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23 Apr 2018

The garden as a place of peace

The desire of man to have a garden is as old as civilization and is so ingrained that the first signs are manifested since the beginning of the history of peoples in all parts of the world.

The very first source of tradition is the religious one, so the gardens are born as appendages of the temples. Every religion of antiquity has its mythical garden: the Jewish Garden of Eden, the Eridu of the Assyrians, the Ida-Vasha of Hinduism. Parallel to the religious origin was the development of an enclosed land to grow food, thus making the garden a link between the spiritual and physical needs of man. These terrestrial paradises, at the service of one or both aspects of the dual human nature, are found in the desert oasis garden, in the enclosed hunting parks created by the Assyrians and in the medieval monastic gardens with their herbaceous plants, the fish ponds, and flowers for the altar. The idea that inspires all these early gardens is expressed in the word of Arab-Hispanic origin Glorietta, the small private paradise. In any case, they express the idea of paradise as conceived by their creators.

Moghul garden Nishat Kashmir
Moghul garden Nishat Kashmir

The earliest known gardens are those of Egypt, and here, as is natural enough, the idea of paradise was centered on the fruitfulness of the oasis. Water, without which there could be neither flowers nor fruit nor the shadow of the trees, became the central theme of the garden, both for necessity and for symbolism, representing the river of life. From this theme of water as a source of fertility all the Asian irrigation gardens developed, including those Arabs, Persians and the Mogul gardens in northern India. His influence penetrated deep into the Western world, into classical eras through Greek and Roman conquests, into medieval Europe through the return of the Crusaders, and finally, in a purer form, entering Spain with the invading Moors.

The characteristics of its fundamental form are the logical result of its origin. The garden is fenced, to leave out the surrounding desert, it is formal and leveled, because its central feature is the water enclosed in a canal or in a rectangular basin.

On each side of the watercourse are the trees and flowers of the idealized oasis. This simple design developed and changed through the various countries, under the influence of the land and often the religion of its users. Waterfalls were created in the hills of Persia, and the water-filled canals became the four rivers of life in Muslim India. This tradition of the oasis merged in Asia with another that originated from a very different terrain, that of the wooded hills of Assyria.

Here, the idea that the king had of paradise was a hunting forest, more beautiful and richer in the game than any natural forest.
He was the true ancestor of the park, large in comparison to the garden-oasis – since there was no desert around it – and informal in treatment, since it was born from the natural fertility of the countryside instead of following the straight lines of irrigation. From these two sources – the irrigation of the desert and the idealization of the forest – the Persian garden was born, whose design has been handed down to us through the motifs of Persian carpets.

The irrigation structure takes the form of canals that represent the four rivers of paradise and form a cross in the middle. Often the garden is also surrounded by a wall-enclosed ditch. At the four corners are the fruits and flowers of the oasis and sometimes also a symbolic trace that recalls the largest forest of the Assyrians.

The Arabs, great masters of irrigation, adopted the same pattern that we still find in the garden of the Alhambra in southern Spain. In the same Persia, these paradise gardens had a great bloom even up to the sixteenth century, and it is possible, thanks to what has remained and the news reached to us, still, appreciate today the enormous impression that they left to all those who could see them. They were precious gardens for conception, almost of jewels. Often the water flowed on blue tiles and in the parterre between the intertwined canals, there were flower beds with carefully grouped flowers, or sometimes whole gardens of one type of flower. There were fruit trees, and there was a great use of the symbolic grouping of the eternal cypresses with the almond tree which renews its birth every spring. A variant of the Persian-oasis garden came in the five-hundreds to northern India, where it gave rise to one of the great world traditions in the creation of gardens. The Mogul emperors united a passionate love for the gardens to the desire of conquest. They created gardens in the lands they conquered, and because they were imbued with Persian culture and often married Persian women, their gardens were based on the theme of the four rivers of life. The Moguls were creators, not imitators, and the theme was adapted to the place and climate depending on the location where the gardens were made. In torrid Punjab, the waters of life expanded into broad, fresh expanses. In Kashmir, the beauty of the surrounding landscape made the garden no longer an oasis within a hostile world, but a gem in the heart of paradise. The gardens of Shalamar Nishat and Chasma Shahi, located around the shores of Dal Lake and against the backdrop of the amphitheater of the foothills of the Himalayas, must be considered among the most beautiful examples of gardens, which derive so much from man’s desires. as for the spirit of the surrounding landscape. These gardens, which were described by Villiers-Stuart in the Gardens of the Great Mughals, can still be visited. They have a place among the largest gardens in the world, are rooted in a more ancient tradition, but take on new form and vitality from the character of the country of adoption. Long before India collected the heritage of Persia, India itself had influenced the gardens of the Far Orient. Indian Buddhism reached China and from there, in the sixth century, arrived in Japan, bringing with it the idea of the Buddhist temple garden, with its hills, its lotus ponds and trees; an informal composition, in complete contrast with the straight channels and the oblong parterre of the irrigation garden. These temple gardens added their influence to the extraordinary tradition of Sino-Japanese garden.

