The eastern coast of the Yucatan peninsula is actually a paradise. The place is teeming with lush plants, the Caribbean is the color of pure turquoise, and the weather is always nice (at least in comparison to most climates). It is no surprise then that the ancient city of Tulum stands out as utterly awe inspiring. Established around 1200, this was one of the last, great Mayan strongholds, occupied until the end of the 16th century. Built atop a headland, the city owns a sweeping view of the ocean and its coast. The place emanates greatness; wandering past the remains of grand temples, once-bustling marketplaces, and dwellings where these ancient people lived is humbling and electrifying. Today, the site is inhabited by tropical plants and iguanas, the whole scene made perfect by the nearby rolling surf.
The Mayans are credited for ingenious architecture and for developing complex systems in mathematics, language and keeping time. No one really knows why they left their divine cities, but most theories point to resource exhaustion and drought. The Yucatan is made out of limestone, with few rivers or lakes, and freshwater is found primarily in the underground river system. Overtime many of the limestone caves collapsed, creating sinkholes of gorgeous, clear pools called Cenotes. Evidence suggests that the Mayans believed these were portals to the afterlife. Cenotes are certainly portals to somewhere; stick your mask underwater and the limestone walls, dripping with stalactites, drop off in all directions into a deep, black abyss.
The Gran Cenote
“Even in its ruined state, the El Badi Palace is something incredible. As we have seen in the first post on Marrakech on Eikongraphia Moroccan architecture is all about the courtyard. Not the façade, but the courtyard represents how rich you are. With his palace king Ahmad Al-Mansur took this concept really to a new level. Whereas the biggest courtyards in the old city of Marrakech are about 30 meters wide, the El Badi courtyard measures 135 by 110 meters. The difference is so big that the El Badi Palace actually is incomparable.”
Read the rest here.
Winter is upon the northern hemisphere. Days are dark. Nights are long. But down south, the longest day of summer is approaching. For plants, that usually means one thing: BLOSSOM.
Australia is home to numerous rare endemic plant species thanks to its isolation and varied landscape. Flowering from August through January (the continent’s spring and summer) these species light up the land from forest to desert. Lucky also for Australia they have such a long tradition of bush poetry to pay proper attention to all the beauty:
Golden wattle, and golden broom,
Silver stars of the rosewood bloom;
Amber sunshine, and smoke-blue shade:
Opal colours that glow and fade;
On the gold of the upland grass
Blue cloud-shadows that swiftly pass;
Wood-smoke blown in an azure mist;
Hills of tenuous amethyst. . .
- Vonda Stanley, Australian Bush Poet
Close friends and Wilder’s editor, Abbye, keep telling me all about the virtues of Monhegan Island ten miles off the coast of Maine. The island is only a square mile in area, but can boast of 17 miles of walking trails and views from the highest cliffs in New England. Monhegan has been a reputation as an artist colony since the mid-19th century. Some of America’s most famous artists have captured the shoreline including the illustrator Rockwell Kent and painters Edward Hooper and George Bellows.
Weston Wells, who shoots for Wilder, recently visited the island and captured the island in its glory. His shots are above.
From our Fall issue - a look at hard to access Kyoto Moss garden at the Kokedara template:
“At Saiho-ji, a Zen Buddhist temple in a western suburb of Kyoto, the moss has become the main attraction, transforming an otherwise ordinary strolling garden into an enchanted wood straight out of a fairytale; only the fairies and pixies are missing. Which is why Saiho-ji is also popularly known as Kokedera, the “Moss Temple…”
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Nanda Devi is India’s second highest peak and shelters the Bhyander Valley, home to the remarkable Valley of Flowers. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to 600 plant species, as well as rare and endangered animals, including the Asiatic black bear and the blue sheep. Covered in snow most of the year, the valley gives way to a short summer of blooms from the Brahmakamal to the Cobra Lily. The Valley of Flowers has played a role in literature for over a century, and made numerous appearances in the history of the Hindu religion.
