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Visits to the gardens of Château Pérouse and Henry Nardy / Visites aux jardins de Château Pérouse et de Henry Nardy

Click on the images to enlarge them / Cliquez sur les images pour les agrandir

Château Pérouse is situated on the Costières plateau, near Nîmes. Upon our arrival we noticed various large trees around the chateau, including several magnificent century-old cedars. The owner, Jan-Willem Voss, welcomed us and gave us a description of the Château Pérouse botanical park, and of his project.

Le domaine du Château Pérouse se situe sur le plateau des Costières, près de Nîmes. Dès notre arrivée, on note aux abords du château la présence de grands arbres dont de magnifiques cèdres plus que centenaires. Le propriétaire des lieux Jan-Willem Voss nous accueille et nous présente le parc botanique de Château-Pérouse et son projet.

The park extends to 72 hectares, 52 of which are dedicated to botanical gardens. Under development for about fifteen years, it is part of a new and ambitious research project. The intention is to gather the knowledge required for creating micro biotopes favourable to acclimatising plants from all regions with a Mediterranean climate. It already hosts four CCVS (Conservatoire des Collections Végétales Spécialisées) labelled collections (acacias, eucalyptus, melaleuca, podocarpus). The acclimatisation of plants necessitates creating an adapted landscape, recreating soil with substrates that best mimic those of the original biotopes, adapting irrigation and controlling many other parameters. Seven botanist-gardeners are employed full-time and numerous collaborations have been established with other botanical gardens.

Ce parc s’étend sur 72 hectares dont 52 sont dédiés aux jardins botaniques. En développement depuis une quinzaine d’années, il s’inscrit dans une démarche de recherche inédite et ambitieuse. Le projet vise à accumuler les connaissances nécessaires pour la création de micro biotopes favorables à l’acclimatation de plantes venues de toutes les régions à climat méditerranéen de la planète. Il accueille déjà quatre collections labellisées CCVS (acacias, eucalyptus, melaleuca, podocarpus). L’acclimatation des plantes suppose d’aménager un paysage adapté, de recréer un sol avec des substrats imitant au mieux ceux des biotopes d’origine, une irrigation adaptée et bien d’autres paramètres à contrôler. Sept botanistes-jardiniers sont employés à plein-temps et de nombreuses collaborations sont nouées avec d’autres jardins botaniques.

Welcome by Jan-Willem Voss / Accueil par Jan-Willem Voss
Substrates ready to be mixed for testing / Substrats prêts à être mélangés pour les tests

The tour started with a visit to the greenhouses, continuing with the experimental garden and the river garden. You can read a full report on this visit in the Garden Diaries – Château Pérouse section.

La visite a commencé par des serres, se poursuivant par les jardins d’expérimentation et le jardin de la rivière. Vous pouvez lire un compte-rendu complet de cette visite dans la rubrique Journaux de jardin – Château Pérouse.

After a picnic in the shade of the tall trees, we thanked Jan-Willem Voss and his team for their warm welcome.

Après un pique-nique sous les grands arbres nous remercions Jan-Willem Voss et son équipe pour leur chaleureux accueil.

Note that Jan-Willem Voss has generously donated 500 species of seeds for the  MGI seed list. For more information about Château Pérouse, we encourage you to visit the website chateau-perouse.com, where you will also find an extensive database (over 18,000 taxa) which provides general information and links to one page per taxon of detailed information.

Rappelons que Jan-Willem Voss a généreusement fait don de 500 espèces de graines pour la Liste de Graines MGi. Pour plus d’informations, nous vous encourageons à visiter le site Web à chateau-perouse.com où vous trouverez également une vaste base de données (plus de 18 000 taxons) qui fournit des informations générales et des liens vers une page html par taxon comprenant de nombreuses informations.

In the afternoon, about ten of us strolled through the winding alleys of the Jardin de l’Henry, in Lunel, in the Hérault département. The owner, Henry Nardy, a retired former horticulturalist, collects plants from all over the world. He is passionate about his hobby and takes extreme pleasure in talking about his garden, which he regularly opens to the public.

Laprès-midi, nous étions une dizaine à arpenter les allées sinueuses du Jardin de lHenry, à Lunel, dans lHérault. Le propriétaire, Henry Nardy, ancien horticulteur à la retraite, y collectionne des plantes du monde entier. Cest un passionné et il prend un plaisir extrême à raconter son jardin qu’il ouvre régulièrement au public.

