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Provence / Côte d’Azur – Activities in 2013

April 10 Domaine du Rayol
We enjoyed a joint visit with the Languedoc group to the grand, if somewhat neglected but still fascinating Domaine du Rayol in Le Rayol-Canadel. The tour led by head gardener Stan Alaguillaume showed us the many collections of Mediterranean region plants, the wild freesias in full bloom (and perfume), and the superb structure of the garden with its valleys down to the beach and lovely sea views.

April 26 Fayence
We visited Carla and Herman Buehl’s stunning new garden near Fayence. This garden is absolutely delightful with well-chosen plants and superb sculptures, some by the English sculptor David Harber. The visit was followed by a bring your own picnic lunch and wine tasting at the wine domaine of Val d’Iris near Seillans where the irises were in flower and the wine was tasted and enjoyed!

May 2nd Grasse
Today we first visited Villa d’Andon, just east of Grasse with its lovely old house, parterre and fountains. After a bring your own picnic lunch here, we drove to the west of Grasse to Fontviel. Christoph Vansbotter, the gardener, took us round this gracious old domaine the garden of which has recently been beautifully extended by the designer Jean Mus.

May 6 Rayol-Canadel A visit with Jean-Laurent Felizia
Thanks to the efforts of Philippe Chrétien, we spent the day with the well known garden designer Jean-Laurent Felizia (see Louisa Jones’ books). Firstly at his plant nursery near Rayol-Canadel we saw the interesting range of plants he grows. M. Felizia is known for his environmently friendly approach to gardening, using no pesticides and choosing plants for waterwise gardening and to encourage bees. After lunch at a local restaurant, we visited a nearby garden designed by M. Felizia called ‘Sequencia’.

May 24 Tourettes sur Loup
We visited the exquisite and well known garden of Joanna Millar in Tourettes sur Loup. Joanna followed the tour of the garden by treating us to a delicious lunch.

June 4 Pépinière La Soldanelle, Rougiers
We visited the plant nursery of La Soldanelle run by Sylvie and Christian Mistre near Rougiers. The nursery focuses on plants suitable for poor, calcareous soil in climates with dry summers and cold winters. They have a good collection of Irises, campanula and paeonies and gave a short talk on what to grow that looks good in June (very useful!). Many of us succumbed to temptations on offer and went home laden with plants.

This was followed by a picnic lunch in the interesting garden of Dick Lankamp and Hans Bicknese near Brignoles. Their garden was originally a vineyard and orchard. Twelve years ago, they started to create the garden around the old olives, almonds, quince and cherries. Blessed with a bore hole, they water the lawn area but the rest of the garden is a dry garden. The garden is on two main levels and suffers from frosts each year and from the mistral but Dick has experimented with plants and grasses, grown trees from seed and created a small pond. This was a garden to learn from, with some surprising successes such as sarriette used as a ground cover, Fuschia riccartonii and an acer from the Alpes-Maritimes.

October 29 La Mouissone, Grasse
Our final visit for the year was a memorable visit to Lady Maggie Lockett’s beautiful garden within an olive grove. La Mouissone is on the east side of Grasse and is a property of about three hectares, of which half to two thirds is cultivated, and the rest wild. It is now recognised as a “Jardin remarquable”

We had a tour of the garden, paying particular attention to plants used in the perfume industry. Vincent Ricord, the ‘nose’ of the company Expressions Parfumées, accompanied us and told us about the use of essential oils of plants in making perfume. He brought samples of essential oils for us to smell and identify which plants they came from, and he spoke about his own creation, Sisley’s Eau d’Ikar.

This was followed by a wonderful picnic lunch served in individual wicker baskets in Maggie’s large sitting room, as the heavens opened. There was a display of her products, made from home grown fruit, vegetables and herbs. Following lunch, we finished the day by collecting plants that had been brought by members for our annual Troc des Plantes.