The number 19 is a spiritual number in this religion (their year consists of 19 months, each having 19 days) and there are 19 levels to this garden on the side of Mt. Carmel. There are nine terraces above and below the shrine (completed in 1953), with the shrine taking up a terrace on its own.
The base design of the garden is concentric circles, or waves, out from the shrine. The terraces are linked by stairs flanked by twin streams of running water cascading down the mountainside through the steps and terrace bridges.
The religion values symmetry -- gardeners use measuring tapes when they prune to insure every plant and hedge is uniform.
The site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the full gardens are open to the public from 9-12 daily. The outer gardens are open from 9-5 daily. Wouldn't you know, they were closed the day we were there. I think it was a Baha'i holy day. Oddly enough, I think this is one garden that can be more appreciated seen from a distance.
We got our first look from the top of Mt. Carmel, over looking the gardens, shrine, the city of Haifa, and the Mediterranean. Across the bay, up the coast, just out of visual range, is Lebanon. We then drove to the base of the mountain and got the view looking up the bottom terraces toward the shrine (photo, left).
Rumor has it that underneath the gardens is a huge underground hideout with bomb shelters, conference rooms, medical clinics, dining hall, supermarket and parking garages – all spotlessly shiny, clean, and freakishly empty.
The Baha'i religion isn't even that old -- started in the mid-1800s in Iran. Emerging from Muslim society, Baha'is believe in the unity of ALL religions and believe that messengers of God -- like Elijah, Moses, Jesus, Buddha & Muhammad -- have been sent at different times in history with doctrines varying to fit changing social needs, but bring substantially the same message.
They teach that there is only one God, one human race, and that all the world’s religions represent stages in the revelation of God’s will. Its believers support the unification of all religions and world peace. They preach equal rights among men and women, the dispersion of knowledge, education around the world and the creation of one worldwide community based on justice and equality. There's believed to be about five million Baha'is world-wide, largest concentration in India.
You can see more on their gardens website here.
I like me some espalier. Here this espalier went up the sides of the stairwells. You could only see them from the side. Looking straight on the garden, you'd never see them.
If there were a few ideas I could steal from this garden, it might be trying to use more symmetry in my own garden. Though it would seem symmetry requires maintenance & work, both of which I abhore. Really only my vegetable potager garden has any symmetry. I also liked the idea of having a spiritual number and repeating it throughout the garden. I don't have a spiritual number though. Do you? And how do you determine one? Your height, divided by your width?