In my last post, I featured my bucket-list of gardens in the United Kingdom, a country which I have visited twice and could easily visit again! France falls into the same category. While I know there are many wonderful gardens to visit in other countries like Italy and Germany, I would still return to France to visit more gardens!
Please note that since I haven’t yet visited these gardens, I have used photographs of my own garden or other Australian gardens to illustrate this post. Below is my daughter Jen’s Spring photo of Giverny, one of the most famous French gardens. My feature photo for this post is the beautiful Guillot rose, Paul Bocuse.
We visited Monet’s beautiful and very popular garden at Giverny in 1994, but I would also love to visit Renoir’s garden, Les Collettes. We own the book Renoir’s Garden, written by Derek Fell in 1991, in which it is described as ‘a vision of an earthly paradise’ and the photos certainly support that description! It looks like a lovely relaxed old garden and you can also explore the house and studio.
19 Chemin des Collettes
Originally a traditional working farm with ancient olive and orange groves and an old farmhouse, Renoir bought the 11 hectare estate in 1907, and commissioned architect, Jules Febvre, to design a new villa, which was finished in 1908. Here is a map of the garden and property from Page 100 – 101 of Derek Fell’s book:Despite his increasingly arthritic hands and a stroke in 1912, which left him bound to a wheelchair, Renoir still continued to work every day with assistance, spending each Winter at Les Collettes, and returning to Essoyes, the home town of his wife, Aline, in Burgundy each Summer.Wide paths were constructed to accommodate a wheelchair and were lined with Nerium oleander, a Mediterranean native. Many shade trees were planted like oaks, umbrella pines (Pinus pimea), Italian Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Canary Island Date Palms (Phoenix canariensis), Irish Strawberry trees (Arbutus unedo), a Judas Tree (Cercis siliquastrum), hawthorns (Crataegus species), Pepper trees (Schinus molle), Spindle trees (Euonymus species), loquat trees (photo above), Broad-leaved Lime or Linden trees (Tilia platyphyllos), flowering cherry and apricot trees, a golden bamboo grove (Phyllostachys aureosulcata), Pittosporum tobira and Eucalyptus species, underplanted with blue bearded iris, red poppies, birds’ foot trefoil and ivy-leaved geraniums.Shrubs include Shrub Verbena, Lantana camara; Philadelphus coronarius (photo above); Pyracantha coccinea, Indian hawthorne (Raphiolepsis indica) and lilacs, Syringa vulgaris (photo below). The walls of the farmhouse provided support for Tree Fuchsias, Oleander, Cape Plumbago, Solanum laciniatum, and Brugsmansia ( both white and salmon forms of Angel’s Trumpets).The formal gardens contain 4 rows of citrus trees, seven to each row – mainly oranges, tangerines and cumquats, interplanted with many beautiful scented pink roses, Renoir’s favourite flower. In fact, Henri Estable, a local rose breeder, named a shrub rose after Renoir in 1909, Painter Renoir, which is naturally growing in the garden! There are many climbing roses, growing over arches, including a massive Banksia rose (photo below).Other plants include succulents like aloes, variegated agave (Agave americana variegata) and Mexican yuccas (Beschorneria yuccoides); Bearded and Dutch Iris (photo below), cannas and agapanthus; Ivy-leafed pelargoniums; Lavender, rosemary, santolinas and dusty millar (Senecio bicolour cineraria); Echium fastuosum, cistus and hebes; White Margeurite daisies (Argyranthemum frutescens); Calendulas, gaillardia and nasturtiums; Dahlias and zinnias; Anchusa azurea and Bergenia cordifolia; and carnations and pink poppies. There are pots of arum lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), cinerarias, papyrus and spider plants. There are also vegetable gardens, vineyards and orchards. Here is a photo of Zantedeschia aethiopica ‘Green Goddess’ in our hydrangea bed.Renoir died in 1919, after which parts of Les Collettes were sold off, so that by 1959, only 2½ hectares remained. In 1960, the house and the remaining estate were bought by the town of Cagnes-sur-Mer and turned into a municipal museum, featuring the family’s furniture, fourteen original paintings and thirty sculptures by the master, including a version of Les Grandes Baigneuses.In July 2013, after 18 months of extensive renovation work, the Renoir Museum and the whole Collettes estate reopened their doors. For the first time, the museum also gave public access to the kitchen and hallway overlooking the gardens and added a set of seventeen plaster sculptures, donated by Renoir and Guion families, as well as two additional original canvasses.Renoir’s final years at Les Collettes were depicted in a beautiful film simply titled Renoir (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2150332/), but the latter was in fact photographed in the gardens of Le Domaine du Rayol, my next bucket-list garden.
