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October / octobre 2018
Visite du jardin Le Vallon du Brec, Coursegoules, Alpes-Maritimes

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On a beautiful sunny Friday in October, we visited the garden at Le Vallon du Brec, a jardin remarquable situated in the hinterland of Nice at a height of 1000 metres. The garden was created in 1992 by a painter and photographer who used Japanese influences to enhance the steeply wooded site overlooking a small valley. When they moved, the garden suffered a period of neglect, however now new owners have breathed life back into the space and enhanced it with their own ideas. The garden contains plants from China, Japan and North America as well as indigenous ones. There are red-painted wooden structures, redolent of Japan, comprising staircases, platforms and arches, and a more Persian-looking turquoise pavilion overlooking a tranquil fish pond and swimming pool. The turquoise colour of the pavilion is echoed in the oil-painted tree trunks, which also greet one at the entrance to the garden.

Par un beau vendredi d’octobre ensoleillé, nous avons visité le jardin du Vallon du Brec, jardin remarquable situé dans l’arrière-pays niçois à une altitude de 1000 mètres. Le jardin fut créé en 1992 par un peintre et photographe qui utilisa l’influence japonaise pour mettre en valeur le site fortement boisé donnant sur une petite vallée. Quand les propriétaires quittèrent les lieux, le jardin subit une période de négligence, cependant les nouveaux propriétaires ont su insuffler une nouvelle vie dans cet endroit grâce à leurs propres idées. Le jardin comporte des plantes originaires de Chine, du Japon et d’Amérique du Nord ainsi que des plantes locales. Il y a des structures en bois peintes en rouge, suggérant le Japon, à savoir des marches d’escalier, plateformes et arches et aussi un pavillon turquoise à l’allure persane surplombant un bassin rempli de poissons et une piscine. La nuance turquoise du pavillon est répétée à travers la peinture à l’huile recouvrant les troncs des arbres qui accueillent les visiteurs à l’entrée du jardin.

Due to the warm October we have had this year the garden was only just beginning to show its autumnal colours.

A cause du mois d’octobre assez doux cette année, le jardin commençait tout juste à montrer ses couleurs automnales.

The owners also showed us around their beautiful and originally decorated house with its two spacious gites and an artist’s studio.
After the garden tour, we walked up the hill to Sophie’s restaurant where we had an excellent lunch.

Les propriétaires nous ont également fait visiter leur maison décorée avec gout et originalité et les deux grands gites ainsi que le studio d’artiste.
Après la visite du jardin, nous sommes montés jusqu’au restaurant de Sophie en haut de la colline où on nous a servi un excellent déjeuner.

Our thanks to Martin Smith who organised this delightful day. See more photos of the garden on the Vallon du Brec website.

Merci à Martin Smith qui a organisé cette charmante journée. Voir d’autres photos du jardin sur le site Internet du Vallon du Brec.

Text and photos : June Grindley
Traduction en français : Chantal Guiraud


May 2019 – Pre-AGM trip to Catalonia

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Two days of walks, garden visits, and delicious food and wine organised by André Guiraud, Jennifer Hastings and Kevan Kristjanson. We were based in Platja d’Aro, on the stunning Catalan coast.

For those with access to the MGi Forum, there is an album of additional photos from this trip, contributed by a number of participants. To access it, log on to the Forum in the usual way and scroll down to ‘Photo Share’.

An energetic hike on the Costa Brava

As part of the 2019 MGF pre-AGM outing, a group of 14 hikers took on a small portion of the famous ‘CamÍ de Ronda’ (which can be translated as ‘path of the rounds’ or ‘customs trail’). Starting at the recently done-up Platja de Castell we first walked to the beautiful and colourful fishing hamlet at Cala s’Alguer.

Setting off across the Platja de Castell
Cala s’Alguer

The main part of the hike saw us cross the Platja de Castell to find the Camí de Ronda, taking us high above the spectacular coast. Diverting slightly from the main part of the Camí brought us closer to the cliff’s edge with views to the sea, great visual pleasure paid for dearly by the intense climb to get back to the main path.

