The first garden we visited this morning was the garden of Mr. Pierre Cuche in Claviers. The weather was absolutely atrocious – it was pelting down with rain – by the end of the visit we were all soaked through, but it was worth getting wet for.
Mr Cuche’s garden contains many unusual trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants, grown from seeds or cuttings from all parts of the world. A true collection built up over 30 years.
When he bought the property in 1969, he started off restoring the olive trees. The olive trees were between 150 to 350 years old. The property, in total 3.5 ha. had been abandonned for 30 years, when he bought it, it was a wilderness. They were lucky that the olive trees had not been frozen in 1956 like so many other olive trees in the south of France due to the fact that the olive trees were facing east, in fact the first sun rays in the winter reach the property from the south, they are quite protected from the northern winds.
It took them 20 years to get the property back in shape. From 1969, till they lived permanently in Claviers in 1988, they would travel back and forwards from Arles to water their plants. Only the strongest survived.
He finds that with the soil consisting of clay and chalk, trees, shrubs and roses do best. In total he has more than 4000 different plant species in his garden.
His advice is :
Use a slow release fertiliser, with NPK, Magnesium and Oligo elements (trace elements). Never give fertiliser to plants in autumn.
When planting put a handful of bonemeal in the planthole.
Some of the plants we came across in Claviers:
Abelia; he has a collection of Abelias, the shrubs are very suited to the soil in the region, two particular nice ones are: Abelia uniflora (evergreen), Abelia triflora (decidious, flowers have a lovely perfume).
Abies glauca, with incredibly soft catkins (flowers)
Arbutus glandulosa; the tree has a special, smooth, soft to the touch trunk, native of Australia.
Ceanothus; many varieties, among them, Ceanothus burkwoodii flowers several times, Ceanothus 'Concha' has lovely deep blue flowers, Ceanothus gloriosus 'Emily Brown'.
Corokia x virgata; a cross between C. cotoneaster and C. buddlejoides, lovely star shaped yellow flowers in spring, followed by orange fruit, native of New Zealand.
Correa (Australian fuchsia), Correa alba; white variety, Correa 'Pinkie'; pink variety, both flower in winter
Cotoneaster microphyllus; a small leaved creeping Cotoneaster that Mr. Cuche used to cover a tumbled down wall.
Dodonia viscosa purpurea (Hop bush); evergreen, carries paper like flowers, native of Australia.
Dodonia viscosa purpurea
Eleagnus 'Quicksilver'; silver leaves, yellow flowers produced from silvery buds.
Euphorbia stygiana, evergreen, in winter the lower leaves turn red, native of Azores.
Garrya elliptica (Silk-tassel bush); evergreen shrub with grey-green catkins from mid winter to early spring.
Helleborus (Hellebore); ideally suited to our type of soil.
Olearia (Daisy bush); native to Australia.
Pancratium illyricum; bulbous perennial, bears umbels of white flowers.
Parrotia persica; large tree, lovely autumn colours, well suited to local soil.
Pinus wallichiana (Himalayan pine)
Pinus wallichiana as with all his plants raised from seeds
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Irene Paterson'.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Marjorie Channon'? with black flowers.
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Marjorie Channon'
Pseudo cydonia sinensis (Chinese quince).
Rhamnus alaternus 'Argenteovariegata', small leaved variegated, almost white Buckthorn).
Scilla peruviana, large bulb, conical shape of blue flowers.
Zoyzea (a type of grass); has to be planted individually, needs no watering, nor cutting.
After having a cosy, tasty lunch at Rosemary Halford, we were once again dry and keen to visit our next planned garden.
Le Chemin de Ronde in Figanières. Unfortunately the rain never let up, but just like the morning visit, I would not have liked to have missed it. Both are worth another visit in better weather conditions.
Mr. Weiss, the owner of "Le Chemin Ronde", started planting his garden 17 years ago. In total it is 900 m2, packed with plants. A path circles the garden all the way round. It starts of with a shaded area, and everywhere along the path are interesting spots, special ways of planting, seating arrangements, pots filled often with plants, and garden elements. A sheer delight. I was very impressed with the rambling roses, reaching easily 6 metres and more, climbing through the trees, and over the roofs. Unfortunately because of the recent weather many of the roses where still in bud. All the ramblers in the garden are spring flowering varieties.
When you want to plant ramblers to grow through trees you need to plant the tree and rambler at the same time. The tree should be a tree that is late in getting its leaves for the rambler to get enough light to flower.
When planting an arrangement of shrubs/trees, large leaved shrubs should be in the front with smaller leaved shrubs or trees at the back.
He does not cut back his roses much, he reckons that he gets more roses this way, although they may be smaller.
Some of the trees, shrubs, climbers, herbaceous plants in Le Chemin de Ronde:
Acca sellowiana (Pineapple guava)
Cedrus atlantica pendula
Cedrus atlantica pendula in front, behind Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki'
Cercis silliquastrum f. albidus (White flowering Judas Tree).
Chionanthus virginicus (Fringe Tree), fragrant white flowers in pendant penicles.
Crateagus laevigata 'Paul's Scarlet'.
Erisymum 'Bowles' Mauve' (Purple Wallflower).
Equisitum hyemal (Scoringrush Horsetail), green segmented stalks growing in the pond.
Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride'.
Juncus, a variegated Rush, grew in a tub of water.
Melia azedarach (Indian Bead Tree), the hard seeds are used to make beads and rosaries explaining its name.
Photinia heterophylla, when left unpruned, it becomes a very large shrub with masses of white flowers at this time of the year.
Prunus lusitanica (Portugese laurel).
Salix integra 'Hakuro Nishiki', variegated pink/green/white leaved willow tree.
Sambucus nigra 'Guincho Purple', purple/black leaved Elder.
Sophora japonica (Japanese Pagoda Tree)
Spiraea 'Double Bridal Wreath".
Vitis coignetiae, very large leaved vine.
Vitis henryana (Parthenocissus henryana)
Vitis minitolii, very small leaved creeping vine, probably not the correct spelling?
Several of the roses, could be found in both gardens:
Rosa banksiae 'Alba Plena', double white, spring flowering, rambler.
Rosa banksiae 'Lutea', double yellow, spring flowering, rambler
Rosa banksiae 'Lutescens', simple yellow flowering rose, spring flowering, rambler.
Rosa banksiae 'Lutescens'
Rosa Cecile Brunner, China Rose, colour soft pink, flowers summer and autumn.
Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis', changes colours from light yellow to copper pink then to deep pink, flowers spring and autumn.
Rosa chinenses 'Sanguinea', colour red/purple, flowers spring and autumn.
Rosa sempervirens 'Princesse Marie', pink to lilac cupped flowers, rambler.
Rosa sempervirens 'Princesse Marie'
Rosa 'Senateur Lafollette', beautiful smell, flesh pink, will grow up to 16m long, spring flowering.
Rosa xanthina f. hugonis, cupped single, lightly scented pale yellow flowers, with orange leaves in autumn.
Rosa xanthina f. hugonis
Photographs: Elisabeth Boutevin, Bibliography: RHS A-Z Encyclopedia