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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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How Landscaping Creates Serenity

Baptism Center, on the banks of the Jordan River. Photo copyright by Paul Charles Wolfe.The interesting thing about color in the Middle Eastern landscape is that it is found in very few places. To experience color, one must visit open air markets, gift shops, and art galleries. In markets, one finds colorful displays of spices and produce, as well as intricately decorated garments. Gift shops feature the handiwork of local artisans who create rather useful souvenirs in colors that reflect the vibrancy if the many local cultures that live there. In galleries representing local artists, the paintings have been executed in vivid reds, oranges and yellows - in shades so intense that they sometimes overwhelm tourists from more sedate cultures. Perhaps it is the bleaching sun that inspires the use of such vivid colors. However, as soon as one steps out of these venues, the landscape is bleak. Beige stone and sand are everywhere. That is the nature of the Middle East. Clearly one does not visit this part of the world for an aesthetic outdoor experience based on color.

Google aerial view of Kasar al Yahud, the location of the baptism centers on both sides of the sepentine Jordan River. The left side of the river is located in the West Bank; the right side is in the State of Jordan.During my visit there last August, when our tour group arrived at a baptism center on the banks of the Jordan River, we all let out a sigh of relief. We had found color. Baptism centers had been established on both sides of the river, in response to the needs of devout Christian tourists who wish to be immersed in the same waters used to baptize Jesus, over two thousand years ago. In creating this outdoor space, the attention given to atmosphere is impressive.

The azure blue of the water, combined with the pink of the flowers, are enhanced by the woodland effect of green-leafed trees on both river banks. All of these naturally occurring colors, deliberately landscaped only recently, contribute to creating a spiritual experience. The serenity of this place is palpable.

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Reader Comments (3)

This was very interesting, Allan. Since I am planning a garden in which I'm trying to create a feeling of serenity, I have a strong interest in trying to understand the design elements that contribute to such a feel. Water seems like one element that is often included in serene gardens (and the water in this photo is an amazing color). I've also come to the conclusion that a preponderance of green in the color scheme is important. I agree with you that the green of the trees enhances the serene feelings associated with the other colors here.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJean

That must have been such a relief to see the lush colors after spending time in the beige landscape. I've noticed that before--in certain parts of the western U.S., for example, where the landscape seems sterile, and then you get near the river and everything is lush and vibrant. Water works miracles.

March 25, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPlantPostings

Certainly the bright colors are a response to the drab browns. And I can tell you that intense sun washes out soothing pastel colors! I love shade. Besides lowering the body temperature it provides the cool greens and blues that are so visually refreshing in a hot climate.

March 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterdebsgarden

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