Our destination, the beach at Cala Roca Bona, was reached at a perfect time to enjoy our picnic lunch and for some, a brief swim in the sea.

After our refreshing break we returned by the same path, although the views were quite different walking in the other direction. Just past the Cala de Senià half the group chose the inland ‘Camí Antica’ (old path) and were rewarded by the unexpected ‘Barraca de Salvador Dalí’ (Dali’s cabin), built for him by his friend, Alberto Puig Palau, to be used as a studio. Those who returned by the sea path visited the ruins of the 6thc.BC Poblat Ibèric de Castell (Iberian village of Castell).

Barraca de Salvador Dalí
Poblat Ibèric de Castell

A few plants observed along the way…

Antirrhinum barrelieri subsp. litigiosum
Opuntia tomentosa
Onopordum acanthum?
Cistus albidus
Cistus libanotis

Text and photos: Kevan Kristjanson

The Jardí Botànic de Cap Roig

The gardens of Cap Roig were created in 1927 by a Russian colonel, Nicholas Voevodsky, and his English wife, Dorothy Webster. They are set in a unique location, 17 hectares along the Mediterranean Sea, and are now home to almost 1000 botanical species from all over the world.

In their will, the Voevodsky family left the ownership of the gardens and the castle where they had lived to the ‘la Caixa’ Foundation which now maintains and preserves the site.

The entrance to the garden is like a small Mediterranean village square, with small houses where the workers and gardeners and their families used to live. The first flowers we saw along the path were some magnificent bougainvilleas.

Bougainvillea hibrida ‘Sanderiana’

At the top of the terraces a Cedrus atlantica overlooks a variety of roses and alongside the path, Trachelospermum jasminoides. We then approached the palm tree garden where we admired the view towards the Formigues Islands and the giant cycad palm (Macrozamia moorei), beds of grasses and a large selection of rock plants.

At the end of the path is the castle, reddish in colour, where renovation works are underway so it is not open to visitors. This is also the location of an open-air auditorium, hosting a music and dance festival.

Next we came to a pond with some Cercis siliquastrum, olive trees and dwarf pomegranate bushes (Punica granatum). A number of different garden rooms have been created, each with its own character and a different planting scheme – the Lovers’ Garden with hydrangeas and gardenias, the square Colonel’s Garden filled with Santolina chamaecyparisus and the Corporal’s Garden, encircled by a hedge of Viburnum lucidum.

Following the Cap Roig Path we came to an area planted with a wide variety of mature cactus, aloe, agave and succulents, then to the Formigues Mirador with a stunning view of the coast and the islands.

View through the trees to the cactus and succulent garden

Turning towards the castle, the path then led us past a wide selection of aromatic pelargoniums backed by Banksia integrifolia and different types of dogwoods to a square where apparently the Voevodskys used to take tea while looking out to sea.

Pelargonium ‘Attar of Roses’
Pelargonium ‘Clorinda’
Pelargonium ‘Coca-cola’

The garden is beautifully maintained and almost all of the plants are clearly labelled. It was looking stunning for our visit at the end of May, but due to the very wide variety of mature plants it would be worth visiting again at different times of the year to fully appreciate all it has to offer.

Here are a few plants which were at their best when we were there:

Iochroma australe syn. Acnistus australis
Gomphostigma virgatum
Grevillea johnsonii
Nepeta racemosa syn. Nepeta mussinii
Helichrysum argyrophyllum
Iris germanica ‘Presence’

Text: Hedwige Lauwaert
Photos: Christine Daniels

Jardí Botànic de Marimurtra, Blanes

Ascending the steep and winding lane above Blanes we had no idea that hidden within the walls of Marimurtra Botanical Garden we would find 4000 plant species, most of them exotic ones, as well as several specimen palms and pines that are extraordinary because of their age or size.

Marimurtra is the work of a man with a passion for nature. Carl Faust (Hadamar, Germany 1874 – Blanes 1952), was a local businessman who devoted his hopes, his efforts and all his fortune to make his dream come true within the Botanical Garden of Marimurtra.

