Pat, the host of the Fethiye Times Gardening Club in May, explains the history and design behind her garden.

Pat, the host of the Fethiye Times Gardening Club in May, explains the history and design behind her garden.

Despite the name this type of garden pre-dates both Islam and Christianity.  The remains of the earliest known example can be seen in Iran and date back to 550BC.  This is the garden of Cyrus the Great who led the Persians when they defeated the Medes at the Battle of Pasargadae.  To celebrate the victory he built a palace at the site of the battle and created a formal garden which has been reconstructed on paper to show that it had water rills, planting and shade-giving pavilions.

Indeed, the origins of this type of garden are said to lie in desert oases where a water source is used to irrigate as much ground as possible via channels.

Both the bible and the Koran are replete with references to ‘gardens’.   Adam and Eve emerged from the Garden of Eden and Islam assures its believers that after death they go to paradise which is a garden.

The classic form of Islamic Garden is a large square or rectangle with each side bisected by a water course emanating from a central pond.  This gives four separate, symmetrical areas for planting and easy access to water in each of them.  Classic Islamic gardens are enclosed, shady places which act as a refuge from the heat of the Middle Eastern sun. 

So the basic elements of a Paradise Garden are enclosure, shade and water.  But this type of Garden can also be interpreted in terms of the senses to which it is designed to appeal.  ‘Sight’ via the colours and the aesthetic of symmetry; ‘taste’ from the fruit and other crops grown in the garden; ‘sound’ of the water and birds; ‘scent’ of the flowers.

Some experts believe the Islamic Garden can be broken down into three distinctive types known by their Persian or Farsi names – one of which you may also recognise as a word in Turkish:  the bustan, the ghulistan and the riyadh.  The bustan is the garden devoted to growing crops which would be vegetables, fruit and herbs. The ghulistan is the decorative flower garden in which originally tulips, carnations, iris, roses, lillies and jasmine would have been found.  Finally the riyadh is the courtyard garden which is sometimes actually in the centre of the house and has water and plants in pots.

Our garden, although still in its infancy, combines elements of all three types of classic Paradise Garden.  We have around 35 fruit trees, most of them mature, and also grow some herbs – though we don’t intend to plant vegetables.  There is water flowing on three sides of the garden and the fourth will eventually be enclosed by a mixed hedge.  Additionally we have water features in the centre of the main garden and in the courtyard.  We grow a range of scented flowers including all those traditional to this type of garden except the tulip, which we hope to have when we can find bulbs.

Whilst not as simple as the traditional quadripartite plan there is symmetry in the garden and we believe it satisfies the senses listed above.  After a mere four years, on a hot August day when you come back from a trip to Fethiye, the garden is a welcoming cool, shady place to while away the hours.  As plants mature, and we acquire more, we hope to have scented plant-covered structures to add to the shade already provided by mature trees;  at the same time the plants will spill out over the paths and soften the current hard edges.