The Jardin Majorelle is a 2.5 acre botanical and artist’s garden in Marrakech, Morocco, which is famously associated with the designer Yves Saint-Laurent.
History of the Jardin Majorelle
In 1917, Jacques Majorelle – the son of a renowned Art Nouveau furniture designer – arrived in Marrakech to convalesce from a period of ill health. Like so many others, he was enamoured with the city, and in 1923, bought a plot of land, building a Moorish style house on it. Eight years later, Majorelle commissioned the architect Paul Sinoir to build a Cubist villa for him, and began to cultivate an elaborate garden with over 135 species of plant from five continents, as well as continuing his passion for Orientalist painting.
The shade of blue that the house is now painted is named after the main himself – bleu Majorelle – and has been patented. In 1947, Majorelle opened his gardens to the public for the first time, charging a small admission fee in order to help finance their upkeep and maintenance. In the 1950s, a costly divorce meant Majorelle had to sell the house, and the gardens quickly fell into a state of disrepair.
Fortunately, in the 1980, the site was saved. Yves Saint Laurent, and his partner, Pierre Bergé had visited in the 1960s and on hearing it was up for sale to developers, stepped in to rescue the gardens. They embarked upon a major restoration project which involved over 20 gardeners and additional plants being brought it, bringing the number of plant species up to 300.
The pair owned the villa and spent time at Jardin Majorelle until Saint Laurent’s death in 2008: his ashes were scattered in the rose garden. In 2010, the Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent took ownership of the villa and site, continuing public access. Pierre Bergé was the director of the Garden’s Foundation until his death in 2017.
Jardin Majorelle today
Jardin Majorelle has become one of Marrakech’s most popular tourist destinations, and the queues are infamous. The introduction of a new online booking system should ease the worst of it, but don’t come expecting an oasis of contemplation and calm – it’s full of Instagrammers and tourists. That’s not to say it’s lost any of its appeal, however. The gardens remain spectacular and beautifully aesthetic, and the Berber Museum (housed in the villa) is a fascinating exploration of cultural heritage.
The gardens are open Wednesday – Sunday year round, but check precise hours, particularly during religious festivals. If you are looking for more tranquillity, try heading in the later afternoon, when the worst of the crowds have been and gone.
Getting to the Jardin Majorelle
The garden is located on the Rue Yves Saint Laurent, close to the Avenue Yacoub el-Mansour, in Marrakech. It’s about a 30 minute walk from the medina, but across busy roads. Alternatively, any taxi in town can take you there easily, or you can hop on a bus to the Boukar Majorelle stop.
Majorelle Garden in Marrakech | a Moroccan Love Story
… The Majorelle Garden in Marrakech, Morocco, in the Guéliz district, is a lush and intimate Botanical Garden. Created by Jacques Majorelle, French adventurer and orientalist painter who settled in Morocco in 1917, it is today one of the most famous gardens in the world.
Discover the history of this legendary and timeless Garden, which almost disappeared.
Jardin majorelle a marrakech bougainvillers nenuphar
Jacques Majorelle used to say: “The painter has the modesty to regard this enclosure of floral verdure as his most beautiful work.” He referred to the garden as “ vast splendours whose harmony I have orchestrated… This garden is a momentous task, to which I give myself entirely. It will take my last years from me and I will fall, exhausted, under its branches, after having given it all my love.”
The fame of Jacques Majorelle’s garden grew, and even surpassed that of his paintings. The more the artist travelled, the more he enjoyed gardening he began to bring plants from around the world and to communicate internationally with people who shared his passion for botany. He acquired hundreds of rare varieties of trees and plants: cacti, palm trees, bamboo, coconut palms, thujas, weeping willows, carob trees, jasmine, agaves, white water lilies, datura, cypress, bougainvilleas, and ferns. As in the composition of a painting, Majorelle arranged the species between light and shadow around a long central basin and along irregular, meandering walkways with curved, painted walls.
