Last year during lockdown we sold up in the South of France and headed to an unknown-to-us region of France, the Loire Valley. After two viewings and a 'YES- we'll have it', the house, garden and immediate area were also unknown to us. Such was the coup de coeur, or literally, blow to the heart; in English . . .? Mm, love at first sight?
As we are planning to set up a gîte and jardin du thé a name had to be found. After a few 'err, what about this', sessions, Mark suggested Le Jardin Insolite which is in fact perfect. Insolite is a difficult word to translate: curious, unique, quirky, unusual, veering towards weird and even eerie and downright odd. Anna, the previous owner and master architect of the garden, created from a field - starring not a single tree - a verdant paradise crammed with roses and herbaceous borders that even Capability Brown might have nodded at and said, yeah, not bad, or something more akin to mid 1700s speak.
So, the insolite part . . . we will over time add to the garden: bizarre sculptures by Leonora Carrington (I wish) and home made little cabins, groovy chicken houses etc, but for the meantime it's a verdant paradise with the occasional TJV/freight train passing at grand vitesse just past our boundary, AND, sadly, a bunch of bored dogs who bark and howl at intervals thus crushing somewhat the lazy, contemplation as one wanders, admiring Anna's, and our, work. We've got used to it now and they (the dogs) do respond to the odd shout, and we get on with the neighbours - and that, especially in a rural community, is valuable to say the least.
I recall that particular amble around the garden on the first viewing; a hot, mid-summer day; the buzzing of insects, the peaceful sound of the little river that runs through the property, the scent of roses, and then the roar of a train on its straight run from Tours to Nantes passing by the line of ash trees that forms the land's delineation. The estate agent had eyed me carefully, no doubt gauging the reaction. It was a slight surprise but our last house had a railway line nearby so not out of the question - and it isn't something likely to appear even on the most honest of estate agents details: hectare of mature garden complete with minor earthquakes at irregular intervals. I like trains, but if it had been a busy road . . . it would have been a brief viewing.
It's always a lot to take in on two viewings, especially a largish house with outbuildings and a lot of land but luckily we were both in agreement and knew our son (and dogs) would approve, so, here we are gradually tackling the larger house projects and tending the garden as much as possible. Watching a garden develop through the months is fascinating. Our old house was very different - starting with a baked wasteland and creating something verdant was a challenge but it worked, and luckily our buyers are keen gardeners too so I don't feel sad at leaving what we created there.
The months here have been marked by leaves changing colour and falling, the spiky tree outlines of winter; the first strident forsythia blossom, daffodils, hundreds of different irises, japonica, and now the roses; waterfalls of pink, peach, yellow, red and white. Anna planted two hundred rosebushes and climbers and each day we are seeing new varieties blossoming. My favourite name so far: Rambling Rector. We have started to add a few things such as a pond (under construction) area in the back garden and various trees planted in the early winter but for now it still is very much the garden that Anna planned and planted.
She has now moved to a house with enormous undeveloped garden about twenty minutes away and is bravely starting on the planning and planting of it. We wish her well, and thank her everyday for making this unique and insolite, bird and insect flower-filled Arcadia.