I have spent quite a bit of time this winter thinking about garden design on the micro and macro level. There are several gardens at work that we are busy redesigning and selecting new plants. Then, when I get home, I look out at the landscape (now that the snow is melting) and think about how I would like to build the garden in our new home. On top of this thinking, we are formulating a 20 year, overall master plan for our gardens at work. Needless to say, I have gardens and garden design on the brain.
Late last week, I did what I always do when my head is about to explode with ideas: I sat down and wrote everything down in my sketchbook. After this bit of catharsis, I asked Rochelle if she would mind if I shared some of these ideas with you through a listing of my favorite gardens based upon their great design. This week is the first of a six-part series where I will give a glimpse of some of these wonderful places.
Without further adieu, here is garden number 1: Jardin Plume in Normandy, France.
I saw an article on Jardin Plume several years ago in Gardens Illustrated. The pictures were phenomenal. I earmarked the page and made a mental note that if ever in France, to visit Jardin Plume. Then, as luck would have it, a group of us went to France to see some truly inspirational gardens, which of course included Jardin Plume.
First of all, Jardin Plume is in the middle of Normandy and a bit difficult to find. But once we found the small sign and parked along side of the road, the anticipation began to build. We entered the door and saw a nursery. And a shed. And shrubs. And mixed plantings. Jardin Plume just keeps going on and on. It is a relatively small garden but the owners, Patrick and Sylvie Quibel, have partitioned the gardens into rooms to make it feel larger than it really is while still maintaining some intimacy. When we met with the owners, they told us that the gardens were intended to be a humorous design gesture. They joked that most people flock to the le Notre gardens at Versailles and Vaux le Vicomte. They set out to create a micro-Versailles (plant beds laid out in Cartesian geometry) yet the plantings would be soft, billowy, and wild. The results are fantastic.
Near the old home are the most intimate plantings among a boxwood parterre. They have a vegetable garden, a hot colored garden, a cool colored garden, and an apple orchard. Woven through the spaces are whimsical boxwood hedges and everyday accoutrement (wood piles, worn and aged garden tools). Everywhere you turn at Jardin Plume, you see an evocative combination of plants here, a framed view there, a wonderful vista over the Normandy countryside there.
To add to the allure of the gardens, if you tell Patrick and Sylvie that you love their gardens, they will take your picture and post it on their virtual guest book. If you ever get the good fortune to visit France, be sure to travel north to Normandy and Jardin Plume.
Images by Rodney Eason