The colours that Jacques Majorelle began to use in 1937 transformed his garden into an even more fascinating masterpiece. He first painted the facade of his studio, then all of his property including gates, pergolas, pots and the various buildings in a scheme of bold and brilliant primary colors, one of which would later be known as “Majorelle blue”, an ultramarine, cobalt blue, “evoking Africa”. Strong, deep, intense, it accentuates the green of the leaves and makes them sing.
Such luminous images are accompanied by an enchanting and soothing acoustic universe far from the rumble of the outside world. As the evening draws in, one is entranced by the relaxing croaking of frogs, the subtle chirping of a thousand and one birds – such as the bulbuls or oriental nightingales and Eurasian collared doves – that have settled in the garden, the relaxing murmur of the fountains and the rustling of the leaves in the lightest breeze…
When the Jardin Majorelle opened to the public in 1947, its fame was already well-established. At the end of his life, after having been forced to subdivide it on several occasions, Jacques Majorelle had to sell what remained. The garden, abandoned, fell into disrepair.
The Majorelle Collection draws its inspiration from the enchanted Jardin Majorelle of Marrakech. Starting around 1923, the garden was created over a forty-year period by the French Orientalist artist, Jacques Majorelle, who brought back exotic plants and rare species from his world travels.
While wandering through the amazing garden’s maze of trees and exotic plants, designer Kimberle Frost recalls thinking how the lush textures and natural colors found in this unique oasis could be translated into sumptuous textiles. Thus the Majorelle Collection emerged as five distinctive designs characterized by textural blends of synthetic and natural fibers along with a soft hand and excellent performance attributes. Each textile represents an important component of the garden and presents a unique rendering through subtle patterning and color harmonies.
Botany features an interwoven structure of densely packed yarn in colors of flora and fauna such as Hyacinth, Aster, Willow, and Spearmint. In a close-up study of this pattern, you will find a deliberate structure of a natural linen colored warp with subtle pops of complex colors such as those referenced above.
Labyrinth is reminiscent of the mazes found in the gardens. The pattern takes you on a guided tour of rich, and playful color combinations in a beautiful, high-performance velvety textile. Labyrinth’s saturated jewel tones complement the more subdued, complex colors that are found throughout the collection.
Landscape features a large-scale design that suggests an aerial view of the Majorelle garden’s topography. Subtly contrasting yarn colors are twisted together in this intricately constructed fabric. Colors are earthy combinations of neutrals in the ground cast with hues of Hosta, Marigold, Salvia and Grass.
Refuge serves as the collection’s lush, chenille-velvet coordinate in 13 opulent colorways. This solid pattern mimics the lush and vividly colored cactus, lilies, jasmine and palm trees of Majorelle. Refuge works as a coordinate or stands alone as an elegant and versatile statement fabric.
Villa features a linear design and classic geometric motif. Small chenille rectangles are connected and layered on a dry cotton/linen ground. The overall effect is a versatile fabric with a nice integration of pattern and textural elements. Earth tones dominate the color palette with hints of Olive, Cornflower, Eggplant, Terra Cotta and Bark.
Visiting Majorelle Gardens in Marrakech | What to Expect
First of all I’d advise getting to the gardens as early as possible in order to avoid the crowds.
Due to the fact that we’d been awake since 3 a.m on the final day of our trek, and hiked for massive 10 hours, we really needed our sleep that night and setting an alarm the next morning was the last thing we wanted to do. Instead we all had a very leisurely breakfast at Zeitoun Cafe (which was delicious by the way and I can 100% recommend) and Jayne and I (Rob didn’t fancy the walk) headed over to the gardens at around 11 a.m. By this time the crowds were out in full force, and unfortunately not everyone was polite when it came to getting their desired shot.
At first the crowds and the rude individuals we encountered among them frustrated the hell out of us, and I for one was rapidly losing the patience to persevere with my exploration.
