Welcome to day 25 of 28 Days of Have Heaven, a short month of posts about heaven, paradise, perfection and desire, perfect places, art, theology, gardens, and more, using the Enya song “China Roses” as a jumping off point. Each post will look at these elements in itself, which may not obviously connect with the others, and which may only peripherally be related. I won’t attempt to tie the posts together. They’ll all be listed here, as they are posted.
late 12c., “Garden of Eden,” from Old French paradis “paradise, Garden of Eden” (11c.), from Late Latin paradisus, from Greek paradeisos “park, paradise, Garden of Eden,” from an Iranian source similar to Avestan pairidaeza “enclosure, park” (Modern Persian and Arabic firdaus “garden, paradise”), compound of pairi- “around” (from Proto-Indo-European root *per- (1) “forward,” hence “in front of, near, against, around”) + diz “to make, to form (a wall).”
The Greek word, originally used for an orchard or hunting park in Persia, was used in Septuagint to mean “Garden of Eden,” and in New Testament translations of Luke xxiii.43 to mean “heaven” (a sense attested in English from c. 1200). Meaning “place like or compared to Paradise” is from c. 1300.
From the time of the Achaemenid Empire, the idea of an earthly paradise spread through Persian literature and example to other cultures, both of the Hellenistic gardens of the Seleucid Empire and the Ptolemies in Alexandria. The Avestan word pairidaēza-, Old Persian *paridaida-, Median *paridaiza- (walled-around, i.e., a walled garden), was borrowed into Akkadian, and then into Greek Ancient Greek: παράδεισος, parádeisos ….
As the word expresses, such gardens would have been enclosed. The garden’s purpose was, and is, to provide a place for protected relaxation in a variety of manners: spiritual, and leisurely (such as meetings with friends), essentially a paradise on earth. The Common Iranian word for “enclosed space” was *pari-daiza- (Avestan pairi-daēza-), a term that was adopted by Christian mythology to describe the garden of Eden or Paradise on earth. The garden’s construction may be formal (with an emphasis on structure) or casual (with an emphasis on nature), following several simple design rules. (Wikipedia, Persian gardens)
I’ve referenced Peculiar Ground (2018) by Lucy Hughes-Hallett previously in this series (the fable of the mouse and beetle in trapped in Eden). The novel is a sumptuous, “densely patterned” historical family saga, set primarily on the large estate of Wychwood, Oxfordshire, England, in 1663-1665, 1961, 1973, and 1989, and told in multiple voices, including that of a landscape designer, a gay art dealer, a journalist, an art historian, and others.
At heart, it’s a book about the entitlement of border-defining wall-building: “the wealthy build walls around themselves to keep out ugliness, poverty, political change.” The creation and destruction of the Berlin Wall separating East from West Germany is central to the plot/theme, and the Wall’s significance in terms of inclusion and exclusion, imprisonment, and safety echoes the functions and design of the estate’s landscaping, with a wall around the property within which the at-first-aristocratic and later-parvenu estate owners, and their staff and relatives, live — and outside of which villagers must remain (except on special days, by invitation only). Trespass, boundaries, a sense of entitlement and ownership, spying (secretly gathering information across borders), infiltrating, fleeing, internment, the Biblical Garden of Eden, prison, home, and the building of walls and borders are all explored directly and subtly. It’s a fascinating book — I highly recommend it, especially in our time of wall-building and “border security,” in the U.S and elsewhere. (All quote blocks below are from the book except the last.)
The novel’s original Wychwood estate garden is an elaborate park, with (dangerous) ornamental lakes, broad avenues and allées, secluded areas, a parterre (an ornamental garden), and wandering peafowl, among other features. The author apparently based it on a garden she often visited in Oxfordshire, perhaps Chastleton House, which was built in the 1600s and whose garden contained a “dovecote (shelter for pigeons), two large croquet lawns, garden terraces, and a lake with an island,” as well as topiaries and garden borders.
“My task is to create an Eden encompassing the house, so that the garden will be only the innermost chamber of an enclosure so spacious that, for one living in it, the outside world, with its shocks and annoyances, will be but a memory …. Lord Woldingham’s creatures will live confined within an impassable barricade. …. I wonder are we making a second Paradise here, or a prison …. or a fortress.”