Garden plan

Nowadays the garden focuses not only on areas with a Mediterranean climate but also boasts a large and very imposing cactus and succulent garden containing magnificent specimens from the arid zones of America.

Encephalartos horridus

Coupled with breathtaking viewpoints from the cliffs out across the sea, this is an informative garden in a lovely setting and makes a very worthwhile visit when in this part of the Costa Brava.

Approaching the Templet of Linné

Text: Sara Robinson
Photos: Christine Daniels

Jardins de Santa Clotilde, Lloret de Mar

After the exuberance of the other Costa Brava gardens, the restrained Italian Renaissance style of the Jardins de Santa Clotilde came as a welcome surprise – a fabulous site sloping steeply to the sea, deeply green and shady with mature cypresses and stone pines, lawns enclosed by hedges, long vistas punctuated by statues, benches and fountains.

Designed by Nicolau Rubió i Tudurí for the Marquis de Roviralta in 1919, this garden is not a pastiche, but a manifestation of some of the principles of the Noucentisme movement in early 20thc. Catalan culture. The term neatly combines a reference to the ‘nineteen hundreds’ in the Italian tradition with the word for ‘new’ (nou means both ‘nine’ and ‘new’ in Catalan) – a movement of renovation, whose guiding principles, including classicism and civility, would help to create an ‘ideal’ Catalonia. Its adherents believed that perfection of form and proportion were not just abstract ideas for literature, but should extend to all areas of life for civilising effect. Harmony and structure such as that of the Jardins de Santa Clotilde represent civility in contrast to the perceived ‘barbarism’ of the countryside, and emphasise Catalonia’s links to a common Mediterranean and classical cultural heritage.

We were perhaps less impressed by the philosophy behind these lovely gardens than by their quiet and almost austere design. We loved the long flights of steps with simple dark green ivy running between…

We loved the statues and benches…

the air of calm….

…but most of all we loved the constant views out towards the sea.

Text and photos: Sandra Cooper


May / mai 2019
A visit to gardens in Vallauris and Cagnes-sur-Mer

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On May 21st we visited two very interesting gardens – each one had been given a very personal touch by the owners.

Madame Zanini’s garden in Vallauris

In the morning we met at the entrance of a very special garden, owned by Madame Zanini. She and her husband moved to the property when they retired in 1998, when it was a citrus farm. The couple decided to cut down all the 78 lemon trees that had previously been exploited commercially and turn the restanques into a garden. Before retiring, the Zaninis had grown vegetables but never had a personal garden, because of lack of time.

Evidently, their plant knowledge, although downplayed by Madame, must have served them to develop the extraordinary garden we visited. From the moment we entered the property, everywhere we looked, there were unusual species of plants. Every square metre was occupied with wonderfully lush-looking specimens of all kinds and types: hydrangea climbing up the wall of the house at the entrance, Thunbergia grandiflora on the north wall, Cestrum nocturnum, blue solanum, ficus, euphorbias, Juanulloa mexicana, a Mahonia x media ‘Charity’… As we entered the courtyard a huge display of potplants, including a collection of geraniums from the Canaries, Madeira and Africa, were blooming prolifically. As we walked further into the garden, we discovered several terraces with a large variety of pot plants, all thriving.

Every square metre was occupied with plants

Madame told us that until a couple of years ago, she had 150 different types of geranium, but over time she had given many away to friends and family.

As we walked along small paths and took steps up and down the garden, the plants kept coming – brachychitons of impressive size, including B. acerifolius, Erythrina lysistemon, different types of callistemon, Senna didymobotrya (syn. Cassia didymobotrya) smelling of peanut, a huge Persea americana going around the wall and up and down the garden, with mini, gherkin-sized avocados, and another avocado tree, P. americana var. ‘Hass’. Then it continued with Stenocarpus sinuatus, Hardenbergia violacea (syn. H. monophyla), wonderful strelitzias in flower, a Petrea volubilis and many, many more plants. In addition, we noticed one or two greenhouses, packed with cacti and succulents.

