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June / juin 2015 – The landscape, nurseries and gardens of Quercy, Aveyron
Paysages, pépinières et jardins de Quercy, Aveyron

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18 members of Mediterranean Gardening France made this trip to the beautiful region of Quercy in the Aveyron primarily to visit Fréderic and Mélie Prévot at their extensive pépinière Les Senteurs du Quercy, but also to visit Les Jardins de Quercy near Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val, a picturesque medieval town on the river Aveyron and the garden of members, Liz and Bob Godfrey.

A botanical walk on the Causse de Limogne

Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val
The river Aveyron

We arrived at the pépinière early in the morning and Fred led the way in a convoy of cars along narrow lanes to a high plateau of prairie and semi-cultivated land called le Causse de Limogne. Here we would see the wild flowers of the region, adapted to the dry climate and calcaire, stony soils. Had we visited a week before, we would have seen carpets of beautiful thyme, santolinas and grasses in a tapestry of pinks, yellows, greys and yellows, however due to the extremely hot weather most of the flowers had faded. Even so, one could still appreciate the wealth of different plants.

Stipa pennata

In particular Stipa pennata was still looking good, in waves of floating seed tails across the fields. Also flowering: Anthericum ramosum, Convolvulus cantabricus, Digitalis lutea, Leuzea conifera, Agrostemma githago (corncockle), Linum suffruticosum, Salvia pratensis and some orchids.

Anthericum ramosum
Convolvulus cantabricus
Digitalis lutea
Salvia pratensis
Himantoglossum hircinum (the Lizard Orchid)
Leuzea conifera
Linum suffruticosum subsp. appressum

En route for our restaurant in the Parc naturel de Causse de Quercy, a high plateau of wild and wonderful landscape, we made a brief stop. An interesting stone caselle, of which there are several in the park, had been lovingly reconstructed. These structures were used in the 18th and 19th centuries as shelters for storing tools and for goats and other animals. This area is also famous for truffle hunting but we were more interested in looking at various orchids – we found Anacamptis pyramidalis and Cephalantera rubra growing near the caselle!

A stone caselle
Anacamptis pyramidalis and Cephalantera rubra

Text: Catriona McLean
Photos: Hilary Ivey, Catriona McLean, Christine Daniels and Michèle Auvergne

A visit to Fréderic and Mélie Prévot’s pépinière, Les Senteurs du Quercy

We spent the afternoon at Les Senteurs du Quercy with Fred Prévot. He gave us a guided tour through the fields of irises (his wife Mélie’s main speciality), the polytunnels of propagated plants and the experimental garden.

Fred showing us the lavender collection

The main plant collections are lavenders, cistus, salvias and grasses, all suitable for dry gardening and primarily suited to alkaline (calcaire) soils. You can see all the plant collections on the excellent and user friendly web site.

Eric in the iris fields
Propagated plants in a polytunnel

Plants that caught our eye in the propagation fields and nursery:

Opuntia humifusa
Kitaibelia vitifolia
Artemisia campestris
Helichrysum splendidum
Hemerocalis ‘Sebastian’
Oenothera missouriensis
Phlomis tuberosa
Salvia amplexicaulis

We had a wonderful surprise towards the end of our visit to the nursery. Fred explained that he had to empty and destroy a whole polytunnel of plants that were past their best and unsuitable for sale. “Please help yourself if you want anything before I put these plants in the compost bin.” This was of course ‘manna from heaven’ to MGF members, and we plundered the polytunnel as fast as we could. Space in the car boots was requisitioned for plants, not suitcases!

Tunnel of plenty/Tunnel de cocagne

The day ended with dinner in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val on a terrace overlooking the river Aveyron.

Bridge over the river Aveyron
Hilary, Anthony, Christine, Sandra and Françoise

Text: Catriona McLean
Photos: Hilary Ivey, Catriona McLean, Christine Daniels and Michèle Auvergne

Les Jardins de Quercy

Au cœur du paysage de Causse, Jean Donies et Alain Herreman ont entièrement créé ce jardin d’un hectare sur des prés en pente ouverts sur le paysage vallonné du Tarn-et-Garonne.

