Le jardin des sens…Jardin Manaoutet, Antin 65

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Brilliant colours literally set the scene, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

A very hot afternoon with brilliant sunshine took us to the garden, Jardin Manaoutet, made by Gertrud and Hannes Reimers on a short drive from Tostat.  Inside an inviting, enclosed and mysterious courtyard packed with interesting plants, pots and objects, Gertrud introduced us to their imaginative and individual garden, organised in a fluid way to take you down into their valley and back up again, through a series of linked ‘rooms’ and different planting experiences.  In and out of the bright sunshine, through shady paths and arches, the garden wraps you into a world of mystery and almost enchantment.

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The courtyard bursting with plants, pots and rustic objects, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

It feels as if they started planting and experimenting, and just carried on, gradually linking the garden together as a whole- and then, perhaps, surprising themselves when they arrived back at the house and central courtyard.  It brings out the child in you, the excitement of not knowing quite what is round the next corner.

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Path moving you through, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

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Looking back at the house from the path, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

Gertrud is the plantsperson and Hannes describes himself as ‘just the worker’, but as a combination, they have taken some extraordinary plants, such as the beautiful Gingko biloba planted when they arrived in 1999, and some ordinary plants that we all use and love, and made a great blend of planting, with a strong naturalistic and slightly chaotic style that heightens the intimacy somehow.

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The Gingko planted when the garden was started in 1999, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 1977

Many of their plants have been grown from seed or cuttings and gifts from friends, and there is nothing expensive or consumerist about their approach to their garden.  The objects in the garden have all been made by them and are both whimsical and thought-provoking.  I loved the blend of practicality and imagination that they both possess and have inscribed in the growing of their garden.  One of Gertrud’s home sculpted figures is pictured below.

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Sculpture and planting near the potager, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

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The lavender garden, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

Some parts of the garden have gone their own way as Gertrud and Hannes’ ideas have changed and evolved.  The lavender garden was once more formal, but is now is a romp of naturalistic planting, which hummed with insects on that hot afternoon.

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Looking into the rose garden, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

We were there just as the last of the roses flowered, approaching the rose garden through an arch draped with Clematis florida ‘Sieboldii’, which looked stunning emerging from the green shade of the pathway.

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Clematis florida ”Sieboldii’, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

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Rosa ‘Giardina’, Jardin Manaoutet, Antin, June 2017

Two roses really caught my eye.  Rosa ‘Giardina’, bred by Hans-Jurgen Evers in Germany in 1997, was a baroque splendour of tumbling pink, cream and butter-coloured generous blooms, and the opulently-named red rose, Rosa ‘Astrid,Grafin von Hardenburg’, another Hans-Jurgen Evers introduction in 1997, it was a shyer star in the semi-shade. This rose is a quite unique red, almost black at the edges of the petals and a sumptuous deep red that the camera doesn’t catch.  A modern tea rose, I fell for it and bought one of Gertrud’s potted-up cuttings, which is looking pretty good with me now, despite the heat. I know where it’s going in the garden.

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Rosa ‘Astrid, Graffin von Hardenburg’, Jardin Manaoutet, June 2017

A lovely and individual garden.  It was a real pleasure to be guided around by Gertrud and Hannes- great spokespeople for their own style and handicraft.

Burnout…or not quite

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Looking again…Yucca with Bupleurum fruticosum, Miscanthus strictus, looking across to Hydrangea Annabelle, Tostat, July 2017

The last two weeks of June were a flurry of gardens, visiting friends and reprogramming my eyes to a different kind of English luxuriousness and verdant views.  More of all of this in time.  But coming back home on Saturday evening to 11C and pelting rain, we lit the woodburner to warm ourselves and our frozen housesitters.  Venturing out early on Sunday morning, with eyes still working to English levels of greenness,  I was aghast.  The garden looked as if it had had a blowtorch taken to it.  More than a week of temperatures in the high 30Cs and not a drop of rain, not to mention hot winds had really taken its toll, despite the care and attention of the housesitters.

But.  As my eyes adjusted back to my own garden, I actually had a lot of cause for celebration which I came to see as I went round looking in detail.  First of all, not much had actually died.  I may have lost one Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’, but the other one is recovering even now, and so maybe it will too.  Burnt edges could be seen everywhere, but not much actual death.  And, this early July period is a bit of a ‘Potter’s Wheel’.  It’s always the time where the earlier summer flowering has gone over and the mid to late summer plants haven’t yet hit their stride, and really I should know this by now.

