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Water gardens, in their various manifestations, have become a popular part of landscape architecture. The visually soothing aesthetic value of water gardens is enhanced by the almost endless variety of design and planting options that have the ability to connect people to the natural aquatic world.

There are many examples of water gardens throughout the world but some of the best are listed here:

• Méry-sur-Oise, Paris, France
• The Villa d’Este, Tivoli, Italy
• The Menara Gardens, Marrakech
• The Barragan Water Gardens, Mexico City

An old chateau in the suburbs of Paris, and once home to the Comtesse de Ségur, the new owners, Vivendi, a multi-national French giant with a division dedicated to the Water Industry, spared no expense in the renovation of the estate.

The Water garden was designed as a learning experience illustrating the strategies used by the plants to survive in each of the different climates and environments of the world. It is modern and yet original at the same time.

The Villa d’Este
Built in 1550, this garden uses a very large quantity of water to function to full capacity. It is fed by two
aqueducts and although the water was in abundance 400 years ago, today the grounds often run short during the summer months.

One of the many attractions is the ‘walk of a thousand water spouts’, lined with sculptures covered in thick moss. Other features include:
• Swan Fountain
• Neptune Fountain
• Grotto of Venus
• Rome fountain

The Menara Gardens
This garden dates back to the eighth century, and has been described as having many cultivated patches of land, with several varieties of trees growing olives, grenadines, apples and oranges. In the middle of the garden are large ponds on which boats and skiffs navigate. These are fed by the khettara, which wind like rivers, irrigating the gardens and powering the numerous mills.

The Barragan Water Gardens

• The Gardens of Las Arboledas
• The Gardens of Los Clubes

As water is a scarce commodity in Mexico, Luis Barragan planned his ponds and channels in the shade of tall trees. For example in Las Arboledas, a long black canal runs alongside an avenue of eucalyptus trees. His style seems to draw on traditional Arabic architecture but with a very personal leaning towards modernity.


A Grotto by definition is a cave, or a system of caves, usually near water and often flooded or liable to flooding. Natural grottoes tend to appear on the coast. Of which a good example is the Gotto Azzura.

The Azzura cave is 60m long and 25m wide. The entrance is partially submerged but once inside the natural light from outside is reflected from the sea floor creating a magnificent blue colour. Inland grottoes tend to be near sources of fresh water, these cave systems generally consist of stalactites and stalagmites, which have been created over long periods of time. A good example of this is Lacave at Rocamadour in the Dordogne region of France.

Rocamadour is a town built on the side of a cliff face, but within the cliff itself there Is a large system of underground caves, partially filled with water, forcing visitors to navigate the systems with boats.

Artificial grottoes, which began appearing in the mid 16th century, were favoured by the Italians and then the French. They may have been beautifully designed architectural creations or designed like an enormous rock with a rustic porch or rocky overhang.

An example of an artificial cave system is that of the Shell Grotto in Margate, Kent, UK. It is believed to have been created about 1,800 years ago, although due to the deterioration of materials it has so far been impossible to carbon date it. However, within it is a 70ft long winding passageway, which is about 8ft high. It terminates in a rectangular room about 15ft by 20ft. Almost the entire surface area of this grotto has been covered with a mosaic of seashells, totalling about 4.6m shells. What does appear to be a trend in the design of the artificial grotto is that it consists of winding paths, caverns, water and waterfalls. Lighting is important but above all it seems to be the opportunity to discover different underground environments which fascinates people the most.