The Majorelle Garden is a tranquil garden in Marrakesh, Morocco. It is one of the most famous sites north of the Sahara. The garden was created and named by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, but another Frenchman’s name is also connected to the garden: the fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent.
After visiting Marrakesh for the first time, Majorelle fell in love with the city. In 1919, he purchased four acres of land on the border of a palm grove just outside the city walls, in the medina in Marrakech, where he lived and worked from 1923-1961.
During this period, Morocco was a French protectorate. In 1923, he built his Moorish-style villa with a hint of Art Deco style, painted in astonishingly vibrant colors, glowing with an intense blue. In 1937, he painted the façade of his studio, and later gates, pots, and pergolas in cobalt hue – a color that has since come to be known as Majorelle blue.
Around his Villa, he created a botanical garden, covering nearly two and a half acres. The magical garden is composed and colored like a painting. One of the most important elements of the garden is water.
Throughout the garden, there are channels, marble fountains, ponds filled with lotus flowers, and pools with water lilies and papyrus ringed with terracotta pots, mostly containing red geraniums. It is planted with lush vegetation that attracts hundreds of birds species, including robins, warblers, house sparrows, blackbirds, and turtledoves. The expansive garden offers a large selection of exotic plants, trees, and cacti, such as coconut palms, banana trees, bougainvilleas and groves of bamboo.
The French painter dedicated forty years of his life to creating the enchanting garden. Majorelle’s garden was a true masterpiece. In 1947, he opened the garden for the public. In 1962, after surviving a car accident, he returned to France for a medical treatment and died in Paris. The garden was neglected.
The French designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge frequently traveled to Morocco. Together they saved the villa and garden from property developers. They bought them in 1980 and started a process of restoration. Bergé and Saint Laurent transformed the design and planting but respected the vision of Jardin Majorelle.
Saint Laurent found the flowerpots in bright shades of sky blue, yellow, and the well-known cobalt blue tinged with violet fascinating. He and his partner installed automatic irrigation systems, increased the number of plant species from 135 to 300, introduced new pebbled paths, and replaced the red geraniums with local flora and drought- tolerant cacti.
After the restoration, the Majorelle garden hosted many unforgettable parties. Saint-Laurent and Berge moved into the villa and renamed it Villa Oasis, while Majorelle’s studio was turned into a museum of Islamic art, where collections of jewelry, vases, and many other pieces were displayed.
Saint-Laurent died in 2008, and his ashes were scattered in Majorelle’s rose garden. Berge donated the garden and villa to the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. In his honor, in 2010, the street in front of the Jardin Majorelle was renamed Rue Yves Saint-Laurent. The Islamic museum became a museum of Berber art, while their Islamic art collection was sold to fund the garden and other projects. In 2010, Majorelle Garden hosted the exhibition ‘Yves Saint Laurent et le Maroc,’ showing creations by Yves Saint Laurent that were inspired by the country he loved so much.