|Mediterranean Garden Society|
The French Languedoc Branch of the MGS
MGS members are invited to attend the following events organised by Mediterranean Gardening France. To book a place for activities in France, contact Christine Daniels.
Wednesday 4 and Thursday 5 April - Fressac, Gard
Katharine writes: “This class will help you to look carefully and see the essential elements of a plant in order to translate it on to paper, to compose the drawing and eventually to bring out the character of the plant and to explore the different effects one can obtain using pencil, ink and charcoal.”
Sunday 29 April - Villecroze and Salernes, Var
In the afternoon, we shall visit a garden created by Nathalie Rigg, who died some three years ago. Nathalie has left a true gardener’s garden, full of interesting plants and areas of privacy and tranquillity. There are many species of plants, as well as a potager. We hope to be able to see some of the original plans for the garden, which started from a bare plot.
Thursday 3 May - St Rémy and Maussane, Bouches-du-Rhône
Thursday 17 and Friday 18 May - Fayence, Var
On Friday, in the morning, we’ll visit Campagne Sainte-Marie, the garden of the author and artist Nicole Rengade. The garden, which has a stream, a bassin and donkeys, is almost an English cottage garden in style, with 800 species of plants, lovely old roses, a potager and a Zen area.
Lunch will be at the restaurant Le France in Fayence, then we’ll visit the garden of Carla and Herman Buehl. Set in an oak wood, the garden which the couple have created complements the architecture of their striking modern house. The garden reflects their extensive knowledge of Mediterranean plants and includes both the usual Provençal plants and many unusual ones, used with flair and a superb sense of colour. There are collections of irises and peonies and interesting sculptures which enhance the plantings.
For those in need of overnight accommodation, a number of rooms have been reserved until 17 February, for the night of Thursday 17 May, at two Fayence hotels, Le Moulin de la Camandoule and the Hotel Les Oliviers.
Sunday 27 May - Les Hauts Maleribes, Gassin, Var
In the heart of the beautiful medieval hilltop village of Ménerbes stands La Carmejane, an 11th-century bastide. Its 6,500 square metres of terraced gardens nestled into the cliff face have spectacular views northwards across the Luberon to Mt. Ventoux.
We entered the courtyard through an archway and ancient wooden door and immediately knew that this garden visit was going to be very special. Surrounded by Italian cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), climbing roses, antique terracotta pots and topiary balls of Buxus sempervirens, we were led on to a terrace under a wisteria-clad pergola with views to Mt. Ventoux and over the perfectly laid out upper terraced garden.
The stunning blue of the agapanthus flowers contrasted with the simple green and white colour scheme. Neatly clipped box surrounded the beds of Rosa ‘Iceberg’, and everywhere was the sound of running water from the numerous fountains. Elegant urns filled with white hydrangea and solanum decorated the terraces, along with containers of spiral-stemmed orange trees. There were several stylish and comfortable seating areas and one noticed the perfectly co-ordinated colour schemes of the fabrics used. Everywhere was a feast for the eye.
The celebrated garden designer Nicole de Vésian had a saying, ‘listen to the stones and they will speak’, and when in 1996 the owners along with the designer and interior decorator Michel Biehn, began to restore the garden, this proved valuable advice. At this time there were no connecting stairs between the upper and lower terraces, but one day, as Head Gardener Cédric Lafaye was pruning ivy from the rampart walls, he discovered an old archway. The owners decided that this would be the perfect place to construct a stone tower containing a spiral staircase to link the upper terrace to the pool and lower gardens. Descending these stairs, we emerged on to a perfectly manicured lawn surrounding the swimming pool. Next to the pool, providing an element of surprise and historical interest, there is a 7th-century grotto set into the rock face.
We were led on down to the less formal lower terraces passing through the Jardin des Fées with its interesting water feature, created at the landing point of the two halves of a huge boulder which had become dislodged from the cliff during the great storm of May 1993. Next, we paused to admire a huge fossilised ammonite laid into a circle of cobblestones and surrounded by wild thyme. Then, looking up, we spied one of Marc Nucera’s wooden ‘walking men’ and a charming gazebo with Trachelospermum jasminoides climbing its walls and red and white curtains and chair covers….what a perfect spot for a siesta.
Our hosts very generously provided a picnic lunch for us on one of the lower terraces in the shade of their cherry trees. We sat at tables laid with brightly coloured cloths, plates and glasses and enjoyed a delicious salad with pâté, ham, cheeses, wine, and of course cherries.
Colour is kept to a minimum at La Carmejane, so it was an interesting surprise to find the soft yellow Rosa ‘Teasing Georgia’ clambering up walls beside the vegetable garden on the lowest terrace. We also spotted the lovely orange Glaucium corniculatum, with itspoppy-type flower.
The garden of La Carmejane is a jewel amongst all those I have visited in Provence. Beautifully designed and totally adapted to its unique position in the village, it is a perfect combination of elegance and informality. I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to see it.
Text: Tilly Chambers, Photo: Hubert NivièreMore photos to illustrate this article can be found on the MGF website, La Carmejane.
In the morning we were welcomed by Isabelle and Benoit Beauvallet to their nursery and demonstration garden, l’Armalette, at Sillans-la-Cascade.
Eight years ago, on their flat piece of land with alkaline clay soil, they began to create different planting environments so that they could observe, over several years, the plants which thrived, before propagating them for sale in the nursery. Benoit stressed that, although one can add gravel to soil to improve drainage, the underlying base layer will remain, so one has to adapt one’s choice of plants choices to the type of soil in the garden.
The dry garden, which is never watered, has been constructed from rocks placed on top of a porous textile membrane that prevents the chiendent (Cynodon dactylon) from taking over. Benoit tries out hundreds of plants in this harsh environment in order to identify those which will cope without water in temperatures which can range from +40 °C to -12 °C.
For a natural-looking meadow, try:
On very poor soils:
And for plant collectors:
The not quite so dry garden
This flat area has alkaline clay soil to a depth of about a metre above a substrate of porous rock. Benoit drew our attention to the following plants:
After the garden tour we sat in the sun to eat our picnics, after which Isabelle took us to visit the garden of one of her clients.
One of the terraces had been paved with stones to create a calade with a traditional ‘cross’ design and covered by a pergola so that it could be used for summer eating. Another part of the terrace had been allowed to collapse and some trees had been removed to open up a view of the countryside beyond. Here lavenders, euphorbias, grasses and cistus had been planted in a natural style. Although this garden is contemporary in style, it sits well in the surrounding landscape planted with olive trees.