Underneath the huge trees and plants were many different, smaller plants and ground cover. At the time of our visit the Freesia laxa (red and white) were in flower. Several of the visitors were generously offered some small plants to take home. The climate of the property, close to the coast, means that there is little to no frost and relatively high humidity in summer. The soil in the garden is rich, black and deep, and holds moisture well, a legacy from the lemon tree days.

This microclimate contributes to the rapid growth of the various plants and trees in the garden. However, without the couple’s dedication and love for plants, this garden would not be what it is today. Madame didn’t want to let us go until we tasted her limoncello, home-made from different citrus fruits. Excellent indeed! Certainly, a visit to be remembered!

Strelitzias in flower
A greenhouse packed with succulents
Red-flowered Freesia laxa
Tillandsia sp

The Marro garden in Cagnes-sur-Mer

Most of us continued to the next garden, the Marro garden in Cagnes-sur-Mer, owned by Jean-Paul Spinetta. This was a totally different experience. After enjoying our picnic lunch under the trees, we were taken on a tour by the passionate owner of the property. We were presented with a small movie, showing how the family had lived on the same property since 1928. At that time the property lay in productive farming countryside, but now it is surrounded by buildings, with the railway line and motorway close by.

Produce used to be grown here, and in order to ensure there was access to irrigation, the fields were edged and crossed by man-made water channels, taking water from local streams and natural springs. At weekly intervals, water distribution took place to each of the fields. A very clever system indeed. Unfortunately, much of the water channel system in the area is now out of use, but on this property, as demonstrated to us by the owners, the channels and two springs are still working perfectly. We were also shown examples of tools, used by the family in the past to work the fields.

Next we visited different parts of the garden and at each stop were given useful tips. We were shown examples of two trees next to each other– one growing strongly, a different species not doing well, “simply because they don’t like each other, I shouldn’t have planted them together”, the owner explained. Indeed, we saw, in another spot in the garden, the same species of tree doing very well. We noticed that the owners had hung broken eggshells in small nets in the trees, to minimize aphid infestation. After the visit I tried this trick myself at home, and yes, it does reduce the number of aphids. They explained to us that santolinas help to reduce infestations by ants. This year on our property they are everywhere – I wish I had planted more santolinas!

And the tips kept coming: how marigolds (Calendula officinalis) help reduce parasites in fruit trees and in the vegetable garden, how citrus skin does the same for roses, how to increase magnesium levels in the soil by burying banana skins. We then visited the rose garden, saw olive trees and a plantation of different grape varieties. The owner still manually presses his own grapes and olives to make wine and olive oil.

Monsieur Spinetta in the vegetable garden

This garden of treasures merits preservation in the middle of galloping urbanization. It receives visits from locals and from school children who, we were told, are inspired by what they see. A great initiative.

Text and photographs: Jacqueline Potter


May / mai 2019
A day in the Luberon / Une journée en Luberon

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The entrance to the Domaine de la Citadelle / L’entrée du Domaine de la Citadelle

The day began at the Domaine de la Citadelle in Ménerbes, under a clear sky with hardly any wind. In the 1990s, Yves Rousset-Rouard abandoned his life in Marseille and acquired this historic domaine in order to indulge his passion: winemaking. More recently he realised his second dream, that of creating a botanical garden. Overlooking the surrounding countryside, six terraces (restanques), which date back to the 18th century, have been planted with hundreds of wild plants, grouped according to their properties: aromatic, medicinal, magical and edible.

Aujourd’hui, le mistral ne souffle presque plus et c’est sous un ciel limpide que nous démarrons notre journée au domaine de la Citadelle à Ménerbes. Dans les années 90, Yves Rousset-Rouard quitte sa vie sur Marseille et acquière ce domaine historique pour vivre sa passion : la viticulture. Depuis peu, il a réalisé son deuxième rêve, celui de créer un jardin botanique. Sur six restanques datant 18ème siècle, des centaines de plantes sauvages, aromatiques, médicinales, magiques et comestibles font fasses au paysage environnant.

