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May / mai 2018
Gardens in the Alpilles, Bouches-du-Rhône

Jardin Bayol, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

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

This beautiful, secretive garden, home of celebrated Provençal painter, Joseph Bayol, was started over 25 years ago by Madame Bayol and her husband. It reflects a gradual accumulation and careful planting, over many years, of interesting trees, shrubs and perennials and above all, a fabulous collection of roses.

The couple’s obvious devotion to sculpture, pottery, art, colour and texture is found everywhere you turn in this rather eccentric and very private garden.

Randomly created by Madame Bayol as she brought up her family, the garden is full of character, humorous detail and an understanding of plant and colour associations – a real painter’s garden. There are gravel paths leading to mysterious corners under canopies of the most beautiful climbing roses (classic French gallicas and ramblers) and luscious and exuberant ground cover of irises, and hostas in shady, damp corners.

Canopies of climbing roses
Exuberant ground cover

Luckily there is a water source, carefully directed through a quiet stone trough, and re-emerging later in a sunken pool of lilies and irises.

The stone trough
The sunken pool

Indeed, the number of different species of plants in the garden is overwhelming, but one is left with an impression of a lovely, Mediterranean and truly Provençal garden of shade, light, and open spaces through which simple rose covered arched doorways lead to yet more ‘garden ‘rooms’.

Joseph Bayol’s atelier and painting studio is poised above the garden under the eaves of the house. Here, over many years, Joseph has painted and produced a great volume of work. Painting in acrylic, oils, or pen and ink, his work is beautifully observed from nature, the outdoors and his garden. His observation of plants, their structures and texture is remarkable. His wide, large windows look down onto the canopies of roses and climbers that criss-cross the garden below.

The classic wrought iron pergola over the terrace below the atelier windows is covered by several old wisterias. The tiled terrace looks out across the garden in all directions. One can see banskiae roses climbing to the tops of the cypress trees, of which there are many, strategically planted to give more depth to the garden, which is actually relatively small being a town garden near the centre of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

This was a rare visit to a very private family garden in the heart of Provence and truly magical!

Text: Catriona McClean
Photos: Catriona McClean and Christine Daniels

Clare and Mark Armour’s garden, Maussane-les-Alpilles

Following our visit to the Bayol garden in St Rémy, Clare Armour kindly invited us to the Mas Dou Gaou, where we were treated to a delicious and copious “picnic” lunch, seated in their vast high-ceilinged room overlooked by two of Joseph Bayol’s paintings depicting the tropical greenhouse of the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. The Armours purchased their property six years ago, the house set in several hectares of fields and gardens with views to the Alpilles to the north.

A long, curved drive lined with cypresses leads past the house and a large sculpture of Rove goats, to a secluded parking area, beyond which lies a newly installed tennis court.

The space in front of the house, previously covered with crazy paving, is now a gravelled area dotted with drought-loving plants framed by two micocouliers.

During our lunch, Clare explained to us that in 2017 James Basson, British garden designer and Chelsea Gold medalist, had been commissioned to redesign part of their garden. The brief was to create gravelled areas planted with low maintenance Mediterranean plants requiring little or no watering. The area beyond the drive, previously a large grassy field in which the children and grandchildren had often enjoyed a good game of football, now includes a large rectangular gravel garden (ca. 18 x 10 m), surrounded by newly planted olive trees. James has designed the space to include four meandering paths and two square empty spaces, the future use of which is yet to be decided: sculptures, benches and pergolas are all being considered, and suggestions are most welcome!

Planting plan for the rectangular gravel garden

Between the paths are planted some 600 shrubs and grasses, including swathes of several varieties of thymus, lavandula, santolina, euphorbia, rosmarinus and with a dominant theme of teucrium and Ampelodesmos mauritanicus throughout. Dotted here and there are taller multi-stem shrubs such as Pistacia terebinthus, Phillyrea latifolia and Amelanchier ovalis. The whole area was planted up in the autumn of 2017.

Achillea umbellata
Salvia multicaulis

After lunch we spent an enjoyable and interesting time visiting the dry garden as well as other parts of the grounds, wandering over to the raised gardens surrounding the pool. Clare and Mark have recently had the pool house’s three inner walls painted by British artist Terence Clark, and plan to redesign the planting around the pool. Nearby are a few mature trees, including a robinia and a tree which a number of us had trouble identifying, the consensus being that it was possibly a zelkova… A lovely courtyard lies behind the main house, in which a fountain danced merrily in the strong mistral!

It will be fascinating to revisit the gardens in a few years, when the newly designed gravel garden will have matured and become a wonderful example of a Mediterranean dry garden. A heartfelt thank you to Clare and Mark for a delightful visit!

Text: Nanouk Pelen
Photos: Hugues Pelen