Le Domaine du Rayol
Avenue of the Belgians
A 20 ha botanical garden and arboretum in the Var, between Le Lavandou and Saint-Tropez.
It was bought in 1989 by the Conservatoire du Littoral, to protect the local maquis scrubland from the development of a housing estate, and the group then commissioned Gilles Clément and Philippe Deliau to redesign the old garden. It has since been listed as a Jardin Remarquable.
It is dedicated to Mediterranean and arid and subtropical biomes and is divided into a number of regional gardens, involving five continents:
The Canary Islands, off the NW coast of Africa: Three landscapes: the Malpaïs (coastal maquis) with its euphorbia (Euphorbia canariensis), echiums (photo below), convovulus and Aeonium; the Thermophilic Grove of dragon trees; and the high altitude Pinar, dominated by Canary Pine and Cistus;California: The Chaparral (Californian maquis), growing tough Heteromeles, Leucophyllum frutescens, Prunus illicifolia , Romneya coulteri, Manzanitas; Carpentaria, Californian lilacs (Ceanothes), oaks, Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia), Coulter Pine and Monterey Cypress; Desert landscapes with Hesperaloe parviflora, the Yuccas, the cacti (photo below), cactus candles and Opuntias, and the Ocotillos; and Desert canyons with desert rose palm trees and the Washingtonia palm groves; as well as late Spring meadows of eschscholtzias and lupins;South Africa: The Fynbos of the Cape Peninsula , characterized by shrubs of the families of Proteaceae (including King Protea, P. cynaroides), Ericaceae (heather) and Restionaceae (which resemble the rushes of the Mediterranean regions), underplanted with bulbs and rhizomes, such as Irises, Watsonias, Lilies and Amaryllis and shrubs like Carissa, Leonotis, Pelargoniums, and Polygala; and the Karoo, dominated by thorny acacias, aloes and succulents;Australia: The Mallee, dominated by eucalyptus, acacias (50 varieties), banksias, grevilleas, callistemons and melaleucas, as well as Kangaroo Paws, Anigozanthus; and the Kwongan, dominated by Black Boys;New Zealand: Wet humid subtropical forests of tree ferns, dwarf palms and phormiums; and a dry grass prairie, surrounded by Manuka (teatree) and olearias;Subtropical Asia: the bamboo groves, Cycas revoluta, glycines and fig trees from China; The photo below is an Australian member of the cycad family, Macrozamia communis.Arid America: Large rock garden of Mexican plants from arid regions: Agaves, yuccas and Pipi cactus;Subtropical America: Plants of Northern Argentina and subtropical Mexico, characterized by palms, nolines (elephant foot – photo below), beaucarneas and erythrines, lantanas, salvias, duras, velvetleons, and hibiscus;Chile: High Moor landscapes of Puyas, including the Puya, members of the Bromeliaceae family (pineapple), Zigzag Bamboos (Chusquea species), Monkey Puzzle trees Araucaria and the 10 metre high thorny Cactus Quisco, Echinopsis chilensis, as well as meadows of alstroemerias and nasturtiums; Savannah Espinal, dominated by Acacia caven; and the cooler inland palm groves of honey palm, Jubaea chilensis. Here are my bromeliads:Mediterranean: Contains local plants: the Cistus; Arbutus, pistachio, filaria, heather and laurel. See Cistus in the right-hand bottom corner of the photo below.Cist Collection of 35 species of Cistus, as well as hybrids;Marine: Underwater plantings on the seabeds of the Baie du Figuier, including the seabed covered by sand or rock; the algal herbarium (posidonia); and deep water ; and
Local Marquis Scrub including cistus, brooms (photo below), terebinths and laurustinus.Yvoire: Labyrinthe of the Five Senses: Jardin des Cinq Sens
Rue du Lac – 74 140 Yvoire
Haute-Savoie – France
I have always loved the notion of sensory gardens, so this famous garden, which has been cultivated the past 30 years and contains over 1300 types of plants, was definitely on my bucket list!