Our guides were Nadine Maffli, President of the association, ‘Le Silène et l’Ortie’ and Brigitte Bergeron, President of the association, ‘Un savoir oublié’. Both passionate about wild plants, they explained the strong links which have existed between mankind and plants for thousands of years, from the observations of early man to current scientific research. We also learned about the symbolism of plants, the beliefs that man has held in relation to them, as well as their therapeutic properties and their use in cooking. Our five senses contributed to our discovery of their wide diversity: the noise of the common white (bladder) campion (Silene vulgaris) when the seed heads are beaten against the back of one’s hand; the peppery flavour of ‘Hot and Spicy’ oregano; the aroma of curry from the flowers of Helichrysum italicum; the prickly leaves of the milk thistle and the intense violet-blue of the little bell-shaped comfrey flowers

Nous sommes guidées par deux passionnées, Nadine Maffli, présidente de l’association “Le Silène et L’Ortie”, et Brigitte Bergeron, présidente de l’association “un Savoir oublié”. Nous explorons avec elles le lien étroit qui existe entre l’homme et les plantes depuis des millénaires : des observations des premiers hommes à la recherche scientifique actuelle. De la symbolique et des croyances que les hommes ont entretenus avec les plantes, à leurs vertus thérapeutiques ou leurs usages culinaires. Nos cinq sens sont mis à contribution pour découvrir leur grande diversité : le bruit de la pétarel (Silene vulgaris) qu’on claque sur le dos de la main, le goût pimenté de la feuille d’origan ‘Hot and Spicy’, l’odeur de curry des fleurs d’Helichrysum italicum, le piquant des feuilles du chardon-marie ou encore le violet intense des petites clochettes de la consoude en fleurs.

Walking up through the woods to reach the botanical garden
Nous montons à travers la forêt pour accéder au jardin botanique
A stunning view over the surrounding countryside
Le jardin botanique offre une vue imprenable sur la campagne environnante
Nadine shows us aromatic herbs and describes their use in cooking and medicine
Nadine nous présente les herbes aromatiques, leurs utilisations en cuisine
et en médecine
Brigitte explains the significance of magical plants, and poisonous species
Brigitte nous présente les plantes magiques, leurs significations
et les espèces toxiques

The flowers of Helichrysum italicum (or curry plant) which impart their characteristic flavour to cooking, are also used in aromatherapy, for treating bruises and inflammatory pain.

Les fleurs de l’herbe à curry, Helichrysum italicum, sont utilisés en cuisine pour leur goût de curry si caractéristique et en aromathérapie pour traiter les hématomes et les douleurs inflammatoires.

There is wide diversity of oreganos: Origanum syriacum, as one might expect, from Syria, is often mixed with sesame seeds and sumac to make zaatar, frequently used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Origanum vulgare ‘Compactum’ is a powerful antibiotic; the essential oil derived from it should be used only with the advice of a professional. The peppery oregano (Origanum vulgare ‘Hot and Spicy’), really is!

Il y a une grande diversité des origans : l’origan de Syrie, Origanum syriacum, est utilisé comme condiment en mélange avec du sésame et du sumac pour former le zaatar, l’origan compact, Origanum vulgare ‘Compactum’, est un puissant antibiotique dont l’huile essentielle est à utiliser avec les conseils d’un professionnel, l’origan épicé, Origanum vulgare ‘Hot and Spicy’, dont le goût est vraiment pimenté.

Helichrysum italicum
A variety of oregano plants

Marjoram (Origanum majorana) belongs to the same family as oregano and yet its properties are very different. It has a calming and soporific effect, whereas oregano is more of a stimulant.

La marjolaine, Origanum majorana, est de la même famille que l’origan et pourtant ses vertus sont très différentes. La marjolaine a un effet calmant et facilite le sommeil tandis que l’origan est plutôt stimulant.

Box, Buxus sempervirens, is commonly associated with death and has funereal connotations.

Le buis, Buxus sempervirens, est associé à la mort et à une symbolique funéraire.