Text: Françoise Legrand
A botanical walk in the hills above Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
We started in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie at 700 m and walked up to 900 m, passing first through an area with a wide range of plants growing in a soil built up from rock falling from the cliffs above. Next came a pine forest with a surprising number of plants growing beneath the trees and then up on to rockier cliffs and finally to the plateau where the vegetation was dwarf compared to that on the lower slopes.
Trees and shrubs spotted on the lower slopes included:
Plants growing in shade under Pinus sylvestris
Plants on the higher and drier slopes and on the plateau:
* plant available from the Armalette nursery
Photographs of many of the plants listed and a report on the wildlife we saw can be found on the MGF website.
We gathered at the garden on a beautiful sunny April morning, a wonderful time to be there as the plants were freshly green and soft and not yet roasted by the summer sun. Some members had enjoyed an overnight stay, while others had the pleasure of driving deep into the volcanic terrain of the Cévennes to this unusual venue.
The garden is a haven of tranquillity, almost a private world, symbolic of the secret traditions and history of the Cévennes. The owners were said to be soixant-huitards, which gave an extra touch of nostalgia.
It's a wild garden, reminiscent of tropical rain forest in its ambience, with plants allowed to run freely and seed where they will, lots of water features and sounds of water everywhere. There are many amusing touches and many examples of trompe l'oeil. There were little signs here and there, bearing the romantic names of different parts of the garden and guiding one to sense the atmosphere that the owners wished to convey. There were poems too and lots of whimsy. The most dramatic feature was a trail of stoves randomly tumbled down the hillside, allegedly ejected from the house during a meteorite strike during the night after the owners attended a talk on climate change!
The garden's ambience had a very natural feel, but this belied the many years of hard work that had been and are still being devoted to this garden. It's a work of passion and humour. The owners are reaching a certain age. They will not be bringing up large granite boulders from the valley floor to build the stone features for much longer. These solid granite igloos, though not liked by all, were fascinating, making a strong physical presence amid the softness of the foliage.
A useful feature was a number of giant birds' nests, each with a large stone egg inside. They are in fact compost heaps; the stone helping to anchor and compress the compost. It really makes sense in a garden of this size to be able to park garden debris at regular intervals. Many of us lingered long around the pools and ponds which were full of creatures. Frogs abounded, beautifully camouflaged amongst the greenery, though at night in June they are so noisy that they hurt the ears. Lotuses do well here, with a soil depth of 50cm under 50 cm of water.
The water features were fascinating. Looking up from the water, it was a marvellous contrast to see the different layers of vegetation on the steep hillside. We were shown how honeysuckle, not liking its metal support, had scampered through endless adjacent trees and shrubs. Roses too were exuberant, crossing the levels with enthusiasm and impunity.
We had a satisfying organic vegetarian lunch in a shady dell, then walked up to see the system used by the owners for the capture of water, allowing them a use of 25 to 30 cubic metres daily, in addition to 'town water'. The conservation of rainfall has long been practised in the Cévennes, and we were shown water ‘mines' created by locals digging into the hillside to find water, then conserving it for later use.
Nicholas emphasised forcefully the difference between water management, which is practised here, and economic use of water, which was another topic entirely. All of the water here has come from the heavens and stays naturally sweet, unlike hoarded tap water which can develop an unpleasant stagnant smell. There can be as much as 300 cm of rain in a night. We were shown the two huge pools, one higher than the other, lined with EPD which allows air but not water to pass through. It is notable how water conservation methods are now becoming mainstream and essential.
It was an interesting visit, some liking the garden and ideas more than others. An important element was putting plants and creatures first, an ideal for all of us to keep in mind when tending our gardens. Nicholas and Agnes' Brückin's garden is truly ‘un jardin pas comme les autres'.
Ian Davis has written a companion article, ‘Earth, Wind, Water and Fire’, illustrated with wonderful photographs, on the wildlife we saw in the Jardin des Sambucs. You can read it on the Mediterranean Gardening France website.
Text: Julia Petty
This beautiful 13 hectare estate at the foot of the Alpilles was bought by Mme de Brignac in 1981.
A beautiful avenue of ash, Fraxinus angustifolia subsp. oxycarpa (syn. Fraxinus oxycarpa), and hop hornbeam, Ostrya carpinifolia, leads visitors to the house. An interesting Elaeagnus hedge cut in diverse ways - angular, rounded, convex and concave - is both shapely and fun.
As we arrive at the entrance to a spacious, pebbled courtyard, there sits the house with its imposing, rectangular, pale ochre façade. From its centre rises a square tower, a Provençal pigeonnier, flanked by two turrets topped by cupolas. A larger round tower, topped with a dome could perhaps in a former life have been a fortified dwelling.
This is a garden whose owner is a passionate collector of trees. Over many years, the gardens have taken shape, with most of the plants being home-grown from seeds and cuttings. Three magnificent white oaks and an ash tree form the backbone of the property. Huge cypress hedges, evergreen oaks, umbrella pines and Viburnum tinus provide protection from the mistral. The arboretum was started in 2003 and now includes 50 varieties of oak and 27 types of fig trees.
As we walked around, these plants struck us as particularly interesting:
The glorious sunshine, the interesting talk by Monsieur Bussac and the combination of flower and leaf colour in the garden together provided an exceptional day of discovery.
Text (translated from French): Elisabeth Gratraud
David Bracey had promised us ‘a fun day if messy….’ and indeed he was right. We arrived with our containers of carefully mixed garden soil, jam jars, water and paper towels, but before we started on the mechanical analysis of the soil we had brought with us, we were invited to rub between our fingers samples of sand, silt and clay.
David explained the properties of each type of soil, then we carried out a number of different analyses of the soil we had brought from home. The great majority of those present had clay soils, some very fine indeed, others mixed with varying proportions of other elements such as organic matter or significantly sized rocks.
David has written an article explaining how to sample and analyse soil which you can read in the Gardening section of the MGF website.
After the workshop, our hosts, Lauw and Joelle de Jager, invited us to visit the bulb nursery and demonstration garden.
The nursery has several different growing areas:
In the main growing areas, bulbs are grown in long beds of raised earth, rather than in constructed raised beds, and are interspersed with a few olive trees and Melia azedarach. The bulbs are protected from the wind by oleander, cypress and Euonymus japonicus and mulched with local rice straw from the Camargue, mainly to prevent soil compaction from the rain. Bulbs growing here include Amaryllis belladonna, which provides the first colour in spring, Iris unguicularis, Tulipa clusiana and T. sylvestris, as well as alliums, crocuses and fritillaries.
