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A handmade natural mosaic

Une nature fait main au Palais Eddé
Garden of Eddé Castle | Edde, Jbeil – Byblos, Lebanon.
March 23, 2016

We may wonder sometimes if home gardens reflect cultural identities and social fabrics of countries and the wealth of their citizens. In fact, it is well recognized that ‘gardens are intimately connected with gardeners’ own identities.’[1] They allow them to enter into a ‘mutually challenging relationship’ with nature, which suggests that gardens are living in a human sense. Though is it the idea that ‘our existence depends on the propensity of our innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike process’, that ‘our spirit is woven from it,’[2] that pushes people to carry living gems from their gardens with them when they move to new countries? It seems that people do not travel only with their clothes in their suitcases but also with things that are treasures for them. It could be historical vestiges, pieces of art or plants which have become part of their lives. These personal objects that travel with them keep them intimately connected to the places, cities and towns where they grew up and lived. They hold part of their lives and the storylines of their existence.

Searching for ornamental plants in a man-made landscape, I discovered a garden with many stories to tell, one showing the unique wonders created by man in Lebanon. In 1995, Mrs. Alice Eddé landed in Lebanon with her ‘own cherished garden’. Trees, herbs, seeds and bulbs from Antibes in southern France crossed the Mediterranean Sea and reached their final destination in the Garden of Eddé Castle in Jbeil, a garden designed with a novel concept in a Middle Eastern ‘westernised’ society. A visit to the garden might just take your breath away and brings to mind quotes we read when seeking to understand our journey. When exploring these spaces, we can feel the spirit of the owners and see the beauty of the work of landscape architects and a handful of skilled gardeners. The unfolding stunning natural mosaics throughout the walk reminded me of one of Rumi’s quotes: ‘The beauty you see in me is a reflection of you.’[3] The garden designed by Luis Iglesias, the famous landscape architect of Alhambra in Spain, is formed by mosaics with a mix of plants that keep your eyes satiated by the beauty of nature. It extends approximately over 2000m2 and includes two sections: an upper garden and a lower garden. Those sections are connected by rocky and paved passages. When exploring the upper section, at the entrance of the castle, our senses are filled by the scent of roses and honey suckles. The dancer, a bronze statue by Kees Verkade posing in the middle of a pond garnished with Nile grass, graciously welcomes all visitors. The rocky and paved passages lead us to a kitchen garden, Madame Therese garden and balcony. On the balcony terrace, planted pots line its corners and walls are set around the juggler, a statue by Silverman. Taking the stairs downwards, pine grove and green and colourful patches blend with the extension of the natural forests surrounding the domain of the Eddé castle. A garden in the shape of a cross holds in its center another sculpture by Kees Verkade. The ‘Awakening’ statue lies on green tapestry dotted with pink and violet flowers. The stillness of the place can catch us for days while appreciating the natural beauty of the garden.

A walk through the whole garden shows the power of colours, with the different hues of pink, white, red and orange in the flowers of the silk tree, orchid tree, coral tree, floss silk tree and Judas tree. There’s also the smell of myrtle, sage, oregano, lavender and thyme and the scent of roses, jasmine, African blue lily and blue daisy. While seeing the potential of 1000s of photographs displaying the diversity of these plant communities, from one standpoint in the garden, I realised that sometimes it is the beauty within us that design spaces. These places are where the ‘silence take us to the core of life’ and where ‘everyone sees the unseen in proportion to the clarity of his heart.’3 It is quite rare to see a man-made place so diverse, enriching and inspirational in my country. A place attached to the four Mediterranean seasons with more than 250 plants whereby flowering is somehow eternal.

At the end of my stroll in the Eddé Castle Garden, reflecting on an article I read last week[4], I thought that this garden offers 1000s of ways to connect and empower people’s relationships with each other and the natural world.


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[1] Kiesling & Manning, 2010. In: Freeman C., Dickinson K. J. M., Porter S., van Heezik Y., 2012. My garden is an expression of me: Exploring householdersrelationships with their gardens. Journal of Environmental Psychology 32: 135143.
[2] Wilson E. O., 1984. Biophilia. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[3] Quotes by Rumi
[4] Wilson A., 1991. In: Ghazali S., 2010. House Garden as a Symbol of Place, Identity and Sense of Belonging for Low-Cost Flat Residents in Urbanizing Malaysia. International Journal of Social Science and Humanity, Vol. 3, No. 2, March 2013.


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