Origanum majorana
Buxus sempervirens

Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) is associated with sorcery and evil. The entire plant is extremely toxic because it produces atropine, a tropane alkaloid which is found in several plants of the Solanaceae family, such as daturas and mandrake. Depending on the dosage it can lead to hallucinations, trances and even death.

La belladone, Atropa belladonna est associée à la sorcellerie et au malin. Toute la plante est très toxique car elle produit de l’atropine, un alcaloïde tropanique que l’on retrouve chez plusieurs plantes de la famille des Solanaceae comme le datura et la mandragore. A certaines doses elle provoque des hallucinations et des transes et à haute dose la mort.

Common comfrey (Symphytum officinale) containing allantoides which stimulate bone and skin healing, is used to treat sprains and fractures. However, one has to be careful, as it also contains alkaloids, which in high doses can be toxic for the liver.

La consoude officinale, Symphytum officinale, contient des allantoïdes qui stimulent la réparation des os et de l’épiderme, elle est utilisée pour traiter les entorses et les fractures. Attention, elle contient aussi des alcaloïdes qui à fortes doses sont toxiques pour le foie.

Atropa belladonna
Symphytum officinale

Pellitory (Parietaria officinalis L.), a member of the nettle family, has been known to our ancestors for a long time. It has purifying properties and is used to compensate for mineral deficiencies and to treat gallstones and cystitis.

La pariétaire, Parietaria officinalis L., serait connu de nos ancêtres depuis très longtemps d’où son nom. Elle a des propriétés dépuratives, elle est utilisée pour combler les carences en minéraux, traiter les calculs urinaires et les cystites.

White sedum (Sedum album L.) is edible.

Le sedum blanc, Sedum album L. est comestible.

Parietaria officinalis L.
Sedum album L.

Hart’s pennyroyal (Mentha cervina) is one of the numerous species and varieties of mint.

La menthe des cerf, Mentha cervina, est l’une des nombreuses espèces et variétés de menthe.

The entire milk thistle plant (Silybum marianum L.) is edible, from the root to the flower buds. However, a certain patience is required to remove all the spines from the leaves before cooking them.

Dans le chardon-Marie, Silybum marianum L., tout est comestible, de la racine aux boutons floraux. Il faut cependant avoir la patience d’enlever toutes les épines des feuilles avant de les cuisiner.

Mentha cervina
Silybum marianum L.

We enjoyed our lunch in the small courtyard of the domaine: wine-tasting and a picnic specially created for us, based on wild plants and herbs, freshly prepared by Romain Dumas, chef at the restaurant l’Art des Mets.

Nous apprécions notre pause déjeuner attablés dans la petite cour du domaine. Au programme : dégustation des vins produits au domaine puis pique-nique sur la thématique des herbes fraîches et sauvages préparé par Romain Dumas, chef cuisinier du restaurant l’Art des Mets.

Our lunch stop / Pause déjeuner

In the afternoon we went on to Bonnieux, a charming and typically provençal village, perched on the side of a cliff. There we were greeted by Sylvie and Pascal Verger, the fortunate owners of the La Louve which they bought five years ago.

L’après-midi, nous nous rendons à Bonnieux, un charmant village typiquement provençal perché à flanc de falaise. Nous sommes accueillis par Sylvie et Pascal Verger, les heureux propriétaires du jardin de La Louve depuis cinq ans.

The garden was created in the 1990s by Nicole de Vésian, a former fashion designer for Hermès who was fanatical about gardening in general and especially about what has come to be known as the provençal style of gardening. She worked hard for 10 years to create a complex, refined and very personal work of art: a collection of terraces, living spaces and quiet corners for contemplation where stone, wood and clipped Mediterranean evergreen and silvery plants harmonise with, and blend subtly into, the surrounding countryside. In her early 80s she sold the property to Judith Pillsbury who in turn worked hard to keep the living work of art, which was already a famous garden, alive. In 2014 Sylvie and Pascal Verger took over. They are committed to preserving Nicole’s garden, extending and renewing it as necessary whilst maintaining the spirit of its creator and taking into account the climatic and water constraints of Provence.