The shade tunnel houses the nursery’s most special bulbs, including those from South Africa and South America. These include the bright red Anemone hortensis (syn. A. fulgens), Hesperantha cucullata, Hyacinthus orientalis, the large yellow Lachenalia aloides ‘Ronina’, the fragrant Muscari macrocarpum, Oxalis palmifrons and O. obtusa, the climber Tropaeolum tricolor, as well as dracunculus, freesia, Moraea and ornithogalum. Growing in the ground was a huge clump of Chasmanthe bicolor. Next to the shade tunnel were rows of different narcissi.
The front garden beds are about 10 years old and shaded by two large Canary Island date palms (Phoenix canariensis) which are being treated to save them from disease; the third Palm has already succumbed to the beetle. A mix of tulips, Spanish bluebells, and Narcissus ‘Tete a Tete’, were in flower.
The ‘lawn’ in the back garden consists of the ground covering plants, Dichondra repens, Achillea crithmifolia and Phyla (formerly Lippia) nodiflora. The level of the lawn is raised by a line of breeze blocks planted with bulbs to test how they grow in container conditions. The phyla is the most invasive and would look the least attractive after a cold winter, but the other two knit together well. In flower were Anemone blanda, Scilla (syn. Chionodoxa) forbesii, Crocus tommasinianus, the tall white Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’ and Ornithogalum umbellatum.
You can walk up and round the tiny paths of the rock garden, which is a test bed of different plants to see what, survives without watering. This is heavily mulched every year with shreddings and includes ground cover plants. In flower were Anemone coronaria and several narcissus species.
Text: Kate Dumbleton
We were encouraged to have a go ourselves at home. Olivier suggested that propagation by cuttings is one of the easiest methods of multiplying plants, and it is the best way to reproduce plants that will be identical to the parent.
We were shown a new section of the garden, dedicated to the cultivation of ‘mother plants’. These will be the plants from which cuttings will be taken for future propagation. Great care has been taken in the planting on specially created mounds of well-drained soil, so that these plants will be as healthy and vigorous as possible.
John emphasised the importance of researching the provenance of seeds and bulbs and trying to find those from a climate similar to our own.
The photos we saw covered geophytes of many different habitats, a huge variety of sizes, colours and scents, and they included both spring and autumn-flowering varieties. Some of my favourites were the tiny Acis autumnalis and Colchicum pusillum, the very large Iris purpureobractea and the wonderfully scented Cyclamen hederifolium var. confusum.
John was asked if geophytes reproduced from seed would come true. He suggested that the best way to attempt this, particularly with cyclamens, was to protect the flowers from bees and to pollinate oneself using a small paintbrush or simply a finger.
On a typically warm and sunny day in mid-September, a group of 30 from the MGS had the privilege of being shown around these gardens by their creator, the distinguished paysagiste Dominique Lafourcade.
Above is the view as one enters the garden of Les Confines, which is rarely open to visitors, and also a part at the end which has been left to resemble the land as it was purchased over twenty years ago. It is thought that at one time it was used for rearing bulls, and in a typically playful note some bull silhouettes have been placed there.
The most prominent features of the central expanse are the bassin provençal and the enormous terracotta pots in which the olive trees are housed; they could not be planted directly because there is too much underground water.The long rill leading from the bassin was designed to give a constant vision of water. It is bisected by a path using pebbles gathered from the bed of the river Durance.The emphasis throughout is on trees and shrubs that grow locally in the Alpilles, with immaculately clipped box and cypress predominant.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect is the way the peripheral area is divided into a series of quite different gardens, each with its own special atmosphere:
- the Jardin de la Boule centred round a wonderfully-textured stone boule sculpted by Bruno.
- La Cassina, a charming, large-scale doll’s house.
After a picnic on the terrace under the magnificent plane trees (about the only feature that was inherited rather than created), we set off for the Abbaye de Pierredon where Dominique and her son Alexandre, an architect who specialises in restoration, redesigned the house and garden some ten years ago. Fortunately it is not the Italian owners’ main residence, as the work was extensive.
The Abbaye lies at the end of a long rough track in a large, almost uninhabited area in the Alpilles valley, covered with olive trees. The Lafourcades changed the approach so that one enters through an avenue of plane trees.
At what is now the rear of the house, a large terrace looks out on to the garden which is divided into four rectangular sections planted largely in blue colours with, at this time of year, Perovskia being the most evident. Cleverly positioned to the left, at a higher level, is a swimming pool which cannot be seen, but from which one can look out over the main garden.
Text and photographs: Guy Cheeseman
A group of twenty of us met in front of the town hall in Montélier to be taken round the botanical treasures of the village by Hervé Canals, a volunteer who has given his time to develop the botanical interest of the village, to encourage garden tourism and to make it a pleasant place to live. Montélier is one of ten Villages Botaniques in the Drôme. Hervé Canals has since 2008 sourced plants, shrubs and trees of botanical interest from all over western Europe, and plenty of unlikely slopes and car parks have been made particularly attractive and interesting by his efforts, as well as his more conventional plantings. In addition, he has populated a very pleasant Semaphore Park with all sorts of botanical treasures and created a Mexican desert garden by the church.
His interest is in plants, trees and shrubs that are edible or decorative or both. He has planted a holly collection, an ivy collection, a strawberry collection and so many interesting plants that it would take pages and pages to list them. Particularly interesting (to me), was a
From Montélier we went on to the Jardin des Sables, an amazing garden begun in 1997 in open country outside the village of Montvendre. The site is a former agricultural field of just over a hectare on quite poor soil, though with a high water table, particularly at the lower end. It was planned and planted by an enthusiastic lady, Mme Annie Amoretti, and her husband. They live in Valence about fourteen kilometres away, and the only building is a restored stone cabanon used for storing garden equipment. From nothing but an open field, which originally grew tobacco at the lower end and later wheat, the couple have created a beautiful park.
The layout is typically English in style with winding paths, vistas, large open spaces with neatly mown grass, interesting herbaceous borders and plenty of surprisingly mature trees. Annie seemed particularly pleased with a Japanese cherry, (Cerasus yedoensis, unspecified variety), grafted on to a stock at ground level by a German specialist. She also drew our attention to Arbutus menziesii, from California, which sheds its rust-coloured bark each year to leave a pistachio-green under-layer.
The garden has a wide variety of plants, trees and shrubs and is full of colour and interesting textures and shapes. The shrubs and trees are well labelled as they are Annie’s particular interest, and the standard of upkeep is phenomenally high. The garden is open to anybody who cares to come in to enjoy it, whether they are artists or gardeners or just people looking for a pleasant place to enjoy a picnic. You may just step over the chain in the photo.