It was designed by Alain Richert and is situated in the former 0.25 ha walled potager of the 15th century Château d’Yvoire, one of France’s many beautiful villages, in the Haut-Savoie, overlooking Lake Geneva.On the upper level near the entrance is an alpine meadow of fritillaries (photo above), violets, alpine tulips, jonquils, saxifrages, gentians and decorative grasses. Beyond the alpine rectangle is a geometric latticework (a tisage) composed of white rugosas Blanc Double de Coubert (photo below) and balls of silvery-blue wild oats.On the upper side of the garden is an undergrowth garden, created to disguise ugly neighbouring walls and containing seven lime trees, Tilia x moltkei, underplanted with woodruff, soft ferns, Polystichum setiferum and Brunnera macrophylla.
On the other side of the tisage is a green cloister garden, with arches made of hornbeam columns and walls covered in honeysuckle. It is divided by low box hedges into 4 small gardens, containing medicinal and aromatic plants used in medieval times: Rue, santolina, thyme, rosemary, peppermint, chamomile, balm, salvia, savory, wild thyme and hyssop, all growing around a central granite bird pool. Here is a photo of Calendula, used in healing lotions for skin conditions and wounds.The Garden of the Five Senses is a few steps down from the Cloister Garden and is laid out like a labyrinth in the design of a medieval potager. It is composed of four rectangles (representing sight, taste, smell and touch) around a central aviary (representing sound). Each rectangle is surrounded by gravel paths and are divided by hedges of hornbeam, Carpinus betulus, interlaced with sweet peas and trellised apple trees.The ‘Jardin du Goût’ is all edible plants: Strawberries, raspberries, black currants, blueberries, rhubarb, onions, lovage, angelica and celery, as well as orange trees with edible flowers and apple trees.The ‘Jardin de l’Odorat ou des Parfums’ includes alliums, honeysuckles, viburnums, lemon balm, tobacco plants, mahonias, a medlar, daphnes and roses, including Cardinal de Richelieu and Moss roses like William Lobb and Blanche Moreau.The ‘Jardin des Textures’ contains fine and coarse leaved plants in tones of silver, gold and grey: Euphorbias, mahonias, inulas, bronze fennel, wormwood and meadow rue, Thalictrum aquilegifolium, acanthus, asphodels, salvias, hellebores, irises, lady’s mantle (photo below) and Aruncus sylvester.In the ‘Jardin des Couleurs’ are variations of blue: Campanulas, primulas, Iris sibirica, violets, gentians, geraniums (Johnson’s Blue) and Meconopsis.The sense of hearing is represented by a large bird aviary, built over a fountain and an ancient tank, and containing ducks, pheasants and turtle doves. There is also a smaller aviary, overgrown with Araujia sericofera, with doves, quails and other small birds.Other plants in the garden include a Clematis montana grandiflora; a Rosa filipes Kiftsgate, Acanthus (photo below), a Syringa microphylla, Gaura lindheimeri, a persimmon and a Lagerstroemia indica.Jardin des Herbes, La Garde Adhémar
Place de l’Église, 26700 La Garde-Adhémar, France
I have also always loved herb gardens, so this garden, listed as a Jardin Remarquable in 2006, was very much on my radar! The Jardin des Herbes is a 3000 square metres terraced garden of a 12th century church at the foot of the ramparts of the village of La Garde-Adhémar.Created by Danielle Arcucci in 1990, it has two levels, with 300 medicinal and aromatic herbs. On the upper level, 200 species of medicinal plants, which are still used in the pharmacopoeia of the 21st century, are arranged in a square and are identified and their uses and effects described with coloured labels. This is feverfew, used to treat headaches.The lower level contains a collection of aromatic plants including yarrows, lavenders, roses, salvias, geraniums, rosemary and thymes, arranged in a design of a sun (the centre filled with begonias and other annuals) and its rays, the beds delineated by box. It is a place of great tranquillity and beauty with lots of colours, tastes, textures and fragrance.Herb gardens were also very much a part of monastery gardens, so I would also love to visit this next very inspiring venue, the medieval priory gardens at Orsan, 50 km south of Bourges :
