The Sabbatical Year across the South of France (and just into Italy): the journey

Leaving Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens in North Norfolk, and STAA in Nottingham, we set off for France via Wall Farm in Gwinear, Cornwall. The overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff took us almost straight to the door of Roscoff’s Jardin Exotique.

The journey: from Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens via STAA Ltd. to Roscoff Exotic Gardens.
The journey: from Pensthorpe Wildlife & Gardens via STAA Ltd. to Roscoff Exotic Gardens.

Avoiding motorways, we stuck close to the coast and headed to Marie-Jo Portet’s perennial cut flower nursery in the Gers, via garden visits to the impressive Marqueyssac and Josephine Baker’s Chateau Milandes.

The journey: from Roscoff Exotic Garden to Marie-Jo Portet's nursery in the Gers
The journey: from Roscoff Exotic Garden to Marie-Jo Portet’s nursery in the Gers

From Auch we headed to the only airport we know that still has free long-stay parking – at Tarbes-Lourdes – and took an iHop flight to Paris. We visited the following gardens:

  • The Tuileries
  • Parc Andre Citroen
  • Patrick Blanc’s growing walls at BHV Homme, the Oasis d’Aboukir and the Quai Branly
  • Promenade Plantee
  • Jardin des Plantes
  • The garden of the Biblioteque national de France (BnF)
  • Parc de Sceaux
  • Igor and Tamara’s Pres de Gittonville
  • Parc Andre Citroen
  • The Seine’s Floating Gardens, Pont de l’Alma
  • The Museum and Gardens of Albert Khan
The journey: from Gers to Paris via Lourdes airport
The journey: from Gers to Paris via Lourdes airport

After Paris, we drove to Bagneres de Bigorre for some strawbale building and camped at weekends to do some hiking, including the exhilarating big hike up the Pic du Midi. We then worked with Gill Pound at La Petite Pepiniere de Caunes-Minervois, went to meet Olivier Filippi at his dry gardening nursery, and started working with members of the Languedoc Mediterranean Garden Society.  We also headed towards the Spanish border for pink flamingo watching at Peyriac de mer, a beach weekend at Collioure and walks on the Catalan spiritual mountain of Canigou.

The journey: from Bagneres de Bigorre to Montpellier via the Pyrenees and Collioure beach.
The journey: from Bagneres de Bigorre to Montpellier via the Pyrenees and Collioure beach.

And then to the Cevennes for 2 months, with short trips to the Camargue, Nimes, the Pont du Gard and Uzes.

The journey: from Montpellier to Monoblet and roundabouts
The journey: from Montpellier to Monoblet and roundabouts

Next stop was the Vaucluse to work in 3 more gardens and then we spent 3 months living and working in the Hanbury Botanical Gardens. Here’s a map of our time in the Vaucluse,  done from the Hanbury Botanical Garden’s library in the Palazzo which featured in the recently released film, not to mention ‘turkey’, Grace of Monaco! We did the map on an old PC with software that’s in Italian, so please forgive the quality. As you can see, we didn’t work out how to print the screen or remove the message from Google maps about being sorry re. levels! Journey so far to Malaucene

The last 3 months in La Mortola, Italy, were wonderful. We enjoyed working with the team on the gardens: learning how to prune Olive and Citrus trees, helping to replant the Palazzo’s terrace with new succulents, and reinstating the Salvia collection on the terraces just above the beach at the very bottom of the garden. We are especially thankful to the warm welcome we received from Elisabetta, Nadia, Elena and Carolyn for their warm welcome and friendship during our stay.

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5 thoughts on “The Sabbatical Year across the South of France (and just into Italy): the journey

  1. Hi–this is a long shot–but I’m searching for an English gardener who lives in Monoblet–Katherine–and has a fab pizza oven built by her genius engineer partner–also English. I met her a while back when visiting, but didn’t get her contact information. if you could help me with this, please let me know.

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