Terrarius Project in the Cevennes

We are building a garden for an eco-house in a hamlet in the Cevennes. The Cevennes is an area of rolling hills covered in Holm oak (Quercus ilex), White oak (Quercus alba) and Stone pine (Pinus pinea); one-way bridges; vineyards; and a population of wild boar that greatly outnumbers the orange-jacketed hunters and their howling dogs.

Autumn colours in the Cevennes
Autumn colours in the Cevennes
New Year's Dawn 2014
New Year’s Dawn 2014

Wild boar
Wild boar
Vineyards on the plains
Vineyards on the plains

Part of the design is influenced by one of Clara and Olivier Filippi’s dry gardening projects, the  ‘Terrasse végétale’, which is an area of large, flat stones interplanted with drought-tolerant, low growing plants.

The other part will be a mixture of herbaceous perennials, bulbs and shrubs. We’ve transplanted some plants from the surrounding garden areas, and we’ll be identifying and sourcing other plants that will need to tolerate very hot summers, flash floods in the spring and autumn, and winters temperatures that can reach and stay at -15℃.

The garden before we started work
The garden before we started work
Cold December start
Cold December start

We started by clearing the old garden, digging out weeds (mostly the woody roots of Potentilla recta) and the rubble and rubbish buried by the builders of the house.

Clearing out the old planting and rubbish
Clearing out the old planting and rubbish
Removing Iris
Removing Iris

A neighbouring farmer – happy to help out during this quiet period – moved the largest stones with his tractor:

Dragging a stone from the property's woods
Dragging a stone from the property’s woods
Scarily close to the house!
Scarily close to the house!
We then took wheelbarrows along the old terraces on the property to find large flat stones for the ‘terrasse’ and square stones for the wall. We’re using very local resources – from within 50m! – which will reflect the garrigue landscape surrounding the garden. The first plants to have gone in are self-seeded thymes and lavenders transplanted from other areas of the property.
Placing stones for the 'terrasse vegetale'
Placing stones for the ‘terrasse vegetale’
The 'terrasse' in progress
The ‘terrasse’ in progress

We’ll post some more photos and update on progress soon. In the meantime, here’s what you may find when gardening in the Cevennes: a young Conehead Mantis that climbed onto our client’s boot!

Conehead Mantis (juvenile)
Conehead Mantis (juvenile)

Links: 

Olivier and Clara Filippi’s plant nursery and demonstration garden: http://www.jardin-sec.com/

Article written by members of the Languedoc branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society, on their visit in May 2012 to Olivier and Clara Filippi’s garden, which includes a section on the ‘Terrasse Végétale’: http://www.mediterraneangardensocietyfrance.com/gdGL2012May.htm

Glossary: 

  • Garrigue: Mediterranean scrubland with low-growing plants
  • Terrasse végétale: a flat, paved area that is planted between the paving

 

Update after 2 years – May 2016

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