Text and photos by Rosemary Halford
The following morning we arrived early at the Jardin Zen in Beaumont Monteux. Erik Borja began creating this remarkable garden in 1973, since when it has continued to develop and evolve. The land descends down a slope to the banks of the Isère river. One first arrives at the jardin d’accueil (welcome), where a terracotta pot and the bamboo water feature represent the traditional Japanese symbol of purification. The Zen garden is perhaps the most recognisable part of the garden, the swirling gravel patterns represent the ocean, and the rocks are islands. The height of much of the planting in the Zen garden is deliberately low as such gardens were traditionally seen from Japanese houses where rooms were designed to be at ‘tatami height’ and windows were low as people sat on tatami mats and looked out on their borrowed landscape. Tatami height windows effectively framed a living painting.
Other sections of the garden include areas designed for meditation, for drinking tea, a long allée to stroll down, a potager, a mediterranean garden, a dragon garden and a beautiful lily pond. The design of all of this is fluid, natural and with a total lack of symmetry. One member summed up everyone’s thoughts when they said of the garden ‘It lifts the spirits’.
There is an excellent website here.
Next we drove south to the village of La Garde Adhémar. Several members had visited the municipally-run Jardin Botanique before and were delighted to see that the 3000 sq. metres of terraces were much improved. The photograph is taken from the terrace above the garden which illustrates the symmetrical layout and the immaculate box hedging that surrounds the planting.
The second section comprises aromatic plants including salvia, lavender and geranium. The view from the garden across the Rhône valley is quite spectacular.
For our final garden visit we continued south to Sérignan-du-Comtat where the naturalist and entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre lived from 1879 until 1915. The house, known as Harmas de Fabre, is home to his collection of dried plants, fossils and insects. The garden contains historic trees, over 500 plant species, a potager and a wild flower meadow. After visiting the herbarium and museum, we wandered through the very informally laid out garden, wondering whether much had changed from a century before.
Text: Duncan Munford
Mas Reynes, Saleilles
The proud owner, Mr Pierre Bianchi, explained that as a horticulturalist based in Montpellier, he had searched for a long time to find a suitable location where he could indulge his interest in growing exotic plants. In 1993 he finally decided upon this corner of Roussillon, reputed to be the hottest part of France. Here, near the sea, a mild coastal climate and warm winds from North Africa enable tender plants to survive and thrive, despite the frequent drying winds of the tramontane.
Thanks to Pierre’s planting of a protective canopy, the previously agricultural plot now provides a hospitable environment for a variety of tropical and xerophytic plants from every continent, informally organised according to their geographic origins. Chamaedorea palms and Yucca filifera from Central America flourish alongside phormiums and cordylines from New Zealand and ironbark eucalyptus from Australia. From South Africa, bulb underplanting included crinums, agapanthus, clivias and the unusual Boophane disticha, one of the most poisonous plants in the world.
More familiar to the group were some fine colourful specimens of roses, while Monstera deliciosa, the 'Swiss cheese' plant, seemed perfectly at home protected under the shade of trees.
Continuing the tropical theme, the next garden to be visited was the Jardin des Plantes Les Capellans, south of the seaside town of St Cyprien. This 5-hectare public garden began life at the end of the 19th century as the grounds to a château built by the de Rovira family. Sadly, by the 1990s it had become abandoned and neglected, but was saved for the people of St Cyprien by their mayor, Dr Bouille, who rescued it from a repossession order. Unusually for a mediterranean area, azaleas and rhododendrons grow successfully here, and roses seem very happy in the environment. The maturity of this garden enabled MGS visitors to appreciate fully-grown examples of ginkgo, sequoia, Trachycarpus, Liriodendron and one particularly statuesque specimen of Jubaea chilensis which is in a vulnerable state owing to pest attack.
Peacocks, both coloured and albino, strutted around nonchalantly and an extensive bamboo forest further enhanced the jungle-like experience with its towering graceful forms. A garden of this importance is a rarity for a modest town of just 10,500 inhabitants and surprisingly, the grounds were maintained by only two and a half gardeners. It is to be hoped that the current economic climate will not endanger its future.
Text by Jane Claridge
Private gardens in the foothills of the Pyrénées
Protected by the hillside, yet open with magnificent views on one side where the land falls steeply away, the house and garden feel settled and peaceful. With little topsoil, no additional watering system and all the Languedoc weather extremes, Lynn has planned, planted and experimented over the years - and the result is lovely.
Wandering around the gravel paths I wondered why I felt so at ease in this particular garden and decided it was a reflection of the natural, easy way it was planted, lots of grey leaved plants giving a soft background, interesting shapes from the cacti and palms, a splendid Phoenix canariensis with enough space around to show off, poppies, aquilegia, and larkspur giving colour in any space available, something different round each bend, each plant looking as if this was just where it should be.
Perhaps the relaxed feeling reflects the philosophy of the place, the way the many difficulties have been approached - if it’s too dry for compost, then have a wormery, if the wild boar regard the bulbs as caviar, then plant them in pots, and if the pink frilled poppy is ousting the rubbish bin, then of course it’s the bin that moves. Several of us came away with seeds and I’m hoping for larkspur and pink poppies to remind me of a happy morning.
It was to be a morning of contrasts. Back down the mountain and in the small town of Céret, opening the gate to Paula Frey’s garden, we found ourselves in a green oasis. Imagine being able to buy a house with its own irrigation canal supplying water throughout the year at minimal cost. About ten years ago, Paula and her husband did just that. A channel running down one side of the garden, built in the 18th century after the traditional style introduced by the Moors, brings water from the river to Paula's and neighbouring potagers.
Her husband’s ingenuity resulted in an attractive pond near the house, which is home to decorative fish and water lilies and also supports a watering system for lawn and flower beds. The mechanism was beyond me, but I gathered that the changes in water level are not great enough to upset fish or plants and that a small fountain maintains aeration and deters mosquitoes. The result of all this water - luxuriant foliage of late spring, plenty of colour already and clearly plenty more to come.
Much knowledge and care has gone into the planting and managing. I can imagine sitting on the terrace enjoying a pleasing variety of views: shapely santolinas bordering a gravel path in front of olive trees as a reminder of the outer world, the charming effect of the pool with an attractive variegated low shrub edging, then, beyond the herbaceous border, the promise of good eating from the riches of the well managed potager.
These were two lovely gardens that I could have stayed in much longer. Coming back home to a sea of weeds, I was encouraged to remember that both Paula and Lynn had said their gardens have never looked so tidy - another good reason for MGS visits.
