Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Musee Internationale de la Parfumerie in Mouans Artoux and La Mas des Pivoines in Grasse - 27 June 2017


Sue wrote:
A thank you to Mavis McQuade for suggesting we should visit this garden.   With five cancellations the day before the visit we were just nine members in three cars and equipped with trusty GPS we all arrived at the venue in good time and were delighted to have Gabrielle Wellesley with us again (on a mission to return her 2CV car to the UK).

Acacia karoo

We had a charming  bi-lingual guide, Diana, to show us the two hectare garden and were regularly tested on our knowledge of scents when she handed out plastic sticks dipped into perfumed oils – a challenging exercise for the over  70s whose sense of smell is waning!

The gardens are entirely bio which, since they are located in a largely built-up area with no agricultural activity, are not affected by any stray pesticides borne by the wind.  
The gardens are all about the perfume industry and act as a reference library and experimental laboratory. 

Accommodation for bees and insects

It is astonishing how many petals are required for such a small quantity of the many ingredients which go to make up one bottle of perfume and we now understand and accept why perfume is so expensive.   


However, another aspect of perfume making was the ultra modern method of analysing the scent from, say, honeysuckle by placing a glass dome over the flower and “reading” the scent.   This is then replicated chemically and one wonders whether in the distant future this is how all natural flower scents will be presented to make up your favourite perfume?   Being far less intensive perhaps its high cost will head in a downwards direction?

Jasminum grandiflorum

Information on the plants came in 3 languages, French, English and Italian. For those who like to know more about the individual parfume plants, the text is a bit hard to read in English, need a magnifying glass, but very interesting.

We lunched in Grasse and with great good fortune happened on the closest underground parking to the Place aux Aires where we ate outside in the place under the parasols.


Our second visit was to the Bastide des Pivoines a couple of kilometres from the centre of Grasse.   Of course the peonies were over thanks to an early spring and the fact that the first two gardens chosen for this visit had fallen to the wayside (a municipal garden whose website declared it to be open in June but on booking it was closed and an email enquiry as to the precise annual opening dates did not elicit a reply;  and the owner of second garden was too busy preparing to let the house to receive us).   So these two gardens are on the list for 2018.

Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'

Albizia julibrissin

M. and Mme. Barrault already lived in Grasse when they bought the dilapidated house and gardens and set about transforming both with their bare hands.   Both the wide metal pergola walks billowing with climbing roses were made by father and son (now where can I put a pergola walk in my garden?)

A triangular lavender field is bordered by the peonies after which the house is names and many plants in the garden were brought from their old garden.   

When I asked about  the automatic watering system I was astonished to learn that the 15,000 sq.m. is watered by hand/hosepipe on the grounds that this is the best way to key an eye on all the plants.

Two wonderful tall, wide cedars provide a hidden shaded, sheltered area for tables and chairs (so no having to remember to close the parasol when going out in case a mistral winds materialises). 

The other half of the garden slopes abruptly down to the river down a stone set path which is so much easier on the knees than steps but must be tricky for wheelbarrowing uphill.   This area has recently been cleared and now contains a carefully chosen selection of specimen trees.   

Erythrina x bidwillii

Medinilla magnifica

A circular gloriette with seating is hung about with laminated pictures of all the birds to be found in the garden, a really useful idea for those with short-term memory loss who will have forgotten the markings by the time they have fired up the computer to identify the bird.

A final intriguing note – the outside privvy is bio so a modern loo seat and lid but over a galvanised container with no water.   A container with lid and shovel contains wood shavings for adding a fresh layer and a galvanised guttering hopper serves as a basin – wonderful attention to rural detail (see photos).

Photo's:  Marie-France Parkes and Gabrielle Wellesley

Monday, 19 June 2017

30 May 2017 - Garden visit to Le Jardin d'Eguilles de Max Sauze in Eguilles & Bastide de Romégas in Aix-en-Provence

Le Jardin d'Eguilles

Sue wrote:
Max Sauze is an incredibly creative man who is heavily into creative re-cycling (paper, wine bottle corks, plastic bottles etc.) and the town garden of nearly  900 sq.m. is an intriguing outdoor exhibition of a lifetime of inventiveness and  what can be achieved with the combined effect of a glue-gun and nimble fingers.

His delightful wife Anne welcomed us and explained that her husband was an artist until marriage and the arrival of three hungry children had him casting around for a better paid occupation.   He set about designing modern lighting for the domestic market which became internationally successful , (and featured in films too) and the garden shed was at one end a busy workshop and at the other end the order despatch department of a  busy enterprise.   This is now continued by their son in nearby Lambesq.

The shady garden achieved Jardin Remarquable status in 2005 and has been created by Max and Anne Sauze from scratch, starting with just one large existing  tree.   It is now a haven of shade against the harsh provencale sun with bamboos interspersed wit the amazing, often whimsical and quirky, creations of an inventive man.  For my info visit the website:

Bastide de Romegas

In the afternoon we took a short drive east to the Bastide de Romegas where the current owner, Mme. Rater, is the sixth generation of the family who built the house in the 17th century.   The garden joined the ranks of Jardins Remarqables in 2011 and is maintained by Mme. Rater herself with the help of two gardeners twice a month.   The property has two unique features, the first is an underground water system (réseau souterrain de mines d’eau and the tèse (curiously the website mentions both these but offers no photos or description and Google has failed me on both!)
It was only thanks to GPS that we arrived at the house on time for our visit since the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office map shows the house to the south of the Aix-en-Provence to Pertuis road whereas the house is to the north (it will be interesting to see if the tourist offices corrects their map following my email).

A short tree-lined drive leads to the house with a large almost circular stone 18th century wheat threshing floor surrounded by majestic trees amongst which a cedar of Lebanon.   The house is more imposing on the entrance elevation and simpler on the facade overlooking the garden where a broad gravelled terrace with a line of magnificent Anduze pots are planted with XXXXXXXXXX.  

Beyond the terrace is a meticulously trimmed box parterre with white Iceberg roses planted around (the box lines are so close that there are no beds in between the lines of box).  This was created in 1864 and replanted in the 1960s.   

A central walk leads to a small formal circular pond and continues through the box to a long narrow shady path through the tèse where small birds were netted in the 18th century.

Turn left at the bottom of the walk and head back to the house parallel to the tèse up a broad grassy area with a widely scalloped planting on the right with olive trees planted at the points of the curves.   An extensive collection of cistas are planted in between the olive.

At the end and just past the tiny chapel is a rose bed with a new vegetable garden planted in the style of a potagier which is Mme. Rater’s pride and joy!

Photo's Cees Bos


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