Over the past few weeks I've been introducing you to my new Jardin de Lavande blocks - prior to their release in July - and taking you on a leisurely virtual tour of France's most beautiful gardens...
Maison de Jardinere
This week we are travelling to the Dordogne in south-west France, to visit a real-life secret garden, Le Jardin d'Eyrignac.
D'Eyrignac has been in the same family for more than 500 years and the wonderfully named Gilles Sermadiras de Pouzols de Lile - the father of the present owner - grew up playing in the overgrown gardens surrounding the 16th century chateau. After a career in interior design Gilles devoted his 'retirement' to unearthing the stone steps, walls and pools from the neglected garden of his childhood and reviving the gardens.
His design was inspired by, but not a slavish copy of, the past and is now regarded as the finest topiary garden in France, with it's elegant allées, buttressed hedges, spirals, pyramids and fanciful tiered trees in yew, hornbeam and box. All are pruned in the traditional manner - with hand-shears, skill and patience - by teams of gardeners. Up to five times during the growing season!
The tower at the centre of the garden, the Pavilion of Rest, reputedly housed the estate's silkworms in centuries past. Silkworms are very picky eaters and insist on a diet of leaves from the Mulberry tree, which thrives in the warm, sunny climate of the south of France and made it an important centre of silk production. But we will be concerning ourselves with housing gardeners, not silkworms, and the Maison de Jardinière block is an homage to all the gifted French gardeners we have been meeting on our journey.
Next week we will be visiting one of the most recognisable gardens in the world...