I have always loved France, ever since my youth! I studied French at school to matriculation level, by which time I had started to automatically think in French! I loved the lyrical flow of the language and translating ‘La Gloire de Mon Père’ by Marcel Pagnol. This autobiography was later made into a film by Yves Robert called ‘My Father’s Glory’, along with its sequel, ‘My Mother’s Castle’ , both very romantic movies, which showcase Provence through the eyes of a child. See : http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099669/ and http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0099266/?ref_=ttpl_pl_tt .
We love French films – their beauty, sensitivity and humour – and really enjoyed our visits to the French Film festival every year in Melbourne. Another two lovely French children’s films are ‘The Fox and the Child’, set in the beautiful countryside of the Jura Mountains in Eastern France (see trailer at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nyqq87u4GPw ) and the magical ‘La Clé des Champs’ with a wonderful soundtrack by Bruno Coulais. You can see the film trailer at : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbU-X_DCCoQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1TlwvS1mPc . The film makers Claude Nuridsany and Marie Perennou also made ‘Genesis’ and ‘Microcosmos’.
Some of my favourite artists are also French. I love the light-filled joyous art work of the Impressionists, which we viewed at Jeu de Paume in Paris, on my first overseas trip. We loved every single painting! We visited Monet’s home in Giverny on our second trip to France ten years later – such a spectacular garden ! We loved all the roses and of course, the famous Waterlily pond. See : http://giverny.org/gardens/fcm/visitgb.htmI also adore Renoir’s sumptuous women and would love to visit his home and garden, ‘Les Collettes’, at Cagnes-sur-Mer in the South-East France one day. See : http://www.amb-cotedazur.com/renoir-museum-cagnes-sur-mer/. The recent film about his later years, titled ‘Renoir’ is another beautiful romantic movie, set in the Domaine du Rayol. The trailer can be viewed here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZTiQ_quEPA.
There are some wonderful French gardens from artistic potagers to medieval herb and physic gardens and of course, roses!!! The French have a long history of rose breeding and appreciation.
Empress Josephine, the first wife of Napoleon I, adored roses. Between 1804-1814, she amassed the greatest and largest rose collection in the world at her Château de Malmaison. The collection was made up of about 250 species and varieties, including 167 Gallicas, 27 Centifolias, 22 Chinas, 9 Damasks, 8 Albas, 4 Spinosissimas, 3 Luteas, R. moschata, R. carolina, and R. setigera. During the Napoleonic wars, the French Navy was enlisted to confiscate any plants or rose seeds from ships at sea and her large purchases from the British nursery, Kennedy and Lee, were permitted safe passage through the naval blockade. She commissioned artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté to paint all the roses in her collection and he produced 3 beautiful volumes with 170 watercolour plates, ‘Les Roses’, which were published from 1817-1824. Josephine’s contribution to rose history is remembered in the names of 2 Old Roses : a Gallica called ‘Empress Josephine’ and one of my favourite Bourbons, ‘Souvenir de la Malmaison’ (2nd photo). The 1st photo is a Moss rose called Chapeau de Napoléon, with its buds shaped like his three cornered cockade hat.France has produced a number of very famous rose breeders and growers from Josephine’s gardener, André Dupont, to Jacques-Louis Descamet, who produced 200 new varieties of roses between 1804-1814; Jean-Pierre Vibert, the first French rose-breeder, who bought Descemet’s nursery in 1815 and produced more than 600 new varieties and Alexandre Hardy, who was the chief horticulturalist at Luxembourg Gardens in Paris from 1817 to 1859 and left more than 80 cultivars with China genes in them, including the Damask rose in the photo below named after his wife, Mme Hardy. Her blooms each have a beautiful green eye and smell superb.
There are some very famous rose breeding families in France :
- Brothers Philippe and Louis Noisette launched the Noisette rose group in Europe.
- The Guillot family (with 6 generations involved) are famous for producing the first Hybrid Tea, La France, in 1867.
- The Pernet-Ducher family produced the first yellow Hybrid Tea ‘Soleil d’Or’ in 1900 and also boast 6 generations of rose breeders.
- The Delbard family has operated a rose nursery in Allier for over 75 years and
- The Meilland Family are also very famous, especially with their breeding of the Hybrid Tea, ‘Peace’, released in 1945 . Its story is recounted in that delightfully charming book : ‘For Love of a Rose’ by Antonia Ridge. Peace is photographed below and also goes by the name of ‘Madame A. Meilland’ (the name of the breeder’s deceased mother), Gioia (Italy) and Gloria Dei (Germany).