In retrospect, however, I’m quite glad I decided to stick around in the end. As is the way with most popular tourist attractions, the crowds at Jardin Majorelle tend to arrive in waves and if you wait around long enough they do indeed disperse – sometimes almost completely.
Aside from photographing all the cacti, I loved the rich, vibrant blues and yellows of the building exteriors (which immediately took me right back to the streets of Trujillo, Peru), the abundance of water, the tall palms and bamboo , the Moorish-style archways and intricately-detailed window grates (which reminded me of Granada’s Albayzín), and the opulence and beauty of the goods for sale in the Yves Saint-Laurent shop and bookstore.
Top tip : don’t forget to look up at the ceiling in the bookstore it’s incredible!
Plants in Jardin Majorelle
The gardens are home to more than 300 plant species from five continents, mostly collected by Jacques Majorelle over several decades of globetrotting. The gardens were first opened to the public in 1947 but were abandoned after his death until Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé made it their mission to save them from property developers.
Aspiring botanists will be in heaven, but Jardin Majorelle is a wonderful space to explore whether you’re a plant super fan or not. Regular signage includes useful illustrations to help visitors identify everything from Mexican agave to Chinese windmill palms and North African date palms, though it could be more helpful if common names were labeled as well as scientific names.
Dense thickets of bamboo stretch as high as desert towers, flecked with strong shards of sunlight. Jardin Majorelle’s exotic bamboo groves are well known and well loved, but what you might not expect is the immense volume of graffiti. For years, tourists have shown their affection for the site by thoughtlessly etching their initials into the gardens’ signature stalks and even into some of the giant succulents. Not only has this environmental graffiti become an eyesore, but the gardens’ botanists have realised that it is damaging the plants. Carving into the plants is now forbidden.
Musée Berbère Jardin Majorelle – A Brief History
Jacques Majorelle (1886 – 1962), a French artist who had moved to Marrakech in 1917, ended up buying a large piece of land next to a palm grove shortly after marrying, and he immediately set about creating a garden a garden that was to be like no other garden in the country.
Shortly after acquiring the land and starting the garden, Jacques Majorelle and his wife commissioned a well-respected architect to design what could best be described as a sort of Cubin-style villa the same villa which today is the Musée Berbère Jardin Majorelle.
While Jacques Majorelle devoted almost all of his time to his ever-expanding garden, he also spent a lot of time in his studio (villa) painting Berber scenes, including Berber men, women, and children.
During his years at what is today Majorelle Gardens, he also amassed a sizeable collection of Berber heritage items, and it is these items, along with some others, which you can admire at the museum today.
When Jacques Majorelle and his wife divorced, Jacques could no longer afford the upkeep of the property so he made the decision to sell it. Sadly, the entire property, including the garden and the villa, were neglected and soon fell into a state of decay.
Several years later, Majorelle Garden caught the attention of Yves Saint-Laurent, one of the world’s most famous fashion houses.
Pierre Bergé, the co-founder of Yves Saint-Laurent, then decided to purchase the property and have it completely refurbished and renovated in order to return it to its former splendor.
Upon completion, he gave instructions to have the villa converted into a museum dedicated to Berber culture and traditions, while at the same time also displaying some of Jacques Majorelle’s own works of art.
Today, Musée Berbère Jardin Majorelle is maintained by Foundation Jardin Majorelle, and owned by Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, both of which are non-profit organizations which were set up in accordance with Pierre Bergé’s wishes.
One Of The Most Beautiful Gardens In Marrakech
When you take two artists of different mediums and present them with over 96,000 square feet of property, the possibilities are limitless. The JARDIN MAJORELLE or Majorelle Garden is an artist’s expression in the form of a botanical garden. This enchanting garden has been called the most visited garden in Morocco, the most colorful garden in Marrakech, or one of the great gardens of the world.
But like your beloved indoor plants, this oasis in the Arab and African region did not just spring forth on its own. It took over a period of 40 years, careful care, energy, and attention for the Jardin Majorelle to come into being.