Text by Jenny Ritchie
In April, we spent two days visiting coastal gardens in the Var, including the Domaine du Rayol, the Parc Gonzalez in Bormes-les-Mimosas and three private gardens. Here are accounts and photographs of two of the gardens. More reports, and photographs of some the plants in flower, are on the MGS France website.
Le Domaine du Rayol, Le Rayol-Canadel
We had a wonderfully warm, sunny spring day for our visit. The sea was sparkling; the vegetation was lush. It's a beautiful location, a 20-hectare estate of meandering paths, arriving eventually at a private Mediterranean beach. There are many surprises; moments after enjoying the shade provided by majestic trees a path leads you into an open area with quite different plants basking in sunshine.
The garden comprises zones of the mediterranean climates of the world. Each zone is discreetly labelled, and their invisible boundaries, as well as the freedom of plants to seed where they will, allow the plants to migrate across the borders between zones, rather like European Union nationals! The tapestry and textures of distant plants and glimpses of the sea spur an impatience to seek them out, while the magical beauty of the moment demands that you linger to enjoy the plants around you.
The garden is controversial. The indigenous vegetation forms a strong partnership with the plants imported to represent the mediterranean climate zones. It is an informal garden, very natural in style with no plant labels. Some might say that there are too many weeds, arising from the policy to allow indigenous plants to thrive as vigorously as brought-in plants. This policy prompts fundamental questions about the nature and role of a garden and the balance of its ownership shared between the planet and mankind. We split into two groups, for a 1.5 or 3 hour tour. Although few of us have such idyllic conditions, not least a frost-free environment, the enthusiasm and passion of the staff and the beauty of the place are inspirational.
Towards the end of our visit, we were invited to do some weeding, as a practical illustration of the labour involved in maintaining a formal garden. Most of the party joined in. Some of us did not. Was it because we were convinced of the philosophy behind the garden, or because we were on holiday away from hands-on gardening?
It's a garden to be visited often, not just to see it in different seasons, but also because it takes time for one to imbibe the majesty and beauty of the whole. A Jardin Remarquable indeed.
Text: Julia Petty
A private garden near Cap Bénat
Jean-Marie Rey led the way among the lanes and dunes of the Varois coast and by the time we reached the house we were all completely confused. Our hostess was there to greet us and she led us into a small courtyard of what I imagined was an old bergerie, but she explained that the house was built only forty years ago, from local materials, old stone and sixteenth-century oak beams. We admired the Hardenbergia violacea draping the walls and that show-stopper, Citrus medica (Buddha’s Hand).
Then up a perilous stone staircase to the garden, where we found a small landscaped area of maquis, high up, overlooking the sea and stuffed full of treasures. The soil is light, sandy and acid, and references to the seaside abound with driftwood, marine artefacts, maritime plants and miniature sandy bays.
Each separate island-bed contained an abundance of mediterranean shrubs and bulbs. I noted cloud-pruned arbutus and myrtle with wild freesias and tulips, including lily-flowered Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’ among many others. There was also a luminescent echium, perhaps E. candicans, and close by, white comfrey, Symphytum officinale, a Raphiolepis and much else to admire. For animal lovers there were three vegetable sheep, well-shorn, and a beautiful grey cat.
A small jewel-like pool turned out to be a well-disguised Jacuzzi. Paths sloped up through two beds packed full of Helleborus x hybridus, splendid in flower, both dominated by huge, flowering prunus. One path led up to a pergola and a large cistern, fed from a deep well, which was used for automatic watering, essential in summer as the soil is so dry and exposed. A small courtyard contained more unusual citrus plants and I noticed some wire bells containing dried allium heads perhaps for the birds. Many climbing plants, including more hardenbergias, covered the stone walls, giving a richly textured, well-furnished effect.
The owner loves her garden and knows and chooses her plants well. So much diversity combines to make a perfect small garden, which gave all of us much pleasure. This secret garden is a treasure, and it was a great privilege to visit it. Thank you, Madame, for allowing us to share it and thank you, Jean-Marie, for finding the way.
Text: Jocelyn van Riemsdijk
As a follow up to last year’s garden design course, Duncan Munford had the idea of a photography workshop to help us take better pictures of gardens and plants. He approached Louisa Jones for advice, and she suggested Béatrice Pichon-Clarisse as a tutor. Béatrice is the garden photographer for the magazine Mon Jardin & Ma Maison,and her work is published in many garden books, including some by Louisa Jones and Jean-Jacques Derboux.
The workshop included classroom and practical sessions, using Liz and Jacques’ garden to take photographs which were then critiqued by the class. Benoit Moulin made these notes of the main points.
How to take good garden photographs
Use of the camera’s settings will allow you to create different effects, especially for creating atmosphere and obtaining an accurate rendering of the colours you see and want to capture in your image. Take the time to learn about your camera’s settings so that you are comfortable using them.
A compact camera is designed for ease of use. It is usually smaller and many of them are automatic and work best in good light conditions.
Range is expressed in mm – a focal length of approximately 50mm on a full frame camera is said to have a ‘perspective’ similar to the human eye.
Watch out for wide angle distortion between 16 and 35 mm
Compact cameras usually cover 24mm to 90mm, bridge cameras (large compacts) 24mm to 400mm.
Text and photos by Benoit Moulin
A large group of MGS members came to this workshop to hear Chantal explain how to sow seeds successfully.
Don’t forget to make holes in your containers. The earth should never be too wet. If necessary, sterilise the containers with hot water and bleach. In order to keep the plants moist once they have germinated, you will need a glass plate, plastic bags or cling-film to cover the containers.
Some seeds need cold in order to germinate, for example, Mediterranean and North American species. Leave them outside, or in a greenhouse or cold-frame, in the shade. Protect them from rain, slugs/snails and pets. (NB: You could try the following natural slug/snail deterrents: crushed eggshells, coffee grounds or bran. Result not guaranteed.) Some seeds will germinate only after several months or even years - don’t throw pots away simply because nothing comes up immediately. Other seeds need heat: tropical plants need a temperature range of between 24 °C and 28 °C. Keep these seeds in the warmth indoors. There are also seeds which require smoke as well as heat to germinate.
There are 4 key factors in successful germination:
Don’t start sowing too early, because the light won’t be adequate. February is the ideal month - the seedlings will be ready for pricking out in March. Don’t be disappointed if all your seeds don’t come up. Even Chantal, the expert, says she has a success-rate of 50%.
Prepare your pots in advance, using a mixture of ⅓ garden earth, ⅓ sand and ⅓ compost. A little fertilizer does no harm. Get the seedlings out with a teaspoon or a dibber.