Other well-known French rose breeders include :
- Réné Barbier, who developed the Wichuriana ramblers;
- Gilbert Nabonnand, who bred a number of Chinas and Teas;
- Jules Gravereaux, who developed Roseraie de l’Hay, the first garden devoted exclusively to roses;
- Jean Deprez, who bred one of my favourite Noisettes: Deprez à Fleurs Jaunes, featured on the top of my blog page and in the photo below and
- André Eve, a passionate collector and disseminator of Old Roses.
If we are ever lucky enough to travel overseas and visit France again, I would dearly love to visit ‘La Bonne Maison’, Lyons, the wonderful rose garden developed by Old Rose expert, Odile Masquelier. My daughter acted as proxy on her overseas trip a few years ago and returned with Odile’s book about the development of her garden, unfortunately written in French! I spent a lovely dreamy week translating her book and hope I did it justice!!! You can view her website here : http://www.labonnemaison.org/ . These are a few of my daughter’s photos in tulip time, unfortunately a little too early for the roses!
I would also love to visit Eléonore Cruse’s amazing rose garden ‘Roseraie de Berty‘ at Largentière, Ardeche. See http://www.roseraie-de-berty.com/ and for an English version : http://roseraiedeberty.free.fr/english_catalogues.html .
As well as Roseraie de l’Hay, les Jardins de l’Imaginaire, Les Chemins de la Rose in Doué la Fontaine, Château de Miromesnil, Coulommiers Medieval Garden, Jardin aux Plantes parfumées la Bouichère, Terre Vivante and Jardin le Vasterival to name a few….
For a taster, see : http://www.french-gardens.com/gardens/gardenstovisit.php
The French Motorways are lined with huge hedges of Rugosa roses : Rugosa Alba (white) and Scabrosa (purple).
Also read any books by Louisa Jones : Gardens of the French Riviera 1992; The Art of French Vegetable Gardening 1995; Kitchen Gardens of France 1999; Provence : A Country Almanac 1999; The French Country Garden : Where the Past Flourishes in the Present 2000; Gardens in Provence 2001; and The French Country Garden 2006 or
Mirabel Osler : The Secret Gardens of France 1993; A Spoon with Every Course: In Search of the Legendary Food of France 1996; and The Elusive Truffle: Travels in Search of the Legendary Food of France 2000)
One garden we did visit on our second trip was Château de Villandry, an amazing potager with wonderful abstract patterns created by clipped box hedges . See : http://www.chateauvillandry.fr/en/ .We have so many wonderful memories of our two trips to France. Some of the highlights included :
My 35th birthday at a private château near Limoges;
My infant daughter’s first totally independent hike for 11 km in the Pyrenees;The flamingoes in the Camargue;The wonderful artist villages like Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the photos below;The 20,000 year old prehistoric cave art in the Dordogne. This photo is a bas relief of aurochs from Forneau du Diable, Bordeilles;The Cathar ruins : Roquefixade in the top photo; Montesegur in the 2nd photo.The Standing Stones of Carnac;And the beautiful countryside, wild flowers and poppies in wheat fields, rustic villages and the generosity of the French people, who love children and opened their homes and hearts to us!Mean time, we enjoy our little corner of France in our Candelo garden at ‘Maison Rose’ and enjoy the beautiful fragrant blooms of roses with French names : Mme Alfred Carrière (1st photo), Mme Isaac Péreire (2nd and 3rd photo), Lamarque (4th photo), Gloire de Dijon, Chapeau de Napoleon, Madame Louis Lévêque, Aimée Vibert, Mme Hardy, Mme Georges Bruant, Roseraie de l’Hay…!!!And there is always the annual pilgrimage to Werribee Mansion, Melbourne (photos below), or St. John’s College, Sydney in January, to enjoy the wonderful music, French food and champagne and French fashions at ‘So Frenchy So Chic’ (http://www.sofrenchysochic.com.au/).
Or ‘Paris to Provence’ at Como House every November (http://www.paristoprovence.com.au/) . Both are wonderful days out and incredibly civilized!!!
I believe there is also a very active Alliance Francaise community in Canberra, our closest city (http://www.afcanberra.com.au/culture-and-events/events-to-experience-french-culture/), so we look forward to fuelling our passion further in the years to come! Vive la France!!!