Mas de l'Avocat
On a lovely, sunny morning 12 of our members met at Mas de l'Avocat owned by Guy and Lydia Bradley. You enter the garden over a narrow bridge spanning a stream, follow a drive way lined with plane trees before you reach the Mas, and what a lovery Mas it is. It has been built in 3 stages, the oldest part dating back to 1683, the middle part dates back to 1794 and the latest addition to 1830.
The view from the house is impressive, it is a layered view, first you notice the Alpilles, then below the Alpilles your eyes rest on Cypress Trees, below the Cypress Trees, the yellow of a Hay field, below the Hay field, Lavender and finally the lawn stretching to the court yard.
The front of the house is shaded by 2 very mature Plane trees and in the middle a well head made of Eygaliere stone. Apparently in the area all well heads were made of that particular type of stone.
The garden is large, 8 ha. and divided into different sections, most of them named after a tree or ornament in that particular area. The planting is dominated by trees and shrubs originating from the Far East, mainly Japan and China.
There is no shortage of water in the area, in fact there is sometimes too much water and flooding of the lawn has occurred, hence the border have been built up on a slope so that the plants do not get water logged. It was once swamp land, drained in the Middle Ages. Under the layer of earth is a solid layer of tuff, a type of rock which is impregnable.
Through a pergola clad with Roses and Wisteria we arrive in the section, called the Monkey Puzzle Tree (Araucaria araucana) area named after the tree at the far end. Guy's study looks out on this part of the garden. On the left Olive trees, on the right shrubs and trees planted on a slope with a lawn in the middle.
We were wondering why some of the shrubs were covered in green tarpaulin. This is to protect the rhododendrons that are underneath the tarpaulin. Apparently they can take heat and sun but not both at the same time.
The shrubs and trees are planted into a liner and then covered by cocos matting, which when it wears down a bit, looks very much like soil. The soil that was used was ordinary garden soil mixed with ochre.
Some of the trees and shrubs planted in the border are:
Toona sinensis (Chinese Mahogany Tree).
Erythrina crista - gali.
At the bottom of the slope near the lawn, Hemerocallis and Gaillardia's.
Just further along we passed the future Jardin d'Ete, or Tea garden. Sophora japonica is draped over a circular pergola but has not yet covered it. The area is surrounded by Osmanthus, not in top condition. They've had a problem with the rat taupier, a type of rat that make small hills of earth like a mole and eats the roots of trees and shrubs.
Some of the shrubs and trees encountered:
Onwards into the rose garden, which is Lydia's, Guy's wife, creation. An impressive framework of wrought iron, a bit like large versions of spokes of a wheel, again on a slope, has specifically been created by the blacksmith for the climbing roses. Never seen anything like this before, quite ingenuous. Apart from the climbing roses there are quite a few shrub roses.
From there into a circular garden with different varietis of Phormiums, Yuccas and grasses. A central bed is planted with Japanese Imperata' 'Red Baron' Grass, which needs a bit of care.
We make a turn into the next section. As we turn there is a semi circular wall built in a unique way. The stones are set in such a way to form a semi circle. When you look from a far the wall has a pleated effect. In front of the wall are several Gunnara's.
Apart from making a framework for the roses and the pergola, the blacksmith made another one for the Cedrus Atlantica 'Glauca' (Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar). Under the framework are rows of Escallonia.
We now enter the Cedar room with different types of Conifers. In the centre is a bed of Stipa grass, particularly attractive when the wind is blowing.
From there into a section called 'Espace Matisse', 5 red Acer japonicum represent the dancers in Matisse's painting 'Dance'.
Another unusual tree encountered is Chitalpa tashkentensis a pink flowering tree with flowers similar to Catalpa flowers but with very different leaves.
Forward into the Theater area. No performances have been given to date, but it could possibly seat 50-80 people.
A wole area of Bamboos have been planted with metal borders 70 cm deep.
There is even a fruit orchard with peaches, nectarines, pears, figs sour cherries and medlars.
Some trees along the way:
Metasequoia, a deciduous conifer.
Along a path on one side pillar with in between Taxus baccata. Once the Taxus becomes mature it will be clipped to the same size as the pillars. On the other side a variegated bamboo, not sure of the name but it could be Shinochima bamboo. 70 cm deep metal strips surround the bamboo are to prevent the roots from spreading.
Then into the Japanese garden. Based on Japanese principles like running water in form of a small waterfall, a pond with waterlilies and Iris ensata, a Japanese water iris quite striking as the 3 petals are horizontal. In the middle of the pond is an island with a small tree in the centre. From the pond runs a pebble stream bed.
All along on one side of the pond are Japanese Acers of various colours. Rather striking.
The last part we saw was the swimming pool area and from there back to the car. Although the garden is only 5 years old some of the trees are quite mature and the planting being mostly acid loving plants in a calcaire are
After a lunch Chez Paulette in Eygaliere we went on to the second garden of the day, Mas de l'ilot with its formal garden just outside Tarascon.
Mas de l'ilot
Simon and Andrea Farley bought the property in 2007. The garden is made up of box parterres, perfect to the eye, but apparently not 100% aligned.
The drive up the the house is through a path of pink Oleanders up to the parking area.
From the parking to the front of the house you pass a whole area of shade loving plants. Hydrangea arborescent 'Annabelle', as well as Hydrangea paniculata and Hydrangea quercifolia, with its oak-like leaves. We were there just at the right time as they were in full bloom.
Hydrangea arborescens 'Annabelle'
A path to the left and right of the house takes you all around the garden with access to the central part here and there.
The path to the right of the house was lined with Campsis cut into tree form, never seen that before and underplanted with white Irises, now finished flowering, white lilies and Lavandin 'Grosso', the largest and most flower producing Lavandin and Taxus bachata
The central part has box parterres with circular pruned olive trees. A whole is left in the middle for light.
All around the garden are statues bought mostly in the U.K. As the soil contains lots of iron most of the statues have a rust coloured tint to them. Stone toad stools (staddle stones) are scattered around the parterres. In the olden days they were used as supporting bases for graneries and hayricks.
At the bottom of the garden we take the path to the left of the house leading us back to the parking area. The beds on either side of the path are covered in Agapanthus in bud. How lovely that must be when they are all in flower.
Just at the end there are rose beds filled with red and white roses.
Photos: Jacqueline Hodkinson & Angela Stokes