We were greeted by a funny scarecrow made by Henry using terracotta pots – a little humorous touch which always brings a smile to the faces of children and adults alike.

Nous sommes accueillis par un drôle de personnage, échafaudé par Henry, l’épouvantail en pots de terre cuite, petite note humoristique qui fait sourire petits et grands.

Le jardin de l’Henry
The flowerpot man / L’homme en pot

We were surrounded by a profusion of leaves, flowers, trees, onions and other bulbs. Beside the path, we admired the virginal whiteness of Chionanthus virginicus.

Partout, des feuilles, fleurs, arbres, oignons et autres bulbes. Au détour du chemin, nous admirons la blancheur virginale de Chionanthus virginicus.

Geranium ‘Johnson’s Blue’
Scilla peruviana ‘Alba
Grevillea juniperina
Chionanthus virginicus

In front of the entrance to the huge greenhouse is an insect hotel. Henry is an exemplary teacher, and often receives schoolchildren in his garden, in order to share with them his knowledge and his love for nature.  The greenhouse contains a wealth of pampered plants grown from seed and from cuttings which Henry generously shares with others.

Avant d’entrer dans l’immense serre qui regorge de plantes semées, bouturées et chouchoutées bien au chaud et qu’il partage avec générosité, nous voici devant l’hôtel à insectes.  Henry est très pédagogue et il ne manque pas de recevoir des écoliers à qui il insuffle un peu de son savoir et de son amour pour la nature.

Insect hotel / Hôtel à insectes

Henry’s Garden is located at the entrance to Lunel, just before the Bois des Petits Pins, at 16, chemin creux de campagne (https://lejardindelhenry.monsite-orange.fr/index.html).

Retrouvez le Jardin de l’Henry, à l’entrée de Lunel, juste avant le bois des Petits Pins, au 16, chemin creux de campagne (https://lejardindelhenry.monsite-orange.fr/index.html)

Text: Chantal Guiraud and Roland Leclercq.

Photos: Liliane Leclercq, Hugues Pelen, Hubert Nivière, Chantal Guiraud.

English proofreading: Nanouk Pelen.

September 2010 – A visit to Château le Plaisir

Click on an image to enlarge it / Cliquez sur une image pour l’agrandir

On a hot September afternoon 40 or so members had the pleasure of visiting the gardens of Château le Plaisir in Aramon, near Avignon.

Designed by lanscape designer, Pascal Cribier, in the 1990s for the Hollander family, the park is divided into differently themed gardens and has many modernist structured features. The first impression is of a traditional shaded courtyard with five rows of grand old Platanus trees and a drive leading to the house with a classical 18th-century façade. The walled promenoir also tells of times past – “an outdoor long gallery” comments one member. Then as we enter the landscaped park, a view of a tall chimney by the Rhone brings us back to the 20th century.

Sandra tells us about the history of the garden
The walled promenoir

We see high, straight Quercus ilex hedges with gaps to peep through, a beautiful pergola, lush springy Zoysia grass, a children’s play area winding through the santolina, the unfinished chess board with a lonely king and queen, and an outdoor theatre whose clipped Olea hedge has apparently caused controversy amongst local people. 

A beautiful pergola
The outdoor theatre

By the pool house, we stop to admire the four weeping Sophora japonica, specially grafted in Italy for this project, and continue through a beautiful wisteria-covered walkway into the water garden, whose cool shade is much appreciated. The idea of growing free-standing wisteria is noted by some.

Sophora japonica
A wisteria-covered walkway

The scent of Clerodendrum trichotomum gives way to that of ripe figs as we move on to discover copses of Ligustrum and various fruit trees. Eventually we emerge into the dry garden with plants from Olivier Filippi and a path made of interesting concrete ‘Roman’ slabs. 

Clerodendrum trichotmum
The dry garden, with jaborosas planted between concrete slabs

Melia trees give shade to the small courtyard behind the house and a display of Hibiscus coccineus is much admired, as we stop to discuss the gaura and buxus meadow – at this time of year predominantly gaura! 

Hibiscus coccineus
The gaura and buxus meadow

The visit ends with drinks offered by the caretakers and Chantal reminds us that it is time to collect and send her seeds for the Seed Exchange. Many thanks to Christine and Sandra for organising this visit.

