A visit to 2 gardens in the Vaucluse with a group from the Mediterranean Gardening France very much looked forward to, on my part, after lock downs et al. Both gardens in Le Barroux and both with views of Mont Ventoux. Differing in scale and also in character but personal nonetheless. This garden facing south on a sloping site where terracing has facilitated easy circulation as well as the pleasure of discovery of informal and open spaces and created with apposite planting. The owners know what they want to achieve . . .

. . by leaving certain areas to speak for themselves in an uncluttered form. Why clutter up with decorative planting when nature has provided the perfect ambience.

The Rosa banksia Lutea is mature and splendid . . .

. . . the centranthus ruber hosts the papilio machaon (swallow tail butterfly) and carpenter beetles. In this part of the Vaucluse, if space allows, then a lavender field is sort of obligatory, and in this garden a shady seating area overlooks and offers a view of Mont Ventoux to boot.

We moved onto the second garden very close by, where again Mont Ventoux made a splendid backcloth and, turning the eye to the north the Abbey of Le Barroux, a traditionalist Benedictine abbey and built fairly recently (40 years old), sits in splendour. The monks were busy with noisy tractors working in their vineyards – good for them.

This garden is defined by the owner as a sculpture garden. On arrival, the Five Arrows by Walter Bailey placed in broad bands of Pennisetum by the apricot orchard is well sited. . .

. . . other pieces are equally well placed; the bespoke furniture made by the ferronier and menuisier adds to the creative character of the garden.

The journey around the site moves in 360 degrees – views out and cross views within – ensuring a complete experience. It’s a tantalising and exciting voyage but, at the same time, can be meditative (seating well and thoughtfully positioned) and speculative . . .

. . . another mature Lady Rosa Banks’ rose (it’s that time of year – hallellujah) in the rill garden . .

. and ferula making a statement alongside sculpture on a sloping bank. Another seasonal statement of a tamarisk front of stage against the blue Provencal sky. Hello and good-bye Le Barroux.

Back near home and, in a wider agriculural landscape, the Pont Roux, our beautiful, graceful and well proportioned water tower, seems to survey this valley packed with produce bursting out of the ground and from vines and fruit trees. Newly planted asperge at over 1.5m high now will be harvested next year.

Plants native to the garrigue are filling the banks and close up Muscari comosum or Leopoldia comosa – tassel grape hyacinth – intirgues. Apparently the bulb is a culinary delicacy . . .

. poppies abound – so joyful. In the garden – it’s starting to be riotous with Rosa odorata Mutabilis duetting with the phlomis so hence the choice of poem.

I can’t turn a smell

into a single word;

you’ve no right

to ask. Warmth

coaxes rose fragrance

from the underside of petals.

The oils meet air:

rhodinal is old rose;

geraniol, like geranium;

nerol is my essence

of magnolia; eugenol,

a touch of cloves. Jo Shapcott Rosa odorata

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