Great Gardens, Great Design – Jardin Plume, France

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.

Jardin Plume by Rodney Eason via www.pithandvigor.com

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.

Jardin Plume Sign

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.

Mixed Plantings at Jardin Plume

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.

Jardin Plume Hedge Opening

 

Chair and Hellebore

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.

– Rodney

Images by Rodney Eason

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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