Make a hole in the earth and gently insert the seedling, holding it by the seed leaves or real leaves. Never hold seedlings by the stem, which is too delicate to handle. Insert the seedlings till the seed leaves are touching the earth. Firm gently. Water, from below. Put the pots in the shade to develop, watering when necessary.
NB: when sowing seed of bulbous plants, leave the seedlings in the same container for at least 2 years, so that the new bulbs can form.
What are the advantages of sowing seed? First, it’s cheaper than buying plants from nurseries. Second, it gives more choice, particularly of species that are not available commercially. Third, it produces plants in large quantities. Fourth, plants raised from seed at home adapt better to garden conditions than those bought at a garden centre or supermarket. And finally, it’s fun!
Some seeds (euphorbia, acanthus, geraniums, erodium, ruellia etc) can be propelled far from the mother plant. To collect these, wrap the seed heads in an old stocking before they become brown, then wait for them to ripen.
In order to send seeds to Chantal, put them in an ordinary envelope, mentioning the botanical name, the year, your own name, and the place where the seeds were harvested. To keep the seeds yourself, put them in a paper bag or envelope (never use plastic because the seed will rot), and keep them in a dry place.
A tip to see whether old seeds are still viable: put them in a bowl of water and the viable seeds will fall to the bottom.
End of September 2012
Marie d’Hennezel welcomed 24 of us to her remarkable garden in the hills of the southern Cévennes. The site is stunning with views over chestnut-clad hills.
The garden is laid out on ancient terraces and has a watering system fed by springs, a well and water reserves from runoff. The soil is granite with little topsoil, so Marie adds a great deal of home-made mulch and compost. Up in the hills wild boar are rampant and do a lot of damage, so there are electric fences to keep them out.
Marie began by describing the property and told us that she had been coming here for many years, but wanted to do something useful with the land, so she had the idea of putting in plants that heal. For this, the purity of the soil, the water and the air are of the utmost importance and these are regularly tested to ensure that when we drink the teas, no harmful substances are ingested. She explained that the plants which grow naturally are those that heal the most common complaints of the indigenous population. The plants grown are for the most part common European plants, with foreign imports grown only where their healing properties are of great importance. In Europe and the western part of the world most of our ills originate in the digestive system, even if their symptoms manifest themselves elsewhere, and many plants that grow naturally are good for the digestive tract. Acacia, basil, blackcurrant, fennel, mint, oregano, meadowsweet, rosemary, sage and verbena grow in the Jardin de Mazet. Marie suggested we should all take a purifying cure once a year - in the Cévennes it was customary to take one at each solstice.
We started with a tour of the garden, climbing now and again through tree trunks dug into the ground in a V shape with a lower trunk in the centre, creating an obstacle course for the less agile but intended to stop the wild boar. Each terrace is devoted to one or two crops, but Marie stopped and showed us the “weeds” growing beside the path, among them plantain, which she rubbed on to a small wound on Aline's hand, as it is an aid to healing. By lunch time the inflammation had disappeared. Marie insisted that all the senses are important, and she told us to look at, feel and smell the leaf from each plant she gave to each one of us.
Our first stop was at a mulberry tree, so important in this region for the silk industry that it was called the gold of the Cévennes, but interesting too for its healing properties. Marie explained not only the medicinal properties of each plant, but also the traditions attached to it. Centaurea cyanus, the cornflower, is grown for its gentle properties as an eye wash or taken internally as a diuretic and to regenerate the pancreas; and in the days when poppies and cornflowers grew amongst the corn, it seemed to cause wheat to be much stronger.
We talked about sage, Salvia officinalis, and oregano, one of the few plants that has antibiotic properties. We smelt each different species and variety of the basil collection, all of which are good for the digestion.
A lovely plant for the garden, Hyssopus officinalis, which has been a sacred plant since biblical times, is good for respiratory ailments.
In front of a planting of Aconitum napellus, Marie explained the importance of correct identification, as some plants can be very poisonous.
In the drying house, where there was a satisfying mixture of aromas, there is a sophisticated airflow system which runs without electricity. Here we learnt about the importance of harvesting correctly. Never pick a wet plant, wait till the morning dew has dried, then the sap rises and the active ingredients are at their most intense. Midday by the sun is the optimal moment to harvest. The plants must be dried gently - to retain their properties, a temperature of 20°C to 25°C is ideal. If dried plants are kept in the dark, then they will last many years.
After our picnic lunch we sat on a terrace and tasted both fresh and dried flowers and leaves, all the time learning more about their healing properties. The most important question for us was how to make a herbal tea; did we need one flower or a kilo? Here are Marie's instructions:
I wondered at the end of the talk what tasting so many plants, each with different properties, calming, detoxifying, stimulating, might do to us. Later in the evening, as I write this, I think stimulating has won out. It was a fascinating day spent with a knowledgeable and passionate woman who has transformed a cévenole hillside into a garden which supports an enterprise that is devoted to promoting people's well-being.
Text by Katharine Fedden
Located on a hill north of Béziers, Carmel and Brian’s garden is still very new. From the start, in 2008, a number of priorities were established: a lawn, a path to the front door, no steps, oleander hedges, and places to sit. The couple decided to collect rainwater from the roofs and they have created reservoirs which can store more than 3,000 litres of water.
From the entrance, a wide path leads down a gentle slope to the terrace and the front of the house. The path is bordered with lavender emerging from pouzzolane mulch and ends with two masses of brightly coloured petunias. A magnificent lawn, dotted with olive trees, occupies the centre space. To one side, an extensive raised bed, supported by a stone wall, contains many flowering plants: petunias, Perovskia, both white and pink Gaura, salvias, a camphor tree, Cinnamomum camphora, and a Caesalpinia gilliesii.
A rockery is planted with a palm tree, Phoenix canariensis, cacti, Verbena bonariensis, Perovskia, lantana, Ceanothus, Plectranthus, Phormium and iris.
A ”river” of differently-sized pebbles and gravel marks the edge of the lawn and disappears towards the boundary fence.
To the rear and side of the house lie the potager, fruit trees and a French-style garden with clipped box and aromatic herbs, including rosemary, Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor', Helichrysum italicum and parsley. This is a very new garden with a clear design, and we were able to appreciate Brian and Carmel’s ideas, using a variety of hard landscaping materials and mineral mulches to create contrasting areas.
To the north of Pézenas, Margaret’s garden is also situated on a hillside and has beautiful views over village rooftops and onwards to vineyards and woods.
Created 20 years ago, it has been terraced and planted with drought-resistant plants and shrubs. At the entrance, broad terraces are covered with gravel and planted with lavender.
