The garden itself is inspired by the romantic settings of medieval mazes consisting of several intimate gardens with evocative names with an invitation to awake the senses: ‘Jardin du Goût’ (the Taste Garden), ‘Jardin de l’Odorat’ (the Scented Garden), ‘Cloître de plantes médicinales’ (the Cloister of Medicinal Plants), ‘Prairie Alpine’ (the Alpine Meadow), etc.
It is garden which highlights the varied features of the plant world, encouraging you to take time to observe, take stock, absorb and savour the moment. To reach out and touch that furry leaf, smell that perfume, squeeze the oil from that herb and listen to the wind in the trees, the birds in the water, the bubbling stream. You have probably heard about ‘Mindfulness’, “an awareness of our thoughts and feelings as they happen moment to moment,” well this garden was designed to reconnect with our bodies and the sensations they experience long before the word came into fashion. Forget your worries for half an hour and take in the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the present moment.
It is not a large garden, an hour or two at the most will suffice, unless like me you take time to sit and watch the sparrows in the bird bath, stop to make notes in the herbal garden, sketch (roughly) the way fruit trees are espaliered along fences, the roses cover arches and the way clematis grow through roses or up on a wrought-iron obelisk. If you are stressed when you arrive here you certainly won’t be when you leave, as long as you linger and don’t rush through as some people do, eager to tick off yet another site from their list.
There are actually 9 different individually themed areas to explore which are :
- The Alpine Garden
- The Woodland
- The Woven Garden
- The Cloister
- The Garden of Flavours
- The Garden of Fragrances
- The Garden of Textures
- The Garden of Sight
- The Garden of Hearing
Moving through the ‘rooms’ via cut-out doorways in the neatly trimmed hedges I crunch my way along gravelled pathways with the neat wooden borders of the raised beds. Some plants I instantly recognise, others I try to work out from the labels. It is a garden with plenty of labels, but they are of course in French and my French is very rusty. But certain words are easy to translate.
This is a leisurely stroll, stopping frequently to smell, to touch, to read, sometimes to backtrack and take another look at something which catches my eye from across the garden. I enjoy the tranquillity of the place taking in the planting combinations: colours used to contrast or complement; the different leaf shapes; shapes and sizes of plants; movement. I notice how the pretty decorative and plain terracotta pots are used to hold the more tender plants such as the scented pelargoniums. I imagine the winters are hard and cruel here.
There are benches within the garden rooms and I make use of them to sit and make notes of the plants I am enjoying. To doze in the warm sunshine, eyes closed, breathing in the fragrant air and listening to the sparrows as they squabble with one another to find space in the bird bath. As usual, the plants that are used for medicinal or fragrances or culinary purposes are the ones I am most attracted to. Even if I don’t make personal use of such plants I like to grow them. Somehow they connect me to the past. I can imagine the medieval physic gardens with their sections for plants used for healing. I pick. I nibble.
Regrettably I leave.
I have two other posts about this garden and the village in which it is situated. Lost and Yvoire