Le Prieuré Notre Dame d’Orsan
18170 Butonnais, Berry, southern part of Loire Valley
Begun in 1991 and opened to visitors in 1995, it was created by Patrick Taravella and Sonia Lesot, who bought the ruined monastery with 40 acres of land and stone and turreted buildings from the 12th and 17th centuries. With the help of Head Gardener, Gilles Guillot, they created a 5 ha garden , based on the art of gardening during pre-Renaissance times, and made up of a series of square and rectangular formal garden rooms, partially enclosed with hornbeam hedging with peepholes and doorways.
Medicinal Herb Garden with four raised beds of 52 different medicinal plant varieties, labelled with both botanical Latin and French names;Cloister Garden: Including four rectangular beds of Chenin blanc grapes surrounding a central square fountain; glazed urns containing clipped box bushes, and woven wooden seats, each sheltered by quince trees (photo below) trained into hood-shaped arbours;Two Formal Parterres of early food crops, including 3 old varieties of wheat, rye and fava bean; chards; leeks and cabbages;The Mary Garden, a rose garden dedicated to the Virgin and inspired by the Songs of the Songs (Hortus Conclusus of Secret Garden) with two cloister-like enclosures: a square of pink ramblers (including Cécile Brunner (photo above)and Mme Caroline Testout), and a square of white roses (Aimée Vibert and Reines des Belges). The pink square has an arch of white standard Iceberg and Gruss an Aachen, while the white square has an arch of pink Cornelia (photo below) and The Fairy. The roses climb over the arches, arbours and tunnels that are constructed of the typical wooden poles. Madonna lilies also grow here as roses and lilies were virtually inseparable in medieval illustrated manuscripts and paintings. Other roses in the garden include Pierre de Ronsard, Mme Alfred Carrière, Albertine and Marguerite Hilling;Kitchen Garden with 24 inch raised beds of alternating layers of manure and soil; supporting teppes and trellises; and a modern drip irrigation system. Here, they grow organic heirloom tomato cultivars, aromatic herbs, sweet peppers, carrots, salad vegetables and aubergines;Maze Garden, lined by walls of plum cordons: Greengage, Nancy and Saint Catherine. On each side of the paths are beds of pears, quinces, grapes, herbs and flowers like sweet peas, nasturtiums, cosmos and giant sunflowers. Rhubarb is encouraged upwards in bottomless cylindrical baskets woven from thick lengths of vine and clematis;Berry Avenue with espaliered gooseberries, grown on espalier fans; raspberries trained on wooden poles in V-shaped rows; black, red and white currants trained on diamond lattices; and blueberries, blackberries and strawberries;Orchard of three ancient pear trees and over 20 varieties of apples, planted in a quincuncial pattern, including Querine Florina, Patte de Loup, Drap d’Or, Belle of Boskoop, Short Hung Gray, Yellow, Big Locard, Judor, Reine des Reinettes, Reinette clochard, Reinette de Caux, Reinette fom Holland, Golden Reinette, Gray Reinette from Canada, and Starking;Three Orchard Cloister : Three orchards of pear (planted concentrically with lavender beds on each corner and including pears: Duchesse d’Angoulême, Belle du Berry, André Desportes; sorbus and cherry trees (Marmotte, Burlat and Cœur de Pigeon); and aWildflower Meadow and a Woodland with an outdoor sculpture gallery;
All the beautiful garden structures and furniture are made in the medieval way from home-grown saplings and the garden produce is used in the hotel restaurant or preserved for later use. Wheat is ground into flour to be made into bread and a white wine produced from the grapes. The Table d’Orsan restaurant is open from March to November (book in advance). The medlars below were a popular medieval fruit.You can also tour the gardens or attend workshops of one to three days focused on themes such as creating wooden structures like the ones in the gardens. There is also a small shop with a comprehensive range of traditionally-made products for sale, including jams, chutneys, and fruit juices, all made with Orsan Gardens produce, as well as baskets, natural soaps, and a range of books on cuisine, gardening or fine arts.As keen organic gardeners and environmentalists, we would also have to visit the French version of the Centre for Alternative Energy (http://www.cat.org.uk), Machynlleth, Powys, Wales, which we visited in 1994:
Centre Terre Vivant
Domaine de Raud – 38710 MENS
A wonderful ecological education centre with an organic garden, orchard, apiary and wilderness, 1 hour south of Grenoble and 2 hours from Lyon. It began in 1994 to trial and showcase everything to do with alternative farming and ecological living, reporting the results back to the readers of its founding magazine, Les Quatre Saisons du Jardinage. The 50 ha property lies in a broad river valley at an altitude of 750 m, surrounded by forest and high mountains.
The mudbrick Blue House contains the administrative centre, a shop and a library, specialising in alternative lifestyles. Nearby is a restaurant, Table de Raud, and an energy centre; a composting centre; a playground; a wildflower meadow; a garden shed showing four different methods of construction using earth; an aromatic spiral; a school garden; a handicapped garden; a plant nursery; two orchards; a poultry house; a marequarium to observe pond life, lots of other small pools and an artesian well; a solar beehive and numerous vegetable plots.Gilles Clément was invited to help plan the gardens eg the Water Walk and the Garden of the Five Elements, as well as a series of woodland clearing gardens. There are lots of different irregularly shaped potagers: a special garden for curcubits; the 100-square-metre exploit, based on plant associations recommended by Gertrud Franck; a garden for the preservation of endangered heirloom vegetables; a garden for little-known varieties, which should be used more widely eg violet carrots; Jerusalem artichoke; Swedes, blue potatoes; Italian broccoli rab, parsnips, kale, hyacinth beans; amaranths and red and green orachs. The beds are delineated by split logs, paths covered with home-shredded bark and wood chip and flowers used as companion plants.The 200 square metre Family Garden contains vegetables; a flowering hedge; a cutting garden; a small fish pond; a shade tree with bird houses; an orchard; a herb plot; a compost corner with bins of nettle and comfrey tea; a wild flower strip to encourage bees; and a lawn for children to play.The centre holds many conferences and workshops eg Traditional Dyeing with Anne Rigier, who rediscovered ancient methods for dyeing cloth with plant juices using lactofermentation, rather than boiling; Creating living buildings with willows; Permaculture; Organic gardening and cooking; Solar ovens; Crop roatation, pests and diseases; Seed saving; Composting and mulching; Worm farming; Making casein paints and homemade natural shampoos; Basketry; and Bee keeping.There is also an Open Day (with talks on pallet gardening, biodiversity, and organic flowers; a conference on ecology and biomimcry; music and kids’ entertainment; a photographic exhibition; and tours of the centre); Children’s Wednesdays (first three Wednesdays of August, involving gardening with kids, fishing, making seed bombs and natural play with large wooden games, tunnels and willow huts) and an event called The Great Lizard, with yoga workshops, outdoor Qi-Gong sessions, massages, a caravan sauna, siestas, icecreams, and music. In short, everything to promote relaxation!At the base of the web page are lots of recommendations with respect to the garden, home building and ecological living. There are also recipes, a climatic map; organic gardening and moon calendars; and articles on crafts in the garden (making nest boxes, garden tables, garden benches, chassis, dry stone walls, willow hurdles, compost bins and planters); encouraging birds and wildlife (pools, hedges, insect hotels, feeders, nest boxes and companion planting); keeping animals (best chook breeds; natural medicine for cats and dogs); permaculture and garden forests; water saving (rainwater tanks, mulching, water conservation) and pests and diseases.And now for my final garden, the private home of Nicole Arboireau:
