From Publishers Weekly
The basic design of the Persian garden can be traced back to the sixth century B.C. and was seminal to the development of Islamic, Indian and Western European styles. Noted garden writer, designer, historian and lecturer Hobhouse traces the evolution of the Persian garden and its impact, combining impressive scholarship with a gardener's practical insights. Her portrait of life in and around what is now Iran viewed through the prism of its gardens spans two and a half millennia and touches on virtually every major civilization. In this mostly arid region, gardening was synonymous with water. It was so important that Cyrus the Younger ranked the management of that resource one of "the noblest and most necessary pursuits." Hobhouse explores the interplay among architecture, trade, religion, warfare, government and horticulture with text that is meticulously researched but comfortably conversational. Numerous photographs, diagrams and reproductions illuminate her descriptions, and the time line of the Royal Houses of Persia, glossary of Persian terms, listing of Persian plants and exhaustive bibliography will be helpful for casual readers, garden designers and scholars alike. Curiously, despite Hobhouse's acute sense of the region's geography, the only two maps included are inadequate; a detailed topographic view of the area would have been welcome. Still, this is a dazzling look at the evolution of a beautiful and peaceful tradition.
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The word "paradise" comes from the ancient Persian word for an enclosed garden, and the art of landscaping is arguably Iran's great cultural legacy; qanats, underground ducts bringing melted snow from the mountains, have artificially irrigated the arid plateau of Iran for the past two and a half millennia. Hobhouse, a veteran garden historian and designer, elegantly explains the continuity of the aesthetic ideas that govern Persian gardens, with their rills of water and tree-lined alleys underplanted with roses and violets. Her account, accompanied by Jerry Harpur's spectacular photography, spans more than two thousand years of design, leading us from the remnants of Cyrus the Great's capital, Pasargadae, to Persian-influenced gardens as far afield as Quebec.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker