I visited the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech on 11th October 2010 and it was hot in the sunshine as we queued for our tickets and then went inside through the gates. The garden was designed and laid out in the 1920s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle who designed marble pools, raised pathways, banana tree plantations, groves of tall bamboo, stately coconut palms and blousy bougainvilleas.
First of all we followed a path through species of prickly cacti collected from all over the world. The path led to a limpid lily pond that reminded me of Monet’s garden at Giverny in Normandy in France and which stood in front of a house, a museum now but closed today during refurbishment, which is painted a unique shade of blue. This seemed odd, it was in contrast to every other building in Marrakech and I wondered how the painter had managed to get around the crimson decree. The blue is called Majorelle and is made from pigment found only in the Moroccan soil and he must have been especially fond of it because as well as the house the garden was full of large pots all painted predominantly in this colour and contrasting nicely with others in orange, yellow, red and green.
Majorelle, it turns out wasn’t a great artist and his garden, rather than his paintings, was his masterpiece and it is composed and coloured like a work of art. As well as the pots, water is an important feature and there are flowing channels, lily ponds with reflections of the towering palm trees and bubbling fountains. He was an avid plant collector but after he died in 1962 the house was left empty and the garden abandoned for nearly twenty years. After a long period of neglect however the garden was then taken over and restored by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge.
As we wandered along the meandering paths the blue sky suddenly gave way to grey cloud and within seconds we were in the middle of a heavy rain fall and we had to take cover in a café where there was shelter under the leaves of the banana plants planted around the perimeter. It took about twenty minutes for the heavy rain to slow down and before we could leave the shelter and then as the rain eased off we returned to the gardens which somehow managed to look even better now with the shiny wet pavements catching shimmering reflections of the brightly coloured pots.
The path took us around the blue house with its bright yellow windows and strategically placed pots, through wooden pergolas where exotic climbing plants raced each other to the top, past ponds full of goldfish and shiny terrapins and through the towering bamboo swaying in the breeze. A second wave of heavy rain passed over and we had to shelter next to the memorial to Yves Saint Laurent but it passed over quite quickly and we were able to continue the visit as rain drops splashed us as they dripped from the overhanging leaves.
On balance we would have preferred to have visited the garden without the rain but I suppose the plants all enjoyed the drenching.