A virtual tour of the garden
The various spaces of the garden which sprawls over ten acres have been created for the gardening workshops that are organized all year around. They are dedicated to the teaching of horticultural practices that respect the local ecology and landscape. The garden carries, therefore, a very natural look and British gardeners will readily recognize many of the gardening principles described by Christopher Llyod in ‘The adventurous gardener’* almost three decades ago. The main features of the garden are a rose garden, mixed borders of perennials among pergolas of climbing rose trees, a shrubbery (fruticetum), and two orchards, one of which planted with espaliered trees. The emphasis of our efforts is on to the protection (or restoration) of biodiversity, while the gardening philosophy remains the same. *(First Vintage Books, 1985)
Our recommended ‘principles of gardening’:
We try to keep the gardening chores as light as possible. For this purpose, all shrubs and perennials have been selected for their adaptability to the edaphic conditions available in the garden. The ecological value of local native plants is also emphasized. Water is used sparingly, whereas mulching and composting are the rule.
We favour three simple principles:
- Adopt ‘good practices’ in our gardening schedule: fulfil the right chores at the right moment, with the right tools… and as little stress as possible. Some tasks may wait until… next year, others are truly urgent!
- Forget the plants for a moment and pay more attention to the surroundings of the garden: the open spaces within and the landscape around are as meaningful to the beauty of a garden as are the plants themselves
- Pay duty to native plants: they enjoy a prima donna situation in our garden and are allowed to wander at their leisure. Insects and birds approve and biodiversity is surging. You see below the characteristic fly of ‘Episyrphus balteatus’. Although it is not a dragonfly, one can really wonder when observing its flight if it truly was not the model for the famous cartoon character ‘Evinrude’.
With this in mind, the rigorous climate of long and cold winters, strong winds blowing from the west, become less of a nuisance, as is also the case of the somewhat damaged and leached out soil, its ploughing sole and the frequent water logging.
Environment friendly gardening practices:
Le Jardin des Merlettes labelled organic (‘bio’) by the Ecocert certification company. It is managed extensively with simplified cultural practices. The ability of some plants to contain the invasion of others, including weeds, is observed to propose ways to relieve the gardener’s chores without downgrading the overall aesthetic result. The frequency and timing of mowing is also scrutinized. This practice is meant to draw the attention of the visitors to the fact that in many gardens mowing devours a good part of the gardeners’ time, while other essential tasks are sometimes overlooked.
Mowing is, therefore, restricted to a minimum. Some of the open spaces are even ‘sanctuarized’ as natural refuges, and ecological corridors are preserved throughout the garden, for the insects’ fauna. A rotation of these spaces is organized over time: on average it takes three years for many insects to complete the full cycle of their reproduction process. A series of twenty five feet squares, south of the garden, are used to observe which weed grows when and are enhanced by small sculptures laid out by sculptor Claude Pasquer. Along with the butterfly cafeteria, they are part of a ‘biodiversity trail’ where biodiversity is observed. A map of this trail is offered to visitors to the garden.
A short tour of the garden
The rose garden
The rose garden includes over 100 various species. It shows all forms of rose trees, small and high, climbing and ramblers, botanical or old varieties as well as modern hybrids. Classes are conducted in March and April for the spring pruning, as well as in July and September, to take care of the climbing rose trees and ramblers and prepare for winter.
The espaliered orchard
This orchard is composed of sixteen rows of trees. White clover covers the ground. Eleven different forms of fruit training are used to show our visitors how to conduct fruit trees. A promenade among the fruit trees, espaliered or in free form, informs the visitors about the different varieties (over eighty species) and the pruning method adopted for each, along with its respective strengths and weaknesses. Below are pictures of a row of ‘Calville‘ apple trees draped as simple bilateral ropes, in two alternative heights and respectively aged (from left to right) two, five and seven years.
The conservatory of fruit trees from Burgundy
This conservatory is dedicated to fruit trees native from Burgundy. It includes apples, pears, prunes and medlar trees, was planted in 2009 and grafted in the spring of 2010. It also houses a small collection of berries, red and black currents, gooseberries, blackberries and raspberries and is landscaped as a sundial. A gnomon is erected at the centre of the conservatory. It is an antic sort of sundial and the pottery bird perched at its top is the tool to use it as a calendar. Come to visit on a sunny day, and you will see by yourselves.
A choice of rare trees
A labyrinth of trees, east of the garden, allows for a pastoral promenade where one can get lost in the tall grass. It includes some rare species (Sassafras, Parrotia persica, Zelkova…). They were planted very small and are taking their time to adapt to their new surroundings.
Photos arbres : parrotia, sassafras, zelkova
The mixed borders
Perennials are a year-round feast. They show how natural native plants may share the space with horticultural plants, how some plants colonize others, and why the flower beds must be regularly reorganized to avoid some plants (iris sibirica, asters, allium, tradescantia, sedum) from taking over all the space, while suffocating other plants. Classes on perennials are held during the whole growing season which extends well into October. (Click here to see the full calendar of classes)
The fruticetum, the garden of shrubs, grows at its own leisure. Some shrubs have adapted easily to the local conditions while many have given up. The early plantations were far too audacious. By observing the variety of growing modes, visitors can learn how to prune the various plants and which will break from old wood. Some shrubs are also allowed to grow freely, to remind visitors how some well known shrubs have lost much of their aesthetic value because of our cutting back attitude.
The Jardin des Merlettes is open from March to November, by appointment. Please contact us to arrange for your visit.