Friday, 6 May 2011

4 May, our visit to Castel Sainte Claire & Iris en Provence

This month's garden group outing was to the Parc et Castel Sainte-Claire situated just above the old town of Hyeres. The spot where the Castel Sainte-Claire is situated has quite a history. The restored city walls in the Parc date back to the 12th century, the walls were destroyed by Cardinal Richelieu during the time of Louis XIII.

Does anyone know the name of this plant which flowers at the end of the stalk?

In the 17th century, there was a convent named "Sainte Claire" on the site, it followed the religious order (Institute of Poor Women) founded by "Sainte Claire"of Assisi, hence the name. After the French Revolution the convent was destroyed, demolished and the land was sold.

In 1820, Olivier Voutier (archeologist and naval officer), famous for discovering the Venus de Milo on the island of Milos in the Greek archipalego, bought the land. He constructed the present house and named it "Villa Sainte Claire". He repaired the old city walls between the villa and the tower. Next to the tower is Voutier's grave.

Venus de Milo

In 1927, Edith Wharton, an American novelist, purchased the property and created the garden in its present form.
In 1955 the property was purchased by the city of Hyeres and since 1990 it is the administrative office for the offshore islands Port Cros and Porquerolles.

What makes the garden interesting is its position with views over Hyeres and the sea and the lovely garden with its large collection of Salvias and other plants suited to a Mediterranean climate. Worldwide there are around 900 species of Salvias, 500 of them from U.S. states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico, Mexico, Central and South |America. The 400 remaining species come from Europe to Asia. The Salvias with the most flamboyant colours tend to come from the New World, the others having more subdued colours.

Some of the Salvias of the Americas tend to be tender, but varieties of Salvia greggii and Salvia microphylla survive our climate. To differentiate between the two is sometimes quite difficult. They both are bushy plants with lots of leaves, the leaves of Salvia greggii have smooth edges, whilst the ones of Salvia microphylla are serrated. The two easily cross pollinate and some of these hybrids are known as Salvia x jamensis + their specific name, for example Salvia x jamensis "Fuego". Why jamenis because it was James Compton who discovered some of these hybrids growing near the village of Jame in Mexico. Their second name in this instance "Fuego" refers to what the person who discovered the variety wanted to call it, often what the plant looks like.

The best time to plant Salvias is in spring. They flower in general twice a year in spring and in autumn. Pruning in our area is best done in early spring and again lightly after they have flowered in late spring as they get very untidy if they are not pruned.

The following are some of the Mediterranean plants we came across:

Abutilon megapotamicum.

Bauhinia variegata (Orchid Tree), tender

Beschorneria yuccoides, grows in Lilliane's garden near Draguignan.
Bulbine frutescens, tender.

Cestrum elegans, tender. This is for Sue who was wondering what the shrub was. They can reach 3 m. in height.
Citrus medica var. sarcodactylis or "Buddha's hand", tender.

Iochroma cyanea, tender.
Lampranthus aurantiacus, tender.
Macfadyena unguis-cacti, tender. Some of us thought it was a Tecoma, but the leaves of the Tecoma are serrated. The flowers look very similar though, tender.

Metrosideros excelsus, tender

There were so many lovely Salvias, hard to identify them all. The following are just a few we came across:

Salvia chamaedryoides.

Salvia darcyi.

Salvia discolor, tender.

Salvia greggii -x-serphyll

Salvia guaranitica, tender.
Salvia x jamensis "Red Velvet".
Salvai microphylla "Hot Lips".
Salvia microphylla "Maroon".
Salvia microphylla "Mauve":
Streptosolen jamesonii:
After Parc Sainte Claire we stopped to have lunch in old Hyeres:

Our afternoon visit was to "Iris en Provence", an Iris and Hemerocallis grower situated just outside Hyeres. The owner told us that the best time to plant Irises in our area is between mid August and November. Iris can stay in the same spot for 5 years, they then need to be split up and replanted in a fresh spot to give the soil a change to recover. If you leave them, they flower less and less. After planting to encourage strong root growth the iris leaves need to be pruned into an inverted V shape.

Iris "Connection":

Iris "Romantic Evening":

Iris "Superstition":

Iris?: cannot identify:

Iris "Jurassic Park":

Iris "Draco":

Iris "Nordica ":

Iris "Gallant":
Iris "Regimen":
Iris "Octoberfest:
Iris "Fashion Queen":

Photos: Marie-France Parkes, Isabel Pardoe, Liliane Feldman and Gerda Nagtegaal.
Bibliography: Wikipedia: History of Park & Castel Sainte Claire. Salvias by Christine Yeo.
A website with lovely Salvia photo's:

1 comment:

  1. L'irs qui pousse chez nous resemble au "Gallant".



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