Longwood Gardens was a partner in our Summer edition, so we had the chance to visit their current installation, Lights. The show is dazzling! We spoke with the garden’s director, Paul Redman, about the genesis of the program and the relationship that Longwood, as one of the leading voices in horticulture, has with the arts in general.
There’s a place where fiber-optic flowers and 200-year-old elms are living in harmony, at last. Nestled in Pennsylvania’s southeastern corner, the world-renowned Longwood Gardens is hosting Lights (through September 29th), a one-of-a-kind, site-specific installation by UK artist and light designer, Bruce Munro. Twenty-three of the conservatory’s 1,077 masterfully cultivated acres are devoted to Munro’s fields of twinkling orbs, acrylic stems, pastures of color-changing towers, iridescent raindrops fashioned from tiny bulbs, and greenhouse chandeliers of bundled glass balls.
The outdoor pieces are, for the most part, integrated into the natural landscape, peeking or sparkling through drifts of black walnut trees, English gardens, and grassy banks, provoking a sense of alien familiarity. For instance “Water lilies” is a series of large resplendent disks constructed from recycled CDs that share one of the garden’s lakes with the real variety, floating together in harmony. However, in other cases, a very different approach is take. For example, “Water Towers,” is made up of sixty-nine cylindrical towers placed throughout one of the central meadows each built from plastic water-filled bottles, fiber optics and a sound system that stimulates synchronized color change. It is in a piece like this where the suspension between nature and Munro’s artifice come together to create something entirely new.
Longwood sits upon land purchased by a Quaker family from William Penn has had several lives. In the past 250 years, it has been cultivated for farming, arboretums, nature preserves, and finally, to include a full-blown research institution and horticultural wonderland that draw thousands of visitors each year. Like many botanic centers, Longwood’s mission is to maintain the likes of rare clematis and fruit orchards, and engage in research toward preserving rare and endangered plants.
Unlike other garden’s, Longwood’s other big mission is to make the natural world comprehensible to the public. Redman, who became Longwood’s director after a long tenure at Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio, says, “I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to connect the people with the plants in the most meaningful way possible. You don’t want to dumb it down. And it’s not like a museum or a science center — you’re trying to interpret the story of a living, ever-changing ecosystem.” It was this principal that led him to working with Bruce Munro, after one of Redman’s colleagues came across an exhibit of his in the UK in 2008.
“At the time,” says Redman, “we were embarking on a quest to find something that could help our guests to see Longwood differently — hopefully to a create an entirely new view of the garden altogether.” Throughout the installation process, a nearly two-year collaborative effort between Munro, Redman and the rest of the gardens’ curatorial team, Redman recalls, “The site and spirit of the place informed every part of the installation. We just had to keep asking, ‘How can we get people to see Longwood in a way they’ve never seen it before?’” The team had the unique task of blending two forms, a historically architected garden with sculpture, into a comprehensible dynamic, that both revealed things about Longwood’s flora and the artist’s work in its own right.
Redman enjoys bringing fine arts into conversation at Longwood, though he doesn’t believe that his love for a particular landscape artist necessarily warrants seeking someone out. “My goal is to find artistic partners — it’s about finding artistic partners who understand the gardens specifically. I never, ever want to impose something upon them. When [landscape art] is not imposed, it becomes part of the landscape, it has a life.”
“Thirty-five km outside of Munnar, India, the Kolukkumalai Tea Estate is built high atop the precipitous ridge that rises above the plains of Tamilnadu. At about 8,000 feet above sea level, this is the highest tea estate in the world. Known for its excellent, flavorsome teas, this estate is also known for its panoramic views and the for the rugged mountains that surround it.”
‘I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill… I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be.’
- The Duchess of Northumberland
The Duchess is the master of a 14 acre gardens, which surround the castle that doubled for Hogwarts in The Harry Potter series. The property boasts of a much celebrated, 100 variety strong Poison Garden, as well as gardens featuring European plants, Roses, Bamboo, and lime trees.
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