Read also: The charm of water in the design of the garden and parks

19 Apr 2018

Fountains in the garden

The term fountain derives from the Latin fons, fontis, which in reality means «source»: and therefore it is quite logical that often such rules are joined, and appear in the thought, visions of spurts or waterfalls.

Fountains and waterfalls are not peculiar to a certain type of garden, although they often form the fulcrum along with other ways of using water (see Water gardens); however they embellish any garden, small or large, to the point that, designing the plant, should almost always be considered as an integral part of the landscape, especially today that modern technology allows easy and not too grandiose installations like those of the past.

The gush that sparkles in the sun, the slight murmur of the water that flows, albeit for a short distance, the Argentinian noise of the cascade that sprays a thousand drops, each of which contains a pearl of lace, are motives so full of grace and charm that the writers of all time have felt the need to transfer them into words, and this ever since there were not even real gardens in the sense that we give to this term.

The Persian poet Omar Khayyam sings “this delightful grass whose tender green raises feathery to the edge of the stream,” and Plato: “sit under this sound pine on the banks of the bubbling stream.” Petrarca cried so much the death of Laura that he could not console himself “nor between clear fountains and green meadows”; Calderon de la Barca compares the stream with a silver serpent that winds through the flowers; Goethe admires “the source in the cliff-of joy-like a star look! ». D’Annunzio, as a young man, exhaled his decadentism by sighing “the sources, clear opal light, fan ne calm, sweet and strange sounds …”; even Garcia Lorca, in a landscape burnt as what he calls “the Andalusia of weeping”, finds his resting on “agua clara y olivos centenarios”!

Perhaps you have never been a poet or a narrator, a philosopher or a thinker who, even in a single sentence or a single verse, has not made his own the beauty and joy that the flow or the rising of water can give human soul.

For this joy or for the yearning that, depending on the place and time, water can inspire in us, over the centuries, artists, architects, simple but sensitive artisans have worked, creating wonderful, sweet and suggestive fountains, in all the gardens of the world.

Incisione di Gaspar Shott,quale esempio di fontana a zampilli; rappresenta allego-ricamente la meccanica,Engraved by Caspar Shott, as an example of a gushing fountain; it is attached to mechanics, hydraulics and pneumatics.
Engraved by Gaspar Shott, as an example of a gushing fountain; it is attached to mechanics, hydraulics and pneumatics.

From the calm square tank in the atrium of the Vestalian House at the Roman Forum at the complicated and majestic fountain of the Villa d’Este Organ – in Tivoli, from the spectacular expanse of running water in Courence, which took its name from it (more than half a kilometer of canals, waterfalls and mirrors) of water of the most varied forms) up to the rocky and half-hidden fountain of Esculapio in the Villa Borghese in Rome, the water sings, laughs, jokes with the wind, reflects blue or gray skies, green of plants and brown of rocks.

In the course of this discussion we speak only of gardens: too long would be the talk if we wanted to draw a complete overview of the fountains, from the sacred ones of antiquity then turned into baptismal sources, to those that arose with the sole purpose of water supply in the squares and streets of cities and towns, over time they became splendid ornaments, shining with art and often surrounded by vegetal elements that embellish marble, stone and sometimes metals.

But what can we say today about the use of water in our modern gardens, often small, certainly without the possibility of great works of hydraulic engineering that sometimes, as in Versailles, even required the deviation of a river? And here’s the modern technology to help us: plastic materials, cement, electricity.

With the appropriate use of them even the small garden and even the terrace can have its fountain and its waterfall.

Leaving aside the immovable water basins  or the places where the water dominates uncontested (see Water gardens), the basic element for achieving a movement of water on an even smaller scale is an electric pump.

There are various types of pumps: some are less powerful than others and of course the choice depends on the use that you want to do.

To obtain jets in a fountain, the number of water jets, their height, the depth of the tank and its width are the elements to take into account when choosing the pump.

There are some that can be submerged in the water itself and the simplest will produce a gush of about 1.80 m in height, falling in a width of about 1.20 m in diameter (it is important, of course, to know in advance this diameter to avoid annoying splashes outside the diameter of the tank); some are also adjustable so you can raise or lower the height of the jet.

These pumps require only a highly insulated electrical connection and their essential need is to make sure that they have completely sealed gaskets so that the mechanism can not block or form a mass with water: this would not only cause failure and damage, but it would be very dangerous.

