Thursday, 9 July 2015

Garden Visit 30 June 2015 - Domaine d'Ovès & Domaine de Baudouvin

Domaine d'Orvès is situated at the foot of Mont Coudon on an 8 ha. plot of land.

Mont Coudon

The bastide was built in 1695 probably by the Governor of Toulon.  The property was surrounded by walls, being part of a larger agricultural estate. One of the owners, Louis Martin d'Orvès, was Commissioner of Health during the pest epidemic of 1721. It is thought to have been part of the estate of the family d'Etienne d'Orvès au Broussan till the French revolution when it was disowned and became the property of La Valette. It returned to private ownership in 1844. Thereafter various naval officers owned the property till it was bought in 1925 by the present owner's father, the painter Pierre Deval, after the family returned from Algeria and was looking for a place to live. During World War II the house was occupied twice, ones briefly in 1942 and then again in 1944 when the house was confiscated by the occupying German army. They chopped down 1200 trees, old olive trees and plane trees, so that they could have a clear 360º view.

Inside the house are two rooms of particular interest, the first is the dining room we were able to visit with oil frescoes inspired by mythology, painted by Pierre Duval during the 1920's, the 2nd room, the atelier of the painter, closed off to the general public, shows a painting dating back to the family's stay in Algeria.

Between 1934-1939 the Lac de Carces was built to provide Toulon and its surrounding villages with water. In 1962 it needed updating, new pipes needed to be laid crossing the property of Domaine d'Orvès. A deal was struck, the Waterboard could cross the land if the Devals were allowed to use the untreated water.  Consequently there is plenty of water available in the garden.

The present owner, Mrs. Françoise Darlington-Deval, was visiting England during our visit.  It was her son, Kenneth, who gave us a very interesting tour. This was our second visit to the garden.  Our first visit was in May 2010, this time, a month later, the plants in flower were completely different.

Our visit started at the gate to the house.  Just outside and inside the gate was an attractive water plant:

Pontederia cordata

Two elongated, rectangular ponds run on either side of the path leading to the house

We continued up the steps leading to the terrace in front of the house. The steps were lined with Oleander, forming a sort of tunnel.

The blooms were stunning, so large.

Apparently they have a very long root system, eventually they work their way through paving, steps etc.

In spring the beds along the path are full of flowering irises. One of the plants flowering now was a sturdy, tall Scabiosa, possibly Scabiosa caucasia.

Scabiosa caucasica

At this time of the year tall Agapanthus were growing all along the way, with enormous flower heads, quite stunning.

Another bulb in flower along the path:

Diatis bicolor

The terrace with the house in the background is a very attractive feature.  The shade on the terrace is provided by plane trees.  It was here that we had our picnic lunch.

From the terrace you could see a Wisteria winding its way through the cyprus trees. Wisteria has a tendency to eventually strangle the trees it climbs into, and needs careful monitoring.

Near the terrace:
Trachelium caeruleum

 Just behind the house Romneya coulteri was in flower:

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides was used in many areas as a ground cover plant.

The walk continued:

to the swimming pool area with very clear views of Toulon.

At one end of the pool there was a clump of Lythrum salicaria (Purple Loosestrife). A plant that is used a lot by herbalist.  It rapidly stops bleeding and is and excellent gargle, douche and wound cleanser and of benefit in diarrhoea or gastro-intestinal disorders such as mild food poisoning.

Lythrum salicaria
as well as:
Sollya heterophylla commonly known as 'Bluebell Creeper'

From here we went to the forested area. We deviated along the way to look at an Arbutus glandulosa

Arbutus glandulosa

There is a collection of Arbutus trees growing in the garden. Arbutus glandulosa (Guatamala/Mexico) sheds its bark early spring, becomes pistachio green in colour and slowly turnes to it natural cinnamon trunk colour. Some of the others are Arbutus andrachnae (northwestern Turkey) and Arbutus menziesii (west coast North America).  Although both these last species have cinnamon coloured trunks they do not go pistachio green.

Along the forest path a plant with enormous leaves, Tetrapanax papyrifer. From the pith of the stem rice paper or pith paper is made:

Tetrapanax papyrifer

Onwards past a Gleditsia tricanthos (with double spines):

a Brachychiton tree in seed:

 and Ligustrum lucidum in flower.  Quite a common tree in our area, the French call it Troène:

Ligustrum lucidum

We then arrived at the circular threshing floor. The staple crops in the Provence used to be vines, olives and wheat. When the owner was trying to plant a tree, she could not get through, she tried several other holes in the vicinity of the first hole, everywhere she was blocked, eventually she decided to clear away the earth to see what was underneath and so came upon the threshing floor.

On through the forest we came past a large clump of Abutilon megapotamicum:

past a magnificent Magnolia delavayi, quite unusual that it flowers at night:

Past an Acacia karroo, with very long spines. The individual round flower heads are larger than the usual Acacia (Mimosa) we see in our area:

and Acacia retinodes, a Mimosa with different leaves, it flowers several times of the year:

the young, strange looking Araucaria araucana, the French call it 'Désespoir des singes' or 'Monkey Puzzle Tree' in English:

a very pretty Melaleuca tree, Melaleuca nesophila, pink flowering. In its native Australia the seeds are dispersed through bush fires.