Le Jardin de la Pomme Ambre
64 Impasse de l’Ancienne Route d’Italie – La Tour de Mare – 83600 Fréjus
An imaginative, intimate and eclectic 2000 square metre garden, developed since 1985 by owner, Nicole Arboireau, at the foot of the Esterel Massif. The steep block has been remodelled into a labyrinth of narrow curving terraces, supported by drystone walls and weathered railway sleepers.The garden is managed organically with no chemical use, plenty of compost and a strong emphasis on recycling and the encouragement of biodiversity. It is a refuge for the League of the Protection of Birds and is home for lots of local wildlife from toads and frogs and lizards, snakes and geckoes to squirrels, hedgehogs, badgers and many birds (including tits and wrens, magpies and jays, and owls), as well as a dog and 7 cats.I love her use of old earthenware pots and ancient sewing machines, repurposing china crockery, like darkened casserole dishes for bird baths and tea-sets for cactus. She also grows plants in bicycle baskets and old clogs and has made an experimental dry garden from broken bricks, shells and clippings. She also likes to play with colour eg her Brazilian Terrace, based on fuchsia and orange tones.The garden contains over 700 species. Nicole focuses on the conservation of the native flora of the Provence coast, as well as the heritage exotic plants of the old Belle Époque gardens of the Côte d’Azur. She also loves the cottage garden plants of her grandmother’s era, writing about them in her book: Jardins de Grand-mères, published in 2000.Trees include: Cork oaks, a giant pepper tree, 13 types of acacia, eucalypts, Aleppo pines, tamarisks, oleanders, a persimmon, Arbutus unedo, palm trees and ficus, many of which support climbers like roses, bougainvillea, jasmines and wisteria.Shrubs include Viburnum tinus; Erica arborea and Medicago arborea; lilacs and ceanothus; japonicas and kerrias; cassias; beauty bush and spireas; and the roses bred by Nabonnand. Other roses include: American Pillar, Albéric Barbier, Rosa laevigata and Mermaid and R. indica major, used extensively in the Grasse perfume industry.Other plants include: the local Cistus of the nearby maquis scrub; Acanthus; Helleborus niger and H. argutifolius; Ayssum maritimum and Bellis perennis; Rosmarinus officinalis; Mahonias; Solanums; Flowering salvias (photo above); Euphorbia myrsinites; Echiums and Euryops; and salad vegetables and herbs.All her plants have a history, having been given to her or rescued from old decaying gardens. I was interested to read that Scilla, a bulb common to the old gardens of the Riviera, used to be made into omelettes to poison rats! Nicole is a well-known garden historian, an intervenor at the Mediterranean School of Gardening in Grasse, and the President and founder of Friends of Mediterranean Parks and Gardens, as well as being the organizer of many local plant festivals.You can stay at her Bed-and-Breakfast or visit her garden for the day to learn all about the history of gardens of the Côte d’Azur, as well as the floral and perfume industries and the history of herbs. She also runs workshops:
Botany, Ecology and History: Using native plants or subtropical plants from other Mediterranean climates in the garden; and the plants of the Belle Époque;
Using Native Flora in the Kitchen: Making tisanes (the photo below shows peppermint cut and tied into bunches for drying for future peppermint tea!), elixirs and wines;
The Scented Home: Making floral scents; herb cushions; scent collars; pot pourri and pomanders; and bouquets and tussie mussies;
Propagation: Taking Cuttings and Seed Saving.My final bucket-list garden post next week is focusing on roses and because of its size, it is divided into three sections, to be posted on consecutive days: United Kingdom (Tuesday); France (Wednesday); and Italy and Germany (Thursday)!