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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Rills: Thrills, Spills and Chills

Historically, rills developed in Persian and in Spanish gardens with a heavy Moorish influence such as Al-andalus and the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra. These rills initially served a functional purpose, that of bringing water from an outside source closer to a home. These artificial streams--lined with stones or tiles to reduce water loss--were a common way to control the water source, making it flow in whatever direction or magnitude that was needed. Rills also derive from the Islamic tradition of the paradise garden--a rectangular space often divided into quadrants by two intersecting water channels.

Like so many other garden features, rills--variously known as runnels--eventually took on more of a decorative function than a utilitarian one by incorporating water into the garden with or without the addition of a fountain.

Frierson Garden in Athens, Georgia, 2011. Rinne Allen, photographer.

To view more examples of rills in the Archives of American Gardens, click here.

Brittany Spencer-King
Smithsonian Gardens Intern


  1. Is the Frierson Garden on the University of Georgia campus?

  2. Thank you for your question! The Frierson Garden is a private garden that is not located on the University of Georgia campus, but in a nearby neighborhood.