Somewhere along the forest path we came across this colourful climber:

Pyrostegia venusta

We then passed a fast growing Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus citriodora, with very fragrant leaves.

Eucalyptus citriodora's flaky bark

A Grevillea robusta, in Australia they call it 'Silver Leaved Oak' as the underneath of the leaves are silvery.

Next to 'La Platrier', a residence, formerly plaster was made here, grew an Acca sellowiana. Also called Feijoa, with lovely flowers and tasty fruit in autumn

Acca sellowiana

A lovely Campanula, Campanula 'Elisabeth', which does well in a shady setting:

The most wonderful colour berries on a shrub called Dianella caerulea:

After our visit, our picnic was very welcoming. We had the front terrace all to ourselves. Jacqui had allocated what we should bring, as usual everyone made an effort.

Domaine de Baudouvin

Our second visit of the day was to Domaine de Baudouvin, only a couple km from Domaine d'Orvès, but very different. As it is owned by the town of La Valette, its aim was to create a garden that would have appeal to children as well as adults.

The Domaine was first mentioned in documents in 1437. In October 1612 it was sold to Claude Cabasson, squire of La Valette. It eventually passed on to the family 'de Rippert' through marriage. In 1785 the house was demolished and replaced by the château as it stands today. In July 1791, during the French Revolution, the grounds of Baudouvin were consolidated and incorporated into the commune of La Valette.

After the revolution it had several owners till in 1926 Henri de Rothschild bought the property.  The grounds were converted into kitchen gardens, orchards and vineyards. In 1942 the property became the residence of the Préfet Maritime till 1986 when the town of La Valette bought the property back from the State.  A lot of renovation work has been done, between 2004-2005 the garden has been redesigned.

Our guide met us at the entrance. He told us the history of the property and its aim of creating a truly Provençal garden with a carefully maintained ecosystem. No chemicals are used to treat the plants apart from 'Bouille bordelaise' which is allowed in organic farming. The garden is divided into several sections.

After the entrance a 200 m Plane tree walk planted by the Rothschilds leads to the house. Unfortunately some if the plane trees had to be cut down as they were suffering from an illness, apparently brought on by humans.

We turned off the main path to walk towards the Orchard, through a small Bamboo forest.

The red path is made of wood chips that have been coloured by the roots of of a plant called 'Rubia tinctorum', Garance in French and Dyer's Madder in English.

He told us that initially when they were staking their tomato plants, they used supports cut from Arundo donax, the local equivalent of Bamboo. They found that the stakes started rooting, something Bamboo does not do.

We passed the Orchard with vines- apricot- nectarine- peach (Pèche de vigne, the local flat peach) - jujube (chinese) - fig- almond- cherry and hazelnut trees.

He gave us a little tip, when you turn an apricot and it comes away in your hand, the fruit is ripe.
All the fruit trees were grown in Port Cros then transported to Domaine Baudouvin.

The soft fruit area

Next to the soft fruit area there was a paddock for donkeys.  In the olden days donkeys were the form of transport Provence.

Our guide caught a cicade, turned it upside down and showed us the part (abdomen) that makes the noise.

All the vegetables and fruit they produce on the estate goes to the local 'Maison de Retraite' - Old Peoples Home.

The Poulailler (Hen House) is from all sides protected against predators (fox, stone marten and pigeons, pigeons because of the diseases they bring.

A very imaginative water garden with some interesting features:

An A4 sheet next to the Agapanthus flower head

Kiwis were trained along the posts of the wooden terrace. 1 male Kiwi is enough to fertilise 7 female Kiwis.

We then came to the tomato patch. No ordinary patch, 40 different varieties of tomatoes are grown on 1000 m2, surrounded by hedges made of Myrtus and Terrebinthes lentiscus.

Along the path multi-coloured pots with different varieties of mint:

the vegetables:

onwards to the formal garden in front of the house:

In tribute to the garden designer, André le Nôtre, his Coat of Arms, the 3 circular shapes are snails with a chevron, and normally right on the top of the 'coast of arms' there should be a cabbage, they have omitted this here:

Near the terrace a camphor tree, with very aromatic leaves:

and on our way to the 'Teso' a Mediterranean Jujubier:

The 'Teso' was a wooded area between 150-200 m long and 10 m wide, the trees were pruned to a certain height.  Along the length of this area ran a path, with in the middle a narrow stream.  Nets were extended over the foliage, small birds were attracted because of the running water, the foliage and the berries. Servants (usually women) would clap their hands, frighten the birds who would fly away into the nets. The birds were then picked from the nets, they were considered a delicacy.

Our group at the end of the 'Teso' path:

Novel idea:

In the La Valette area there were several Jacaranda trees in bloom, this one was in Domaine Baudouvin:

When the Arbitelle Mill was active, the Mill Pond was used as a reservoir to store water from the La Foux spring, to enable the operate the mill during the summer period when there was not sufficient water coming from the spring:

On our way back to the exit, we passed an area of demisters, very welcome on this extremely hot day.  They are all run by solar panels, every 10 mins. the demisters waft out water vapour and when you stand underneath the demister your feet get a welcome sprinkle of water coming from a circular disk beneath the demister.

near the house

Thank you to our photographers, without them there would be no blog:
Elisabeth Boutevin - Jacqueline Hodkinson - Michele Power and Tineke Stoffels


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