22 JUNE 1974, Page 14


Reflections in the water

Denis Wood

In our temperate land, we take for granted a supply of water, not only to make possible the growth of plants and for us to drink and wash in, but also to fill our rivers and lakes. But in. hot climates, ill parts of Spain, Africa and India, lt cannot be taken for granted, there it is a first necessity of life to be sought out and hoarded, as was done in the great irrigation gardens of central Asia which caused Babar, the first of the great

Spectator June 22, 1974 Mughal Emperors, to egin making water gardens in India.

In her book, Gardens of the Great Mughals, Mrs Villiers Stuart wrote of "The beautiful canals of Indian gardens . . . the cosmic cross on which the old designs are based . . . the long lines of the great water-ways and Paths, hedged in by trees, produce a wonderful sense of stately dig nity and peace, while the tranquil breadth of water repeats the flowers, trees, and buildings with a double magic charm, till the whole garden seems full of that mysterious beauty, that comes of the sense of calm continuance, That one day should be like another, one life the echo of another life, which is the result of quietude, part of that rhythm of harmonious change through birth to death and death to birth again, that special Eastern consciousness cz)f universal life."

Water has always played a great Part in gardens of the western World, in Italy, tumultuous at the Villa d'Este, calm and soothing at the Villa Lante and at the Villa Pamphilj, in France where the genius of Le NOtre could never have been expressed without the aid of water. At Vaux le Vicomte brilliantly treatment of falling levels is Brilliantly conceived in shallow terracing; the first cross-axis made bY a canal cannot be seen until one has reached the second terrace; and then walking on clown to the next terrace the visitor comes upon the square pool Le Grand Miroir d'Eau. Here a visitor turning back can see the whole ,facade of the Chateau reflected

m it from far away, proportions positions of the pool having Keen exactly calculated by Le 'NOtre for this purpose.

At Courances the impression of een dream is overwhelming in he canals, in the shallow stepped

ascadette set in green grass with rees close in. The whole is a Miracle of the green spaciousness °F grass, the previous vertical principle of the trees integrated ',4to the heart of the design, in

'°rtned throughout by the protean

celuality of water. It is a supreme art.)all'iple of the art which conceals h In our own country also we do VA(Itt, go short of beautiful lakes. " s,.en I last came away from ; Lourhead on a September eveng, wind-ruffled, at dusk, I found 1-1,Yself thinking that where water

:there is peace. This garden is the

'1.,t1Prerne of what a garden should s'Le, tall trees, stretches of grass, a IY reflecting. lake; all these e,,arPly pointed and given t:clUisite contrast by white ,Ples and bridges across the `vater. 0hQuite different, and concerned with gardens overlooking salt r:ter, is the sea, for the most part exs„tiess, living with wind, and tide h 'ept for a magical pause, an we'hUr at the most, at full flood r4"en the urgent indescribable ce:"re of a rising spring tide fises, and creek and estuary enten to a lake, giving back

r .

ections of seagulls and masts, arid b we perfect stern-lines of little 13ats the athwart the stream before ebb sets in.