Walking along the sun-baked clay paths at the hotel and spa owned by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, a divine perfume calls your attention from a flower bed to the well-manicured lawn. Fresh, heady aromas of orange blossom, rose, fig, lavender, and jasmine—the scents synonymous with Morocco—drift through the warm air.
Covering nearly four acres and inspired by traditional Moroccan gardens, Berber architecture, and Andalusian design, the gardens are the brainchild of Spanish landscape gardener Luis Vallejo, who has worked on private and public green spaces across Spain, Morocco, Oman, and Israel over the years. Here, Vallejo explains what it takes to design a garden fit for a king.
Find the focus
Created as an extension to the Royal Mansour ahead of the arrival of the 2016 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the winding walkways and lush landscaped terrain of Vallejo’s gardens all seem to lead to an oasis-like pool at the center.
Beneath date palms and olive trees, the daybeds and pavilions flanking the pool offer respite from the sun, and Le Jardin, the hotel’s outdoor brasserie, is only steps away.
My philosophy is that every garden belongs to the place where it is located—and its culture and history
“What makes the gardens at Royal Mansour so special is their unique and historic location within the medina. The ancient sandstone rampart literally runs through it,” says Vallejo, who also worked on the original design of the hotel alongside OBMI Architects.
Integrate the essence of the location
For this project, Vallejo took inspiration from the Alhambra complex in southern Spain, as well as the traditional Menara and Agdal gardens in Marrakech. All favor a geometric layout sectioned off by paths and water features. Vallejo’s patchwork of flora of different colors and textures is reminiscent of Morocco’s Todra valley oasis, and the palm tree fields of the Ziz valley.
“My philosophy is that every garden belongs to the place where it is located—and its culture and history,” Vallejo says. “At the beginning of each project, I attempt to find the essence of the location, and integrate its natural landscape and local flora in the design.”
Connect all the senses
Scent is obviously an important part of any garden, and for Vallejo, the flowers and plants should be indigenous. At the gardens of Royal Mansour there are over 10 varieties of jasmine, and several different species of rose, as well as lavender and orange blossom, all of which can be found growing naturally throughout Morocco.
A garden should always encourage the visitor’s imagination—it has to connect to all the senses
“The bustan garden,” says Vallejo, referring to a word that in Persian means agricultural garden, “represents paradise, and here orange blossom, or flor de azahar as we call it in Spanish, is a main element.”
Creating stepped areas so visitors can smell the citrus fruits of the trees more easily, paths that flow alongside water so they can hear its relaxing sound, and trees that impose on courtyards so they can feel the touch of a leaf, were all deliberate choices at Royal Mansour, and should be considered for any garden, explains Vallejo.
“A garden should always encourage the visitor’s imagination. It has to connect to all the senses,” says Vallejo. “A sense of the relationship between time, color, volume, and scent is integral to any garden.”