Le jardin a été créé dans les années 90 par Nicole de Vésian, styliste chez Hermès et passionnée de jardinage, dans l’esprit des jardins de Provence. Elle s’attèle pendant dix ans à créer une œuvre complexe, raffinée et personnelle : un ensemble de terrasses, d’espaces à vivre et d’espaces contemplatifs où la pierre, le bois brut et les plantes méditerranéennes s’accordent subtilement au paysage local. A l’aube de ses 80 ans, elle vend la propriété à Judith Pillsbury qui s’investis pleinement à faire vivre ce jardin déjà célèbre. En 2014, Sylvie et Pascal Verger reprennent le flambeau et le défi est de taille : faire vivre et renouveler le jardin tout en gardant l’esprit de sa créatrice et en répondant aux contraintes climatiques et hydriques qu’impose la vie en Provence.

The garden consists of a mass of small, carefully managed spaces, on different levels, most of which look out onto the surrounding countryside.

Le jardin est composé d’un enchevêtrement de petits espaces très travaillés dont la plupart donnent sur le paysage naturel environnant.

The lavender field, situated on the lowest level, has recently been replanted. Here again, the space was designed to allow one’s gaze to wander far over the wooded countryside.

Le champ de lavande se trouve sur la terrasse la plus basse, il a récemment été renouvelé. Ici encore, cet espace a été conçu pour laisser le regard se perdre au loin dans la campagne arborée.

There are numerous shady spots, more or less hidden in the vegetation, lending themselves to rest and contemplation. Wrought iron chairs there, a weathered wooden bench here, a stone seat…

Il y a de nombreux endroits ombragés, plus ou moins cachés par la végétation propice au repos et à la contemplation. Là des chaises en fer forgé, ici un banc de bois brut patiné par le temps, là une assise en pierre de taille.

Texte et photos: Nina Guichard
Translation into English: Frances Horne


April / avril 2019
A visit to two private gardens in the Var

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On a very wet April morning 19 stoical members set out to visit two delightful gardens in the Var. On arrival at Mavis’s charming and informal garden in Carcès she kindly sat us down in her garden room, out of the rain, to tell us about the development of the garden. She and her late husband moved to the house and garden 22 years ago, and she has been working on the garden since then.

A wet start to the visit
Part of the cistus collection

Describing it as a ‘Potterer’s Garden’, Mavis is a keen plantswoman who loves to take cuttings and propagate them. She then looks for an appropriate space in the garden, and ‘pops them in’. Her early work included a major cut back of pine tree and ‘chênes verts’ to provide room to develop the informal planting. Mavis has a wonderful collection of cistus and euphorbias and extremely pretty ground cover perennials, including alpine phlox for early flowering.

Cistus, euphorbias and flowering shrubs

Nearest the kitchen is her well-stocked herb garden, and we learned a useful tip: do not plant different varieties of mint in the same area or unwanted hybrids will result!

The herb garden

Mavis is a real enthusiast, and this is very evident in the exuberant collection of trees, shrubs and perennials.

We enjoyed an excellent lunch in Montfort, and were able to dry off and warm up, before visiting Saskia’s lovely garden in Correns. An added bonus was that the rain had stopped! Saskia and her husband bought a plot of land on a hillside 14 years ago, built their house, and Saskia has enjoyed planning and planting the garden ever since. The garden has a fantastic view over the valley to the massif of Le Grand Bessillon, but is exceptionally rocky. The first job was to clear a large number of pine trees and some of the oaks, to allow more light into the garden and olive grove. Saskia made use of the large boulders which were dug up for the house foundations and pool to create rocky enclosures and walls. Cistus, rosemary and lavender grow profusely in the gravel garden and a magnificent Japanese wisteria hangs down from a trellis providing exquisitely perfumed shade.

A cheerful display of planted pots
Cistus, rosemary and lavender in the gravel garden
The wisteria

Saskia is a dedicated gardener, devoting about two hours a day to planning, planting and maintaining this delightful garden.

Text: Gill Robinson
Photos: Gill Robinson and Nicola D’Annunzio