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June / juin 2011 – Le Clos Pascal in the village of Ménerbes in the Luberon

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The ‘jardin’

On a perfect summer’s day some 40 members assembled from as far as Grasse in the east and Montpellier in the west to visit Le Clos Pascal which may well be described as a ‘hidden gem’ not only for its quality, but because those who failed to follow the given directions correctly would find it was unknown to shopkeepers a few hundred metres distant. It is situated not far from the centre of the classic hill top town of Ménerbes in the beautiful Luberon valley which has national park status.

The garden was created some twenty years ago by the owner and designer of the better known La Louve garden, Nicole de Vésian. Every garden is different, but in its combination of style and terrain Le Clos Pascal has a particular quality which stays in the memory. It divides itself into two very distinct parts although throughout there is the unifying style of topiary at which the French excel. The first is the ‘jardin’, a large rectangular lawn edged with clipped box shapes and dotted with mature trees, one a plane tree surrounded by boules of Teucrium fructicans.

Clipped box and cypress
A plane tree encircled by Teucrium fruticans

To the side and below there is a pool edged with attractively weathered stone. From the ‘jardin’ a shady walkway, lined with pines and clipped tilleuls (and at ground level more shaped box and teucrium) takes you to the ‘parc’.

Nicole de Vésian’s signature curved seating with a box surround
The ‘parc’

Flat this is not. The steeply sloping site faces south-west with views of the Montagne du Luberon. The soil is shallow, alkaline and stony. Many years previously terraces had been created for farming purposes but had long since fallen into disrepair. Nicole de Vésian specified the reworking of the terraces using reclaimed local stone. The gardener, Stephan, has been there since the garden’s inception and testifies to the extent of the work involved and the attention to detail.

Given the conditions, the plants have been chosen for their drought resistance and watering is done only as needed in high summer.

A lower terrace
An upper terrace
Box steps echo stone ones

An avenue of olive trees
Steps perfumed by the flowers of Trachelospermum jasminoides

As the temperature climbed we were pleased to enjoy some refreshing soft drinks before the majority of the party adjourned to Amanda and Jason Spencer-Cooke’s peaceful courtyard and garden.

Here, not only was shade somehow provided for all but Amanda plied us with a series of goodies including savoury tarts, desserts and a magnificent cheese board…

Text & Photographs: Guy Cheeseman