The electricity source will be placed in the nearest sheltered place (a greenhouse, a garage or the house itself) and the buried cables will be protected as effectively as possible so that there is no danger of damage when the surrounding land is to be worked to allow various crops; it will, therefore, be wise to prepare their passage where there are no trees or plants with deep roots and the crops are carried out as much as possible on the surface.

They must also always be equipped with a third “earth” attack, a completely insulating covering, and their installation must be done by a very competent person.

Once all these necessary precautions have been exhausted, maintenance for oneself will be simple: in case of frost, the pump must be treated with water in advance, so that it does not get stuck due to excessive cooling, and from time to time it will take a light lubrication; if the filter, which the mechanism is equipped with, works well there should be no boredom due to foreign materials obstructing the various gears: occasionally a general check can be carried out when the pump is removed for cleaning work in the tank or for the winter cold.

If the tank is large enough and multiple or more spectacular effects are desired, the pump should be placed outside the fountain, digging a completely dry chamber underground, below the water level and as close to it as possible : a completely waterproof pipe will suck the water from the fountain, and another will lead it to or from the springs (variously made up of pulverized jets or the so-called «onions», always equipped with a filter to prevent foreign materials blocking the holes) placed in the center, on the side or around the tub.

The effect can be multiple, using various branches that will allow subsequent jets, but we must bear in mind that a single pipe is always safer and that in any case any fitting must be perfect.

The underground cell of the pump will be constructed, preferably, in waterproofed concrete, with a watertight cover at ground level and not covered with earth, to be able to easily lift it; its walls must naturally have the holes necessary for the passage of electric cables and ducts, equipped with excellent waterproof gaskets

 they close tightly, and the suction duct should be equipped with a “stop” valve to prevent the whole apparatus from becoming flooded if the pump were to be removed for any reason.

The same system, although more laborious as an initial construction, can be used to obtain a waterfall.

In this case, instead of a single tank, it will take two or more basins located at different levels and irregular in shape, placed in steps on each other.

They can be performed and made of synthetic fiber and will therefore require only the burying and ornamentation of the banks that must be as irregular as possible, formed with rocks that will give movement and relief and allow the cultivation of suitable plants; or they may be made of concrete, but bear in mind that this tends to crack and become porous over time; it will therefore be better, in this case, to cover it in advance with a plastic varnish.

In this case, the pump will have to be placed at the lowest level and the two tubes, aspirating and inspiring, will be located respectively in the lower and upper basin: the second will be longer and would be unsightly if left on the surface. so take care to bury it or to hide it between rocks and irregular stones.

In this way, the water inspired by the pump from the lower tank will overturn, pushed by electricity, into the higher one; from here it will precipitate, through a series of well-studied steps, so as to form a small natural-looking landscape, but actually constituting a closed circuit that will have only a small dispersion (easily replaceable, either through rain, or artificially) of the absorption of the earth in which herbs and flowers will be placed.

Even a small waterfall can be constructed more simply, avoiding the buried underground chamber, by means of a submerged pump located in the lower basin and attached to a conduit that carries the water to a higher level from which it will fall; but, as has already been said for fountains, such pumps, however simple, have a much smaller volume of production, not as water flow, but as a driving force: desiring a simple cascade of about 1.50 m high, with a water flow of 1500 liters per hour approximately, the effect will be less spectacular, but the costs of implantation much less and you can get a result equally satisfactory.

In this case the pump should not be placed in the middle of the lower tank but next to the point where the waterfalls and even greater care will be placed in the edges of the edges by relying on the details rather than the appearance of mass, and taking care of particular way that every plant is as decorative as possible, since it will have to stand out rather than get lost as a whole.

News and curiosity

It tells an ancient tradition that the Greek historian Pausanias was the first responsible for the legend concerning the fountain that for centuries was the most sought after in the world, and whose definitive name is still used proverbially as one of the desperate, and always disappointed, ambitions of humanity, together with the philosopher’s stone.

This old legend denoted this fountain “Càlatos” and told it that it was located next to Nauplia, in the Peloponnese, and that Juno bathed there regularly: this allowed her to remain young and beautiful in the eyes of Jupiter.

Later authors asserted that Jupiter turned a nymph into a fountain and that the waters of this spring had the power to rejuvenate whoever got wet, but no one could ever tell where this miraculous fountain was.

The Latins, because of this hypothetical magical power, gave it the name of “juventa” which, in the Middle Ages, through French, became “Jouvence” and which still today uses that name with a nostalgic sense of search for lost youth.

When America was discovered, it was believed that this source was in the new earth; this hope was disappointed.

The centuries have passed, the charm of the miracle has resisted time … but no one has ever been able to find out where the Fountain of Jouvence really is.

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