which adds understandable glamour to this secluded, leafy space, this is a garden which packs a punch from its entrance. The blue, a mix of cobalt and ultramarine, is so vivid that it cuts through the plants whose dense foliage attempts to cover it. In the garden, every possible type of prickly cactus and tubular bamboo fights to fill the light afforded by the dappled space, and yet they are a mere chorus to the protagonism of the blue. Yes, it allows the green of the plants to sing like a true maestro, but it does so complacently, knowing itself to be the true star.

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While the walls of a waterlily pond (like Monet’s garden on acid) and an adjoining Arabic waterway are given over to this blue, it is the house itself, with its cubic form and intermittent splashes of vivid yellow, which really give the blue its stage, from where its monologue can be radiated throughout a lush garden punctuated with yet more splashes of prominent blue, yellow and orange. Pots and urns do not escape the paint treatment, so that the whole garden becomes unified in colour. It’s as though no plant nor path has been allowed to escape the treatment of a designer intent on creating a cohesive catwalk show. This is a garden choreographed to sing out, to impress. And it does so with aplomb.

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Predictably the garden is always awash with visitors. Their backpacks and chattering inject the colour harmony with unwanted clashing tones and a strident cackling which punctuates the calm which ought to dominate this cultural space. For this reason my photographic dedication to the Majorelle Garden concentrates more on the details than the overall space. But in those details you can see the effect of colour and contrast, as that magnificent blue comes face to face with its colour wheel opposites. The result is a true spectacle of colour, rarely dared to be seen in so naturally abundant a green and thriving garden space.

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