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May 28, 2016 9:57 AM CST
|Yesterday we visited one of my favourite Mediterranean gardens, the Jardin Serre de la Madone, which (luckily for me!) is very near our place in Menton. The creator of the garden was Major Lawrence Waterbury Johnston, an American born in Paris who later became a naturalised British subject. Johnston also created the wonderful gardens at Hidcote Manor in Gloucestershire.
Johnston was an avid plant collector and both sponsored, and undertook himself, plant hunting expeditions (to Europe, South Africa, China and Burma). His goal at Menton was to create his ‘earthly paradise’. The garden fell into disrepair after Johnston’s death but is now owned by the French coastal conservation agency, the Conservatoire du Littoral. An extensive restoration programme started in 2000 and much of the garden is now restored to its former glory, although work continues.
The garden is absolutely enchanting – visitors enter a series of terraces, with steps, arches, pergolas, paving, fountains, statues, pools and benches along lanes and pathways that meander through courtyards and gardens up the hill to the main villa once occupied by Johnston.
Bignonia covered archway and circular pond
There are several small ponds, water features and a water garden, with a beautiful glass house where visitors can sit in the shade and enjoy the view.
Potted ferns in the glass house
Terrace below the main villa, with water feature:
The main villa sits beautifully in the gardens:
The ground floor rooms are open to visitors and beautiful enough to include photos here
A few metres from the villa the belvedere, clad in wisteria floribunda, provides a shady spot with wonderful views of the garden and surrounding countryside.
View from the villa
The planting reflects the plant collecting personality of Johnston – Mediterranean-type plants like aloe arborescens sit alongside the less expected flora of South Africa, China, South America and elsewhere. There are several collections of plants - heliotropes, ferns, viburnums and salvia included - and many magnificent, now mature trees collected by Johnston and his friends on their travels.
There is, of course, much more - a citrus grove, wooded area, courtyards - perhaps another time... The Jardin Serre de la Madone is a magical place with lush and exuberant planting -
If any garden lover is planning a visit to the south of France, it should rank high on your list of places to visit. I leave you with a little French frog!
May 28, 2016 2:57 PM CST
|Beautiful, thanks for adding these! The climate looks very similar to many parts of California!|
May 28, 2016 3:01 PM CST
|Oh. My. Goodness.
Mika, thank you so much for posting these photographs. I starred the page so I can go back and look again anytime.
It’s okay to not know all the answers.
May 28, 2016 8:08 PM CST
|Looks relaxing, good for the mind...
Nothing that's been done can ever be changed.
May 29, 2016 3:37 PM CST
|Lovely tour, Mika! Thank you. When I visited the garden a few years ago there were some doubts about its future, and I'm very glad to see it is still going strong.|
May 30, 2016 12:47 AM CST
|Thank you, everyone. You're right, June, it's been a struggle for the garden, and I think it still is. They've achieved a lot in terms of restoration, but need to do more to encourage visitors. When we were there on Friday there were just three couples in the entire garden - and it was a beautiful, sunny day. But all the gardeners wore happy smiles and clearly love working there. It is a special place and should be cherished.|
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