Jacobean style (late 1500s-early 1700s) meant symmetrical gardens “with long axial walks and rides stretching into the woods and parks beyond, resulting in the advent of the Avenue.” Elements of these gardens included a formal layout, terraces controlling the irregular natural landscape, parterres evolved from the Tudor knots Avenues, canals, fountains and extravagant water displays, topiary and pleached trees (differing from espaliered trees by having a solid panel of leaves), both “an expression of the ultimate control over nature,” and “wildernesses, not exactly wild, but a woody place for intrigue and exercise” (Source).
Bedrock Gardens in Lee, NH, has a parterre garden:
The “old garden” of The Fells Estate, Newbury, NH, created in the early 20th century:
Crane Cottage formal garden, Jekyll Island, GA:
One of the gardens, partially hedge-enclosed, at Tarbin Gardens, Andover, NH:
A completely enclosed “garden of fragrance” inside Forsyth Park, Savannah, GA (locked the day we visited); video:
A partially walled and hedged formal garden at Mt Cuba Center, Hockessin, DE:
Saint-Gaudens National Park in Cornish, NH’s walled atrium:
“We who trade in landskips [i.e., landscapes] see the world not as it is but as it will be. When I walk in the park, which is not yet a park but an expanse of ground hitherto not enhanced but degraded by my work in it, I take little note of the ugly wounds where the earth has been heaved about to make banks and declivities to match those of my plan. I see only that the outline has been soundly drawn for the great picture I have designed. It is for Time to fill it with colour and to add bulk to those spare lines — Time aided by Light and Weather, I suppose I should say as well, aided by God’s will, but it seems to me that to speak of the Almighty in these days is to invoke misfortune. It is more certain and less contentious to note that Water also is essential.”
Wiggle-waggle water feature at Bedrock Gardens, Lee, NH:
Low-walled pool at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, VA:
Notice the symmetry.
Fountain along the Flower Walk, Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA:
Also at Longwood, fountain in a walled garden:
Fountain in the kitchen garden at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Boothbay, ME:
Flume with pansies, Heritage Museums and Gardens, Sandwich, MA — more symmetry:
Woodland walkway with fountain, Blithewold Mansions, Garden, & Arboretum, Bristol, RI:
Focal-point pond in the “old garden” of The Fells Estate, Newbury, NH (with primroses):
Sundial, sculptures of Fates, and fountains, Brookgreen Gardens, Murrells Inlet, SC:
“Leaving Wychwood gave him, as it did each time, the mingled anxiety and exhilaration of a rebirth. Womb-warm and sequestered, it was at once a sanctuary and a place of internment.”
“‘Well basically,’ said Nell [speaking of prisons], ‘I want to question the value of confinement. An enclosed community is toxic. It festers. It stagnates. The wrong people thrive there. The sort of people who actually like being walled in.”
The new large-scale architecture in Istanbul, in which “gargantuan buildings surround a protected garden, detached from the city by their autonomy” and [r]ecall the walled spaces of the Ottoman Era,” are termed Enclosed Paradise by architect Jesse Honsa in an article of that name at Failed Architecture (June 2015). Honsa says, “Gated communities and other introverted spaces dutifully maintain order amidst this urban maelstrom, walled off from the discord of an endless and rapidly transforming city. … Behind the verdant renderings of happy gardens and fountains, exclusivity is the hidden agenda, one that manifests itself in a Dubai-like architecture seemingly calculated for maximum alienation. … Ideally, the architecture gains its meaning in its exclusivity: a border that separates members from non-members, believers from non-believers, citizens from pagans. … Fences and gates are unnecessary in this typology, as the buildings themselves form an inhabited wall around the garden.”
Photos of a couple of them:
“The sequestering of the family in the big house [during the Plague] feels to those within the walls like a strange curtailment of their liberty. To those in the village it is no great novelty. For them, even before the wall’s building was complete, to stray about the park, without express permission, was to risk having a leg bitten off by a mantrap. Prisoners lament their confinement. Sometimes to be at large is an equal deprivation.”
“I have lived a peregrinating life. My rooms near Gray’s Inn are neat and pleasant, but I have been content to leave them repeatedly. Only now have I understood how poignant a thing it is to feel shut out.”
“You who build gardens, don’t make parks or green spaces, make margins. Don’t make leisure and game parks, make places of , make closures that are openings. Don’t make imaginary objects, make fictions. Don’t make representations, make empty spaces, gaps, make neutrality.” — Louis Marin, Lectures traversières, 1992
Featured image: brick wall, white column, Savannah, GA, Dec. 2016
Section I of “The Walled Garden at Clondalkin” (1955), poem by May Sarton