See our garden design with Persian influences for an Oakville client.
Persian Garden Design
Persian gardens go back to the 6th century BC, making them some of the oldest gardens around. Persian gardens are a unique artistic expression that reflects the ideas of Art, philosophy, symbolism and religion comprised of both natural and manmade elements.
Much of Iran is uninhabitable desert where landscaping is difficult, if not impossible. Yet the Persians knew all about micro-climates, for example. Gardens were highly prized in ancient Iran. References to gardens are found in music, poetry, literature, calligraphy, and of course, in carpet design.
The basis of Persian garden design is the Chahar Bagh, a set of prescribed rules meaning “four gardens.” Ancient Persians believed that there was cosmic order in the universe and that nature was mystical.
The Persians originated the idea that a garden should be a paradise on Earth; this same concept is found in Islamic gardens as well. In fact, the English word “paradise” is derived from the Persian, pardis, meaning a beautiful, enclosed garden.
Persian garden design has much in common with Islamic garden design, but also has elements that are uniquely Persian (Iranian). In turn, Persian gardens influenced much of landscaping design in India, at the Taj Mahal and as far away as Granada, Spain, at the Alhambra.
Tomb of the celebrated classical Persian poet Hafez (1325/26 to 1389/90), in Shiraz, Iran. CREDIT: Amir Hussain Zolfaghary
Key elements of Persian garden design:
Geometry – Using 90 degree angles, a rectangular garden is divided into four parts by either footpaths or water channels. In addition, the number four was important because it referred to the four natural elements—earth, heavens, water, and plants—according to the Avesta, the ancient holy book of the Zoroastrians. Hundreds of years later, the French would resurrect geometric gardens and enhance them, too.
Integration of inside and outside – Courtyard gardens in the interior of a house as well as outdoor “garden rooms,” (also popular in Italian gardens) are hallmarks of Persian garden design.
Light – Direct sunlight, filtered light through plants or architectural screens, shadow patterns cast on paving, and deep shade were all of interest to the Persians. The interplay of light and shade was important in landscaping design and garden design.
Shade – The summer sun in Iran is merciless, with temperatures regularly reaching 40 and sometimes 50 degrees Celsius. Creating shade was not optional, but mandatory to survive the heat. Shade was created by trees planted closely together along paths and water channels, as well as by trellises, pavilions, canopies, and structural walls to block the sun.
Water - The Persians were mathematicians and engineers and they devised very sophisticated ways of bringing water into gardens to make them thrive including underground tunnels, tapping underground aquafers, and planting trees in ditches thereby ensuring the roots had fast access to water. Without this engineering knowledge, Persian gardens would not have been possible. And, as the Persians discovered, water channels in a garden and its pavilions were early precursors to air-conditioning.
Court of the Cypress Trees at the Alhambra Palace Garden in Grenada, Spain. CREDIT: Werner Lang
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