Text: Mavis Mercoiret
Photos: Mavis Mercoiret, Hilary Ivey and Anthony Daniels

March 2012 – A botanical walk in the Calanques with Gérard Weiner

Click on the images to enlarge them / Cliquez sur les images pour les agrandir

On a bright and beautiful morning in March, twenty-five of us and a well-behaved dog gathered in the hills between Marseille and Cassis for a walk along rocky tracks, through scrubby pine woods, to the sea.

Walking towards Mount Puget

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 walk he was leading our 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 indeed, many of them were growing beside the path:

Rhamnus alaternus
Cistus albidus
Globularia alypum
Senecio cineraria
Ulex parviflorus (L’Ajonc de Provence)
Staehelina dubia
Erica multiflora
Euphorbia characias
Sedum sediforme

We ate our picnic lunch in the Calanque de Sugiton, overlooking a glittering but rough sea.

Suddenly Gerard’s eyes lit up, he had spotted a small plant. “Voilà! C’est l’hybride pistacia!” He was happy and so were we.

Text: Christine Daniels
Photos: Hubert Nivière

February 2011 / Février 2011
Plants for Difficult Situations – A Talk by Christian Mistre
Des plantes pour des situations difficiles – Un discours de Christian Mistre

A brilliantly sunny February day found a healthy crowd of members gathered at Le Jardin de la Gare, hungry for advice on dealing with the problem areas we all have in our gardens.

Une journée de février brillamment ensoleillé a trouvé une foule de membres réunis au Jardin de la Gare, avides de conseils sur la façon de traiter les problèmes que nous avons tous dans nos jardins.

Christian Mistre of Pépinière La Soldanelle was an ideal choice of speaker on this ticklish topic, since he specialises in plants which will tolerate the fairly extreme conditions in his nursery, with 40°C summer temperatures falling to -8 or even -12°C in winter, not to mention the Mistral.

Christian Mistre de la Pépinière La Soldanelle était un choix idéal d’intervenant sur ce sujet difficile, puisqu’il se spécialise dans les plantes qui toléreront les conditions assez extrêmes de sa pépinière, avec des températures estivales de 40°C tombant à -8 voire -12°C en l’hiver, sans oublier le mistral.

Christian’s approach was to examine different difficult situations experienced by members, on the basis that understanding them would enable us to deal better with them. He explained that a plant has no option if it finds itself in a challenging spot – it can’t move (except by sending out seeds), and so must either adapt or perish. A plant’s ability to adapt is affected by numerous criteria, extremes of climate, soil types and so on, and Christian used photographs which many of us had sent to him to illustrate his themes.

L’approche de Christian était d’examiner différentes situations difficiles vécues par les membres, en partant du principe que leur compréhension nous permettrait de mieux les gérer. Il a expliqué qu’une plante n’a pas d’option si elle se trouve dans un endroit difficile – elle ne peut pas bouger (sauf en envoyant des graines) et doit donc s’adapter ou périr. La capacité d’adaptation d’une plante est affectée par de nombreux critères, des climats extrêmes, des types de sols, etc., et Christian a utilisé des photographies que beaucoup d’entre nous lui avaient envoyées pour illustrer ses thèmes.

Sandra Cooper has written this account of the talk.

Sandra Cooper a écrit ce compte rendu de la conférence.

April 2012 – A visit to the garden of Jocelyn van Riemsdijk and a walk in the garrigue

Jocelyn welcomed a group of about 25 members to her garden and gave us a brief history of the two years that she has owned it. In early 2010 a group of MGS members surveyed the land and proposed possible designs.

The chosen plan included a continuous path around the garden and a paved terrace behind the house with a south-west facing, sloping bank with walls and steps down either side to the path.

The terrace and south-west facing, sloping bank

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 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.

The planted bank leading to the garrigue garden
Santolina chamaecyparissus, Iris pallida ‘Aurea Variegata’, Ballota acetabulosa, Lavendula dentata ‘Monet’

To the north-west of the path the land remains much as it was when Jocelyn arrived, with a mixture of local vegetation including Quercus ilexArbutus 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.

The eastern edge of the garden has been developed with plants from the mountainous monsoon area of China: Rosa chinensis, buddleja and photinia. Although these plants can manage with very little water, they are watered twice a week in very dry weather in order to produce large flowers to delight the butterflies.

A walk in the garrigue

After lunch we walked through the garrigue to a magnificent viewpoint, en route passing several capitelles, drystone dwellings constructed in the 18th century.

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.

A capitelle
Limodorum abortivum

Text and photographs: Ann Killingback and Michael Pritchard