I wouldn’t say we were a Mecca for garden lovers, but the gardens are there, if you know where to look.
Last week I visited this woodland garden, the Jardin d’Ode, with some friends. We were mainly in search of plants to buy. The garden is run by a mother/father/son team and they have a small nursery attached. Unfortunately they were in the midst of a massive upheaval and many of the plants were doing an unlabelled walkabout or were too tiny to sell.
But the garden itself is worth the visit. Romantic plantings of aquilegia, foxgloves, geraniums and so forth, all in a rather dreamy, but intimate, setting. When I was there last year the owners described it to us as a ‘jardin à l’anglais’. Yes – it’s really rather romantic as gardens go … As romantic as this photographer! This is a smallish garden (the whole site, including the nursery, is just over an acre).There are a number of different styles and areas under development, but the heart and genesis of the garden has clearly been the shelter provided by mature trees.
I do wish I’d asked if the owners had planted them themselves … One of those trees I recognise, I think, as a result of my walnut investigation! Lorraine is definitely not as hot as some areas in France (we rarely experience true drought, although watering at the moment is becoming a bit of a bore). But the plants will nevertheless appreciate the overhead canopy and it’s nice to see that they are happy snuggling up to what appears to be a Juglans regia.
As well as birch, which can be tricky in a woodland garden because they are such greedy, surface-rooting trees. And a cool pond to rest the visitor on a hot day. There are newer plantings of shrubs and small trees as well. Such as this wonderful Cornus alternifolia ‘Argentea’. And what is rather an interesting attempt at a cloud-pruned Lawson’s cypress or perhaps a thuja? I’m not very interested in these conifers – pines being my only conifer loves – so I didn’t move in closer for a look, apologies. [Note added Saturday 13 June: a friend suggested – and I’m pretty sure he is correct – that this is actually a Juniperus media ‘Hetzii’. Have a look at the link here if you are interested.]
The rather pretty ‘cloud-pruned one’ marks the way to a change of mood in a Japanese-style garden where rhododendrons surprised my eye, simply because I can’t grow them here and I live only about a half hour away. Best of all, the owners seem to have a bit of a ‘seat’ obsession. I heartily approve. The Jardin d’Ode taught me very clearly that I should be looking at brocantes (junk/antique dealers – even in agricultural equipment) for garden furniture and other items worth painting up.
I loved this chair and table in the ‘bambooserie’ (although I noticed that they had had to hack away at the surrounding bamboos a bit to restrain their enthusiasm). And places to shelter from the hot sun: a seat at the end of a rose pergola and a gazebo which should provide for the tired garden aficionado in years to come when its roses are really up and running. One did really feel the underlying structure without seeing massive evidence of expenditure in the form of expensive paving, pergolas or summerhouses. I think that’s quite a clever trick. And I wish I had one of these! They do well here to add a new area of the garden every year, given that it seems only three of them work it. The last time I visited there was no trace of what has (out from under cover of the trees) become a succulent garden – quite astounding to see opuntias flourishing in Lorraine with our regular -15 winter lows. Or am I demonstrating my lack of opuntia knowledge? A few plants leapt up and said ‘look at me!’ For instance this plant, growing up through metal hoops. I think it could be a herbaceous clematis and took the picture to ask before I left, then promptly forgot. Any thoughts? And what a lupin! This graceful peony was much more apricot in colour than my picture shows. As I said, there are only three of them making this charming garden. What a place to enjoy the fruits of your labour at the end of a long summer’s day. Do visit Jardin d’Ode either virtually by taking a look at their website – or you could always visit in reality and stay overnight at Châtillon-sur-Saône!