The garden is named after its creator, the Frenchman Jacques Majorelle (1186-1962). He was the son of a world-famous furniture designer named Louis Majorelle. With this influence, he took on many artistic pursuits. With his talents and exposure, Jacque Majorelle became known for his Orientalist paintings. An artistic perspective you will find sprawled all over the Jardin.
In 1917, when Majorelle arrived in Morocco, he first headed to Casablanca. As he moved around the eclectic kingdom, he fell in love with a most colorful city named Marrakech. Here in the year 1923, he purchased a portion of land near a palm grove. His artistry flourished in the exotic land, and here he gained more popularity and grew his influence. He added more to his property and began developing the land.
Inspired by all that was around him, he built a Moorish-style house. In honor of the indigenous Afro-Asiatic people, he also created the Borj. It is a Berber-style building with a tall adobe tower.
Seeing all the potential in the land, in 1931, he began undertaking a momentous project with architect Paul Sinoir. He wanted to design and build a Cubist village inside the large property. It would be near the first house where his major art studio was located and where his workshops took place.
With his property growing even more expansive, Majorelle began his lifelong, bittersweet, and passionate journey as an amateur botanist.
Regarding the book:
Eden Revisited: A Garden in Northern Morocco by Umberto Pasti and Ngoc Minh Ngo was published by Rizzoli USA in September 2019. The following month, an Italian edition, Un giardino atlantico – Rohuna, Nord del Marocco was published by Bompiani, and a French edition, Un Jardin Rêvé – Rohuna, Nord du Maroc, by Flammarion.
A conference, Flore Marocaine , will be held at the FSSM (Faculty of Sciences Semlalia at Cadi Ayyad University, Marrakech) on December 20, 2019 . At the conference, Umberto Pasti will discuss his important northern Moroccan garden, Rohuna, and the endemic plant species found there, certain which are threatened with extinction. Please note the conference will be conducted in French.
Umberto Pasti is a well known Italian horticulturalist and author, whose books include Le Bonheur du Crapaud and Jardins: Les vrais et les autres , as well as Perdu au paradis , which was published by Flammarion in May 2019.
Ngoc Minh Ngo is a Vietnamese-born photographer whose work explores the intrinsic beauty of plants and the intersection of art, history, culture and nature. She is especially interested in the myriad ways flowers have been used in different cultures and times in history. Her photographs have been published in Vogue , T Magazine , Architectural Digest , House & Garden UK and Cabana . Before Eden Revisited: A Garden in Northern Morocco , she authored two books on floral arrangement: Bringing Nature Home: Floral Arrangements Inspired by Nature and In Bloom: Creating and Living with Flowers .
Jardin Majorelle – a different world on the other side of the fiery-red walls
More than 300 plant species from all five continents grow in the Jardin Majorelle – the palm trees and the astonishingly tall cacti are especially impressive. As soon as you have entered the area, you will feel as if you have stepped into a different world that has nothing in common with the bustle of the dusty city beyond the walls. The refreshing shade of the many plants provides a comfortable microclimate. The temperature is mild, due to the burbling streams and pools of water that invite you to rest and linger on one of the small benches you can find everywhere. The heart of the garden is a cobalt blue basin with a waterspout fountain where some turtles have found their home.
Next to it, there is a two-storey pavilion, lightly alluding to Art Deco. A memorial stone for the French fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent can be found in the back of the garden. Marrakech had been a second home to Saint Laurent. He played a major role in saving the Jardin Majorelle, for he and his partner Pierre Bergé bought the neglected garden in 1980 and restored it to its old resplendence. In 1997, they founded The Majorelle Trust to assure the lasting preservation of the Jardin Majorelle. Today, it is maintained by twenty workers.
Paintings by Yves Saint Laurent are on display in a small show room on the property. In addition, there is a small museum with Islamic art, folkloristic exhibits and paintings by Jacques Majorelle – the original creator of the garden that is visited by about 600,000 people per year today.