Il est composé d’une série de petits et grands jardins à thème que l’on découvre à travers des passages qui serpentent sur la colline.

Jean D. nous a guidé à travers ce dédale qui conduit à la découverte d’une succession de jardins sertis de haies de verdure qui ménagent des espaces invitant au voyage, à la découverte d’ambiances cosmopolites, à l’étonnement et à l’évasion.

Le jardin blanc
Labyrinthe végétal

Chaque jardin raconte une histoire:

Le jardin musical
Le cloitre végétal
Le jardin bleu
Le jardin indien

Les haies astucieusement taillées et disposées ouvrent des vues sur le paysage environnant. L’alternance de buissons taillés en coussins et de ramures plus libres forme la structure du jardin qui épouse la douce pente de la colline.

Le théâtre de verdure

Les chemins mènent à des jardins qui se découvrent au fur et à mesure, de belles potées ponctuent la promenade et de nombreux bancs en accord avec les végétaux invitent à la détente.

Texte: Michèle Auvergne

The beautiful and somewhat eccentric, Jardins de Quercy, near Verfeil-sur-Seye, have been created over the last 25 years by Jean Donies and Alain Herreman. Their passion for visiting gardens in the UK (for example Hidcote, Sissinghurst and Great Dixter) and their travels to Italy, India and other countries, have inspired them to turn a bare hillside into an amazing warren of garden rooms. Tunnels and doorways lead through to lushly planted borders, pools, terraces and even a maze, and ingenuity has been used to reclaim and re-position anything that can add further atmosphere.

The garden has been planted with a wide range of interesting trees, shrubs, roses and perennials (many plants having been ordered from English nurseries) and is maturing well, with a wealth of colour and texture and interesting plant combinations. Lutyens-style seats, painted in various shades to echo the planting, have been placed at opportune spots to make it even more pleasant to view the different areas of this very eclectic garden.

View towards the house
Enjoying coffee and cake in ‘Le granny’s corner’

Some flowers we appreciated:

Rosa ‘The Fairy’
Rosa ‘Chevreuse’
Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’
Cephalaria gigantea

Clematis ‘Blekitny Aniol’
Galega officinalis

Find out more about this garden by visiting its web site.

Text: Catriona McLean
Photos: Michèle Auvergne, Hilary Ivey, Catriona McLean, Christine Daniels

Le Presbytère: chez Liz et Bob Godfrey à Villevayre

Liz et Bob nous ont très chaleureusement accueillis dans leur maison pour le déjeuner. Ils ont entièrement restauré cette belle bâtisse qui était à l’origine un presbytère.

Pour préserver le style de la bâtisse ils ont créé un jardin dans l’esprit et la structure du «jardin de curé» avec des formes géométriques.

Le choix de massifs de lavandes, de vivaces, d’arches de rosiers et de clématites ajoute du charme au jardin.

Le potager est en devenir mais les sangliers sont déjà là !

Merci à Liz et Bob

Text: Michèle Auvergne

The trip ended at Le Presbytère, Liz and Bob Godfrey’s home in Villevayre, where Liz had prepared a delicious lunch. Bob is renovating the house and structural components and Liz has created a formal garden and potager.

Although work on the garden commenced just a few years ago, the plantings are already very successful, with lavenders, clematis, roses and perennials set out in a style modelled on the French ‘jardin de curé’ (to reflect the name of the house). It reminded me also of the garden rooms of Sissinghurst, but here blended with olive trees and hornbeam. A sumptuous Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ in full flower was the star of the show.

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Annabelle’ viewed through the hornbeam hedge
Clematis and roses intertwined
Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’
Clematis viticella ‘Betty Corning’
Clematis viticella ‘Etoile Violette’
Clematis ‘Huldine’
Clematis ‘Dark Eyes’
Clematis ‘Niobe’

Text: Catriona McLean
Photos: Michèle Auvergne, Hilary Ivey, Catriona McLean, Christine Daniels