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May /mai 2010 – Le Jardin d’Elie Alexis

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

After our visit to la Soldanelle we drove the short distance to Roquebrusanne where we ate our picnic lunch at the Jardin d’Elie Alexis. While we ate, we were given an introduction to this truly provençal garden.

Born in 1908, Elie Alexis’ love affair with nature and his plot of land started with the gift of a bee-hive when he was twelve years old. The family acquired a piece of uncultivated land, which was later developed by Elie as a traditional subsistence garden, where the emphasis was on growing food, and commercial plants, such as woad for dye.

Here Elie also established a cactus garden (a genus he grew to love during his military service in North Africa) and cultivated plants he gathered on botanising expeditions into the surrounding countryside. All his cultivation was underpinned by the requirement to use as little water as possible, for the only source of water on the site was a series of tanks built to capture rainwater. Despite his lack of formal education, his ideas and philosophy made him well-known and respected in intellectual circles and he was visited by botanists, philosophers, geologists and artists.

The garden is now run by an association dedicated to reviving Elie’s unique landscape.

It is full of interesting and unusual plants and their efforts have been rewarded with a listing as one of the Jardins Remarquables de la France.

Ferula communis
Ptilostemon gnaphaloides, more compact than P. chamaepeuce

Text: Sandra Cooper
Photos: Christine Daniels