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Visions of Eden - 3 beautiful gardens to visit in the area

Visions of Eden - 3 beautiful gardens to visit in the area

As we launch into summer, everything in the garden will soon be starting to look at its best. Roger Moss visits some very special places to give a little timely inspiration... 


jardin-des-rosiers

Labour of love

Hidden among open fields to the northeast of Chauvigny is a labour of leafy love created by an English garden designerwith a passion for roses.

A small roadside sign to ‘Le Jardin des Rosiers’ among the fields near the village of La Puye (86) will bring you to a small vision of Paradise created by Patsy Boughton. Her calling card description ‘Conceptrice des Jardins’ conveys the creative aspects of her work, but when the garden in question is her own then it’s no longer a case of simply handing over the finished drawings and then letting the client tackle all the hard work of transforming her design into a living, growing thing. Like every garden, hers is destined to be a work in progress, but what Patsy has achieved since putting down her own roots here in 1992 is already impressive. Around 350 roses have been planted, selected not merely for the beauty of their flowers and form, but also with the seasoned professional’s awareness of more practical virtues like disease resistance and subsequent care requirements. 

That said, Patsy admits to being constantly surprised by the way in which classic English rose varieties traditionally regarded as slow growing in their native soil can really take off when planted here despite occasionally severe frosts. To English eyes long accustomed to cottage gardens and extravagant herbaceous borders the billowing forms laden with blossom and spilling exuberantly across arches and pergolas, or rambling up a convenient tree, will have a cosy familiarity. French visitors, too, are enchanted by the unmistakable hallmarks of un jardin anglais. “I always make a point of warning them not to expect Gardens rosiersthe formal and ordered style of the kinds of roseraie they’re more used to seeing here...” says Patsy, who describes her garden as ‘très naturel’ and backs her beliefs up with a solid commitment to back-breaking hard work as an alternative to pesticides in order to keep everything healthy. The numbers of birds and butterflies who regularly visit the garden are proof that it works, but there are other rewards, as Patsy explains: “The ancient Persian designers believed that a garden should be a Paradise, a place for peace and contemplation in which to feel at peace with the world, and in harmony with nature and oneself.” This and other sentiments (plus those of several literary figures) are expressed discretely here and there in small handwritten signs, as are the names and origins of many of the rose varieties.

Helping Patsy maintain the gardens is an association of like-minded individuals, who receive free admission (with discounts for their accompanied guests) and the right to take rose cuttings. Oh, and a group picnic in the perfect garden setting.

Le Jardin des Rosiers, Route de Paizay-le-Sec, 86260 La Puye

T: 05 49 46 99 96 www.lejardindesrosiers.com Open daily, 18 May–30 June 2.30–6pm. Adult 7€, Child 4€. Guided visits available.

 

L’authentique...

 

jardins-du-chaigne

Les Jardins du Chaigne gaze upon Cognac’s world-renowned Grande Champagne vineyards – but the gardens themselves are even more remarkable...
It would be hard to imagine more enchanting classic French country gardens than those of this gracious 19th century country house. The same micro-climate which produces eaux-de-vies for the very finest Cognacs also bestows a priceless gift on Philippe and Béatrice Marzano, whose roots lie in the south of France, but who had been exiled for many years by their respective careers in Paris. Philippe and Béatrice purchased the estate in 2011 after being captivated by the house, its setting and above all its gardens, a visual tour-de-force which in 2009 won the coveted status of Jardin Remarquable awarded by the Conseil National des Parcs et Jardins.

Unsurprisingly, the spirit of the Mediterranean is now clearly evident in many of the garden’s key elements. Box, a timeless stylistic ally for countless landscapers, provides Renaissance-style parterres, hedges and topiary, and also evokes the relaxed spirit of the South, an impression reinforced
by billowing lavandin and santolina.

Circulating sonorously between the beds, a chemin d’eau adds a more contemporary touch, as do water-lily ponds created by artists Serge and
Agnes Bottagisio Decoux from the Gers. Another less conventional touch a théatre de verdure – a Classical amphitheatre whose grassy tiers are encircled by tall Italian cypresses.

Providing the perfect setting for the gardens themselves is a variety of mature ornamental tree species, which include noyer noir (American Black Walnut), microcoulier (European Nettle Tree), arbousier (arbutus or Strawberry Tree) and tulipier de Virginie (liriodendron, or Tulip Tree). No French garden would be complete without a productive potager, and Le Chaigne’s has been conceived with the same careful consideration for aesthetics as that applied to its hauntingly beautiful surroundings. Sturdy yet stylish raised beds produce a wealth of fruit, vegetable and aromatic herbs and enjoy the agreeable company of just about every fruit tree species considered viable here in the Charente.

Les Jardins du Chaigne 16120 Touzac.

T: 05 45 62 33 92. Open 23 Mar–31 Oct. Adult 6€, accompanied under-12s free. www.jardinsduchaigne.com or on Facebook.  

Grand Designs

Tucked away in a leafy corner of southern Charente lies a classic English-style garden created in the 1920s beside a noble country house.

The Logis de Chenard, owned by descendants of the family who purchased the estate after the Revolution, once produced fine wines. When insect borne phylloxera decimated French vineyards, however, the family adopted conventional agriculture but maintained a passion for gardening. Keen to create a new series of gardens at le Chenard, in 1922 they engaged a landscape architect from Angoulême, whose drawings show a formal potager and orchard, rose gardens, a hornbeam alley plus less formal parkland.

gardens-logis-de-chenard

The results today give few hints as to the scale of the work involved in their creation. It took three years to transform a relatively modest area of farmland into what had been visualised by the designer and his client René Tabouteau, father of the present owner Mme Simone-Alice Signac-Tabuteau. As she recalls: “He recruited Spanish labourers from Bordeaux. We’re on limestone, they had to move huge quantities of topsoil from the forests, using trucks running on rails... it was like having our own railway. Work was so hard that groups of fifteen laboured here for two or three months before handing over to fresh teams.” A further three or four years completed the landscaping and planting.

Today, you have to say that it was all worthwhile. Far from the manicured formality of many French gardens, Chenard’s charm is both natural and relaxed, with elements such as the 200 or so tree species (including Sequoia, Lebanon cedars, Tulip trees and both American and French oaks) being free to express their full potential. “The tempête of 1999 did great damage to some of them,” recalls Mme Signac-Tabuteau “but miraculously, many trees and plants re-grew stronger than before. I think the roots were obliged to go deeper.”

In 1992 the Logis and its gardens received Monument Historique status, and today offer visitors a welcome sensation of having somehow stepped back in time – and a reminder that gardening isn’t merely about amassing rare and exotic plant species. Chenard’s gardens are simply beautiful and still obviously much-loved.

Logis de Chenard, 16320 Chavenat. 

T: 05 45 21 84 45. Open 1–30 June and 1–15 September. Adult 3 €, Child Free.