This area has a deep border, mulched with bark and planted with palms, including Chamaerops humilis, as well as Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Variegatum', grasses, callistemon, lavender and rosemary. Circling back up to the pool terrace, one finds two Phoenix canariensis, large Yucca elephantipes and some opuntias which have managed to withstand this winter’s cold weather.
Here we found the boules court and welcome shade provided by four mulberry trees. Refreshments awaited us and made a happy conclusion to our visit on this hot September afternoon.
Text by Annie Nivière. Photographs by Hubert Nivière.
This last visit of the MGS Languedoc branch’s summer season, organized and guided by Gill Pound, was very appropriately, on a hot sunny day, to a garden where the emphasis is on scents and colours. It was started some 30 years ago by Gabrielle and Pierre Gerber, a young couple with a limited budget, whose original plan was to grow and sell dried flowers and to cultivate fruit trees. Since then the garden has developed across a 2-hectare site and now contains many different smaller gardens, each devoted to a different grouping of plants. Gill made the point that it is a real plantsman's garden and, as we wandered around, she encouraged us to rub the leaves of the plants and enjoy the varied perfumes.
Another point she made, and which rapidly became obvious to us as dry gardeners, was the amount of water enjoyed by the garden. Limoux is on the edge of the mediterranean climate zone, with numerous microclimates in a relatively small area, and benefits from the River Aude passing close by. However, although many of us will never grow willows or bamboo, there were still lots of plants that tolerate drier conditions to interest us.
Apart from the extremely garrulous parrots, we were greeted at the entrance to the garden by pots of scented-leaved pelargoniums. We were much taken with lemon-scented Pelargonium crispum, and P. ‘Prince of Orange’with its scent of orange peel. Indeed there is a whole section of the garden devoted just to scented pelargoniums.
Then, of great interest to many of us, came the grass garden containing some excellent plants - particularly Helictotrichon sempervirens, a Mediterranean native and great for dry conditions.
Next our eye was caught by something completely different - the leopard lily, Iris domestica, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis, with star-shaped spotted yellow-gold flowers and fabulously architectural leaves.
Further on was the ethno-botanic collection in the Medieval Garden with its ‘Hortulus’, listing plants whose uses were known in antiquity, and more recently used by those local heroes, the Cathars. These included Anthemis tinctoria, whose roots are used for dye, and Bituminaria bituminosa, or pitch trefoil, used as an infusion to counter epilepsy, hysteria and snake bites! Here we found borders devoted to oregano and thymes, including a lavender-scented variety, Thymus thracicus. Later we came across a delightful mint border - again with some rather unusual 'flavours' e.g. banana, Mojito, Chartreuse, and Hemingway, a particularly fruity number….
The dry garden yielded, amongst a wealth of wonderful plants, a collection of salvias, notably Salvia officinalis 'Nana Alba', the South African sage Salvia namaensis (confusingly named in French as ‘Sauge de Somalie’), and Salvia canariensis.
Other beauties were Cosmos sulphureus, with its bright orange flowers, and the bold beauty of Hesperaloe parviflora, the red yucca, which is robustly cold-tolerant despite its tropical good looks.
Then there were sculptures, some whimsical pieces in distressed metal and some recycled tree trunks, especially the ancient, but now sadly deceased, olivier de Bohème (Elaeagnus angustifolia), the only tree in the garden when the Gerbers arrived. One must also make special mention of the donkeys, the geese and the huge pond with fat koi carp and water lilies. This is not only a garden for the plant lover, but one full of colours, scents and imagination to entertain visitors of all ages and interests.
The following day we spent the morning with Gill in her garden at Caunes-Minervois. It was looking great, and we much admired her beautiful trees and shrubs, including the gorgeous Chilopsis linearis, several varieties of hibiscus and Heteromeles salicifolia (syn. H. arbutifolia),a California native but relatively robust.
We were also totally smitten by Gill's grass garden, a lovely sinuous design, with clever use of the local river pebbles as mulch.
Finally we moved on to Liz and Jacques Thompson’s garden in Cesseras, where we admired the formal courtyard garden and the newly planted terraces before retiring to a shady corner to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch.
We came away with loads of inspiration for our gardens and much to mull over during the forthcoming planting season. Many thanks to Gill for the organization and guiding.
Text by Sandra Cooper
Trevor Nottle, a writer and horticulturalist from Australia, spoke to a group of members from the MGS and Hortus, a sister society in France, on the subject of plants which will thrive in the hotter, drier climatic conditions which now face us. You can read the text of his lecture in English on this website on the Information page or here in French.
At the beginning of May, at the invitation of the Mallorcan branch, twenty members from the Languedoc, Provence and UK spent a wonderful few days on the island visiting members’ gardens and walking in the mountains. Here we are on the terrace at Cindy’s:
For more photographs and to read about our hosts’ favourite plants, go to the website of the French branches.
Dick Handscombe, who has had many years of experience growing fruit and vegetables near Valencia in Spain, made a stopover in the Vaucluse to talk to MGS members in France.
His opening statement, challenging us to grow our own daily-harvested, fresh, healthy vegetables with minimum effort and water, led on to an enthusiastic evening in which he shared his knowledge and stimulated much discussion.
He suggested we try local varieties in preference to supermarket-dictated selections, for example thin-skinned versus armour-plated tomatoes, and talked about the beneficial vitamins, minerals and fibre provided by home-grown vegetables.
The next subject was where to grow - plots, allotments, raised beds, rows between fruit trees and in flowerbeds are all possibilities. This led on to types of containers such as sacks, boxes, old builder’s buckets, towers of old tyres, fish boxes and all sorts of plastic containers.
Typical problems were discussed, including poor soil, poor drainage and moisture loss due to evaporation, run off and water being sucked away by larger root systems such as those of trees. To counteract moisture loss, the soil can be improved by increasing organic content, planting can be close together or through plastic, watering should take place in the evening and mulch can be applied between rows.
Regarding soil improvement, the most important point Dick stressed was the addition of organic matter. This can be home-made compost or well-rotted animal manures, particularly from goat, sheep, chicken and rabbit. Worms should be encouraged. Soil should be improved to a depth of 30 cm by adding 25-40% organic matter. The growing of nitrogen-fixing crops, i.e. leguminous plants, is also worth considering. Paths should be walked regularly to help stop the germination of weeds but growing areas should not be walked on to avoid soil compaction.
Many vegetables can be grown in the winter months with very little watering. Examples are onions, leeks, carrots, fennel, cabbage, lettuce, parsley, celery and beetroot.
