Garden Features in Islamic Gardens - Part 1
Islamic garden layout:
Paths and avenues,
‘Eight’ is a special number,
Flower-beds and flowerpots
In Iran, Pakistan and India, water channels are often lined with many small fountains in a straight line throwing up crystal clear water. There can be large numbers of these small fountains in a garden.
Water channels are always straight and quite shallow and often tiled in turquoise or jade colours.
There may be little bridges across water channels. Or sometimes square stone blocks are used as stepping stones.
In large gardens, each of the ‘four gardens’ in a ‘chahar bagh’ may itself be divided into
four by more ‘chahar bagh’ water channels. For an example, see Figure 6 in:
The Garden of Fin near Kashan, Iran is a good example of all these features.
Paths and avenues
Paths run on both sides of water channels. Often they are slightly raised.
If it’s a large garden, there may be an avenue of tall trees along the outside of each path, shading strollers from the sun. Often conifers are used for tall avenues in Islamic gardens – especially the Italian Cypress tree, cupressus sempervirens. This is a specially important tree for Islamic gardens. Plane trees are also common.
Sometimes, in these avenues, dark cypress trees are planted alternately with fruit trees,
like cherries and plum trees. The latter were sometimes seen as symbolising life which is
born and dies each year. Whereas the cypress, which never loses its leaves, represented eternity.
A variation on the idea is a double avenue, as in the Jahan Nama Garden, Shiraz, Iran. The
inner avenue is of fragrant smelling orange trees, while the outer avenue is of cypresses.
For a photo, see:
Pergolas, where plants are trained on arches to grow overhead over paths, are not especially common. But they are sometimes found in Islamic gardens.
Paths are paved in some form of attractive geometric pattern. Sometimes these patterns – in tile, brick, cobbles or pebbles – are elaborate . Beautiful paving patterns, both in buildings and outside them, are important in Islamic countries. At the Alhambra there are so many different patterns of floor tile that they have been used for a ‘Find the Pairs’ card game.
‘Eight’ is a special number
‘Eight’ is a number associated with Paradise in Islam and it is often used in the design of gardens. For instance, in the Jahan Nama Garden, just mentioned, there is an eight-sided pavilion at the centre. There are eight cypresses on each side of the paths leading to it. There is a long water channel which is divided into eight sections, each containing eight fountains. Eight-sided or eight-pointed shapes are often used for pools and flower beds.
Flower-beds and flowerpots
Flower-beds are always a regular geometric shape – rectangles, star shapes (usually eight-pointed), diamond shapes and octagons. They are placed as part of a symmetrical pattern within the garden as a whole. Sometimes flowerbeds are the same shapes as the pools in the garden.
Star-shaped flower beds are common. Sometimes they are very large. Sometimes there is inner star and an outer star in different colours. Sometimes there are low box bushes shaped into eight-pointed stars.
Quite often these flower beds’ shapes are marked out by stone or tile edgings - for a complex
design, see http://www.gardenvisit.com/ge/itmad_ud_daula.htm.
Some Indian gardens are filled by elaborate patterns created by these edgings.
Flowerpots are very widely used in Islamic gardens. They are sometimes massed together in large numbers. Sometimes they are lined against the side of pools. Commonly they are terracotta earthenware flowerpots, much like the old-fashioned English flowerpot.