The first instances of gardens, as what we understand from the term today, began when the wild fruit trees were fenced for protection from the animals and other human. Later, Humans added another aspect to the practical function of such oases and the gardens became a deliberate attempt in imitating nature. The earliest traces of garden making in Iran goes back to the reign of Cyrus, who made a garden in his capital, Pasargadae, in a quadripartite arrangement. This garden was the beginning of a style of garden arranging which is known as Iranian Garden. The Iranian attempted to recreate an image of their Utopia or Paradise with this construct. Iran is a dry country and water is very precious for its people, naturally, garden as the manifestation of the abundance of water has an important place in the Iranian culture.
The Iranian Garden is an oasis surrounded by protective walls that have both technical and philosophical function. The technical aspect comes from the need to protect the garden against animals and people, as well as, the need to keep the inside moister and modify the weather. The philosophical purpose reflects that aspect of Iranian culture which emphasizes on separation of inner and outer spaces; this culture was intensified with the advent and flourishment of Islam.
Entering this garden is possible through a portal entrance that yet again is a reminder of the importance of the inner spaces. The visitors could not just pass through the door and enter the garden. This walled space acts as a filter for the garden to control those who had the permission to go inside and those who had to be rejected. Passing the portal entrance, you enter the garden that may be built on a flat or sloped land.
As it was mentioned, the Iranian garden has a quadripartite arrangement; it means that the garden was divided into four sections by the water channels that ran through it. On the side of the water channels shading trees like Pine, Poplar and Cypress were planted to save the passing areas from the sun and heat. Each of the four sections created a small garden that were filled with fruit trees and flowers. At the cross axis where the vertical watercourse reached the horizontal one, an artificial pond was made and just next to it, a Pavilion was constructed. If the garden has a flat setting, the cross axes and pavilion are made in the middle of the garden; but if it has slope then the garden will have a tripartite plan and the cross axes and pavilion are placed in the upper one-third of the garden adding to the garden’s length by creating optical illusion.
Naturally, passage of time caused changes to the original plan used in the Achaemenid time. Adding bathhouses to the construct, adding servants sections, changing the usual trees and the omission of pavilion (in Safavid era) are the most notable of these changes. The local social currents and ruler’s taste influenced how a garden would turn out until the Qajar Era, when the slightly changed Iranian Garden was remodeled based on the European Gardens. The small flower mounds, the bordering of passages with boxwoods, the shaping of trees and the use of statues are all the legacy of Qajar. They were not the first to make changes in the Garden but they were the first to make so many changes.
In general, surrounding walls, watercourses that ran through the garden, the portal entrance, the pavilion and all the shading and fruit trees are the main parts of a Iranian Garden.
In 2011, UNESCO registered the combination of nine Iranian gardens as a World Heritage which are as follows:
- Garden of Pasargadae, Fars Province
- Chehel Sotoun, Isfahan, Isfahan Province
- Fin Garden, Kashan, Isfahan Province
- Eram Garden, Shiraz, Fars Province
- Shazdeh Garden, Mahan, Kerman Province
- Dowlat Abad Garden, Yazd, Yazd Province
- Abbas Abad Garden, Abbas Abad, Mazandaran Province
- Akbarieh Garden, Birjand, South Khorasan Province
- Pahlavanpur Garden, Mehriz, Yazd Province