Friday 23 March 2018

Inspired planting... Persian paradise

Garden designer Leonie Cornelius plants some exotic buttercups

Persian buttercup
Persian buttercup

When I was six years old, I remember visiting friends of my parents who lived in the middle of a busy German city. Everywhere you looked there was traffic, concrete and glass, but when they invited us into their home, an amazing vista opened up to their back garden. Within a relatively small back garden, they had created a stunning city haven, a kaleidoscope of riotous summer colour. I think the best way to describe my memory of this well-designed and masterfully planted space would be 'paradise'.

Many years later, when studying garden design, I learned that the word garden has its origins in the Old Persian language. The original meaning of paradise was a 'walled in compound' - from pairi, meaning around, and daeza or diz, meaning wall or brick.

The origins of all gardens can be traced back to Persia, the oldest having been recorded in the 14th century in Iran by the legendary Moroccan explorer Ibn Battuta. These well thought-out spaces were places for relaxing, entertaining and praying. Sophisticated design elements dealing with sunlight, water, and blending inside with outside spaces, are still the basis of our practices today and inform many of my own design choices on a daily basis.

This week's plant is the Persian buttercup (Ranunculus asiaticus) which originates in what is today called Iran. The pretty flower has a beautiful shape and form - with delicate, crêpe-like petals, reminiscent of lush roses and filled poppies. The perennial flower is available in a vast array of colours from dusty and deep pinks to golden yellows, rich oranges and pure whites.

This plant is a tuber plant and would be planted in a similar way to the bulbs of a tulip or crocus. They like loose, sandy soil and full sun. One important thing to keep in mind is that these delicate flowers will not survive temperatures of under 10°C, so unless you dig them up for the winter months, then these will likely be an annual flower.

The particular variety I chose at Woodie's ( for this planter is a lovely golden orange and would brighten up any garden at this time of the year (pictured left).

It makes me think back again to my first experience of a paradise garden as a child - these gorgeous flowers would be a perfect starting point to your very own paradise on earth.

Weekend Magazine

Life Newsletter

Our digest of the week's juiciest lifestyle titbits.

Editors Choice

Also in Life