Text by John Banks
A builder was employed to create the path and terrace and Jocelyn talked about the importance of good preparation. The path’s foundation was made with crushed rock gravel, then a layer of geo-textile and finally a covering of well-compacted fine gravel. The natural soil in the garden is heavy red clay over rock, so for the sloping bank linking the terrace and the main garden new lighter soil was brought in and mixed with river sand. In October 2010 a group of branch members visited to put the plants in (see account below), and at the time there was concern that the soil might wash away in heavy rain. However, it held firm and was subsequently mulched with medium (15/25) gravel. The clay soil appears to have been a fortunate choice as the bank needed to be watered only three times in 2011.
To the north-west of the path the land remains much as it was when Jocelyn arrived, with a mixture of local vegetationincluding Quercus ilex, Arbutus unedo and Viburnum tinus. The central area has had some trees planted in it, including a fig, an almond and an Acer monspessulanum. An Albizia julibrissin did not survive and was replaced by a quince.
All the plants here are from a mountainous monsoon area of China and, although they can manage with very little water, they are watered twice a week in very dry weather in order to produce large flowers and delight the butterflies.
There were fewer wild flowers than normal for this time of year, but we did see Cistus albidus, Iris lutescens subsp. lutescens (syn. Iris chamaeiris) and one member of the orchid family, the violet-coloured Limodorum abortivum.
Text and photographs by Ann Killingback and Michael Pritchard
At the end of March in high, almost summer heat, ten enthusiastic and excitedmembers set out on a very real voyage of discovery when they attended the launch of the Languedoc branch’s one week beginners’ “taster” course in the design and construction of gardens suitable for the mediterranean climate and landscape. Two keen members even came from the UK!
The course was held at Branch Head Christine Savage’s home and garden at Mas d’Arfuyen with the elegant sitting room miraculously transformed into a working classroom with drawing boards and technical equipment. Any participants’ preliminary nerves at the thought of returning to “school” and learning new skills were soon assuaged in the very capable and highly knowledgeable hands of the course tutors (and MGS members) Gill Pound, plant expert of La Petite Pépinière nursery, and Hilary Ivey and James Basson, both local professional mediterranean garden designers themselves.
The rationale behind the course was that many members join the society because they are new to the Languedoc/Provence region and have bought a second home here. They are about to embark on the daunting task of creating a garden in a region with a huge climactic variation (–15 ºC to +40 ºC) and on a terrain markedly different from what they may have been used to. Helping such members learn, through the experience of experts and fellow members, is a way of sharing knowledge, enjoying like-minded friendship and furthering the aims of the Society.
With these goals in mind, the course was specifically designed for members with no prior garden design experience or drawing skills, but with an interest in art, design and mediterranean gardening. Accordingly, each of the five days had a specific theme and so we débutants started with the principles of garden design, working through how to survey a site and how to draw a plan, with a view to designing a new garden and creating a planting plan.
Hilary caused us to reflect on why we love to have a garden and how we use it.
She displayed considerable confidence and knowledge in teaching us how to assess a site, measure up and draw an initial sketch. We keenly threw ourselves into the task of measuring and “re-designing” the area of Christine’s terrace and garden outside our “classroom” as this was to be our design brief for the coming week. We became dervishes, wheeling our tape measures, and in so doing invented some novel units of measurement (class member Eric Legrand quickly found his name used as an “Eric” (2 metres tall) or “half an Eric” (1 metre).
We were introduced to the principles of scale drawing and soon some highly imaginative and colourful designs were beginning to appear on the drawing boards, particularly after our evocative visit to the garden of local member Arjan Schipper, designed by Dutch landscape designer Michael de Gessel.
Armed with Gill’s encyclopaedic knowledge and her invaluable list of suitable “fave rave” plants for each type of location, our individual designs developed apace.
We were encouraged to release our inner Mondrian, exploring, playing with and drawing shapes. Later James caused us to go, literally, back to the drawing board following his inspirational talk on planting colour combinations, challenging us to create less rigid, more dynamic and exciting designs and to take risks understanding that everything might not quite work but that this could be part of the fun.
And so having taken all of this on board, as best we could, by the final afternoon we were all able to present our designs to our fellow class members and tutors. It was fascinating and heart-warming to see that however each one of us had chosen to interpret the brief, every student had come up with something that was special and unique to them, reflecting their individual interests but nevertheless a design from which we could all learn.
It was in this spirit of sharing that the following general feedback comments were given:
And, specifically, students commented:
To top it all we also had absolutely “sensationnels” lunches prepared by MGS member and course participant Jennifer Hastings and her husband Kevan, and not forgetting fantastic service from maitre d’ Anthony Daniels.
The wonderful botanical walk with Gill into the Dentelles hills on Wednesday evening, followed by a picnic supper on the hillside and the Thursday evening dinner at the charming Pont de l’Orme restaurant, finished off a memorable week, not just in the satisfaction we had experienced through learning new skills and giving us ideas to take home to our own gardens, but in creating, or reinforcing, friendships, something which is so key to the success of our society.
Lastly, but by no means least, huge thanks to Christine and Anthony for having their lives and home turned literally upside down. The bad news from their perspective is that we can’t wait until the next course…
Text by Sara Robinson
We were led by a passionate plant hunter, Gérard Weiner of the Pépinière Botanique de Vaugines. Gérard often comes here to this protected site with a very specific ecosystem to collect seeds for propagation. The soil covering on the limestone is almost non-existent and plant roots are anchored by the numerous faults and fissures in the rock. On this day he was leading our MGS group and also hoping to find a particular plant, Pistacia x saportae, a natural hybrid of P. lentiscus and P. terebinthus.
Gérard had prepared a list of about 40 plants that he thought we might find, and many of them were there:
We ate picnic lunch in the Calanque de Sugiton overlooking a glittering but rough sea.
Suddenly Gerard’s eyes lit up, he had spotted a tiny plant. “Voilà! C’est l’hybride pistacia….” He was happy and so were we.
Text by Christine Savage.
Salvias can be propagated by division in spring or early autumn, by cuttings taken from the apex of the plant in February or by sowing seeds. With cuttings, Frédéric uses a hormone powder to inhibit top growth and encourage root development. He recommends sowing seeds very soon after they have been gathered, otherwise they lose their viability.
Frédéric suggested the following salvias for the Languedoc and Provence. All of these are hardy to -15 °C unless indicated:
Salvia amplexicaulis – found wild throughout France. Cut the stems to the ground after flowering
After the talk and questions, we had lunch in the restaurant, then went outside with our catalogues to look at the range of plants laid out there.
Though too soon to plant in the currently frozen ground, many members were inspired by the talk and tempted to buy, especially the more unusual species that are normally difficult to find.