The first visit on our 2 day tour was to Chateau Val Joanis - a wine chateau (Cote du Luberon) on 400 hectares, 1.5 km from Pertuis. The Chateau was rediscovered in 1977 by the Chancel family, who undertook the task of restoring it to its former glory. The Chateau was once the property of Jean de Joanis, secretary to King Louis III of Naples.
Cecile Chancel with the help of garden architect Tobbie Loup de Viane drew up the plans in 1978 to create a potager reminiscent of the potagers of the 18th century. Ornamental but at the same time producing all the family's needs i.e. vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers. A bit like a formal English cottage garden, but on a large scale.
In 1980 they started the project, in 1990 the garden took its actual form and in 2005 the garden received the honour of being listed as a "Jardin Remarquable" and to top it all in 2008 it became "Jardin de l'annee 2008".
The garden is devided into 3 terrases: The potager; Roses and trained fruit; ornamental trees.
The following are a few ideas we came across:
To cover cheap pots, a strip of narrow dark tinted bamboo rods (the ones to cover a pergola) are fixed around the pot.
A metal framework supporting tightly clipped Pyracantha to surround the framework structure.
Between the beds of the potager, hard paths were created and the beds were surrounded by small pleated metal screens.
The soil inside the beds was covered in Cocoa Shell, the advantages are:
It has a rich brown colour; it suppresses weeds and retains moisture; it repels slugs and snails once it has been watered or rained on as it forms a crust which binds the mulch together and this repels them.
Our guide mentioned that the optimal age for a vine is 40-50 years old. By 80 years they have to be removed as they have to be treated so often it is uneconomical to keep them.
A large selection of fruit, vegetables, herbs and flowers were grown in the potager. I've selected a few that stood out among the many:
Eupatorium rugosum "Chocolate": made a very attractive contrast with the mint; attracts bees, tea made from the root was used by the native Americans to treat worms, colds and as an external wash for sores.
Cotinus coggygria: the nicest one I've ever seen.
Inula magnifica: the roots of a close relative "Inula helenium" were used to treat bronchitis.
Mespilus germanica - Medlar:
Photos: Elisabeth Boutevin, Jacqueline Hodkinson, Gerda Nagtegaal