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Breathtaking Historic Gardens Around the World

By Norman Vanamee
4/21/2014 3:18:45 PM

Discover eight beautiful landscapes that continue to influence modern garden design.

Photo: © funkyfood London - Paul Williams/Alamy

Villa d'Este, Tivoli, Italy

In 1550, after a failed bid for the papacy, Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este was given the governorship of Tivoli. He set about building a villa and gardens for himself that would equal any in Rome. The steep, terraced landscape is filled with grottoes, sculpture, and statuary, but the dominant feature is water, which d'Este's architects channelled into burbling canals, ponds, and a multitude of fountains.

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Photo: © Peter Titmuss/Alamy

The Alhambra and the Generalife, Granada, Spain

In 1238, when Spain was under Muslim rule, Muhammad ibn al Ahmar of the Nasrid dynasty established a royal residence at Alhambra, a complex that grew to comprise 35 acres of palaces, terraces, and gardens high in the Sierra Nevada foothills. Its many courtyards, featuring symmetrical planting, architectural elements, and ubiquitous fountains, pools, and rills, serve as an excellent example of Moorish landscape design, which used shade and water to simulate paradise. The site suffered periods of neglect and misguided restoration efforts over the centuries but is now one of Spain's cherished historic landmarks.

Photo courtesy of Château Vaux le Vicomte

Château Vaux-le-Vicomte, Maincy, France

In the 1650s, the country's finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, hired architect Louis Le Vau, painter Charles Le Brun, and landscape architect André Le Nôtre to create a grand private residence just outside of Paris. Fouquet's estate was a masterpiece of aesthetic collaboration, with each aspect of the garden enhancing and being complemented by the design of the building. Le Nôtre built dramatic patterned parterres and employed a visual technique called anamorphosis abscondita ("hidden distortion") to make the grounds seem larger than they actually are when viewed from the château's balcony.

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