So major redesign panic over.   And a few days later, with sight fully restored to normal settings, I was able to appreciate the plants that had persevered and come through.  And there were one or two real surprises in the mix.  For example, new to me this year, was Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’– and it has proved a real stalwart.  In a new area, which I suspect does actually have some spring activity deep down, it is blooming really well, along with clumps of my cheap-as-chips Liatris spicata and a new annual purple millet that I grew from seed, Pennistum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’.  The Kalimeris is a 0.75cms high neat clump of bright green foliage, with mauve flowers fading to white, and is very pretty.  Let’s see what happens with spread and seeding, but it looks like a really good doer to me.

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Liatris spicata and Pennisetum glaucum ‘Purple Baron’, Tostat, July 2017

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Kalimeris incisa ‘Madiva’, Tostat, July 2017

The next morning, in the dappled sunshine early on in a part of the border by the wall that is a right mess- project for early 2018, even though my teeth were slightly setting at the disarray, a timid Southern White butterfly was enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’.  It seemed really good to be home.

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Southern White Admiral butterfly enjoying Echinacea ‘White Swan’, Tostat, July 2017

The final fling

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The gorgeous Rosa ‘Lady Hillingdon’, Sombrun, end May 2017

I make no excuses for raving about the roses this year, it has been an exceptional year I think. But maybe a little short with everything all bursting out at once, Rosa banksiae did not have the stage to itself as normal.  So, when invited back to Sombrun to see the roses in their final burst for the once-flowerers, we dashed round.

‘Lady Hillingdon’ with the smokey apricot centres was very seductive, but then so was this modern floribunda one, doing very nicely thank you in a pot.

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Rosa ‘Cinco de Mayo’, Sombrun, end May 2017

Just along from this exotic colour mix, was Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’, with very baroque swags of flowers hanging low.

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Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener’, Sombrun, end May 2017

A rose I have often read about, but not seen before, was ‘Phyllis Bide’, growing at the edge of the meadow and decorating a chain link fence rather well.

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Rosa ‘Phyllis Bide’, Sombrun, end May 2017

‘Charles de Mills’ is like watching an Origami exercise unfold.  It must have one of the most densely pleated flowers in the rose world.  Rubbish for pollinating insects, but glorious as a natural marvel.

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Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’, Sombrun, end May 2017

At the minimalist end of the spectrum is another rose I had read about but not seen, the strangely named ‘Cooper’s Burmese’.  It is the epitome of Scandi-chic in comparison with ‘Charles de Mills’, five long, delicate petals and a light golden centre, fragile but tough.

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Rosa ‘Cooper’s Burmese’, Sombrun, end May 2017

I loved the modern rose, ‘Opalia’ as well, for it’s simplicity and delicacy.

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Rosa ‘Opalia’, Sombrun, end May 2017

‘Sally Holmes’ has just enough pink in the buds for the girl-next-door look, but then opens out into cream, many-stamened sophistication.

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Rosa ‘Sally Holmes’, Sombrun, end May 2017

‘The Alexandra Rose’ has the look of a chinensis rose about it, single flowers with generous stamens and slightly flared petals, as if it has just had a small shock.

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Rosa ‘The Alexandra Rose’, Sombrun, end May 2017

Then comes the clinical elegance of ‘Paul’s Perpetual White’.

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Rosa ‘Paul’s Perpetual White’, Sombrun, end May 2017

Bustling in a jolly way over the gate with a crushed raspberry pink was a busy big rose, ‘Maria Lisa’, very pretty.

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Rosa ‘Marie Lisa’ over the gate, Sombrun, end May 2017

And meanwhile in the woodland area, not a rose but Cornus kousa flowering with just as much exoticism as all the companion roses- not to be outdone.   And it will all happen again next year, what a joy.

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Cornus kousa flowering, Sombrun, end May 2017


Come rain, come shine part 2

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Cenolophium denudatum in the green, Tostat, June 2017

And now we have rain.  Some things react well and take it in their stride.  Cenolophium denudatum, a very posh name for a rather unassuming umbellifer, is doing better now.  For some reason the big clump had a bad patch last year, which resulted in A&E treatment, then splitting into 6 smaller clumps followed by re-planting in different spots.  I knew it would take a while to get going this year, and it has, but on the other hand, it has taken well where it is now planted.  It is a lovely thing in full flow, about 1m high and tall, with feathery foliage and fine cream flowers.  But they are even better, in my view, when they are young and pale green, see above.

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Cenolophium denudatum, in the cream, Tostat, June 2017

And here it is, in the cream mature form.  Pretty, very pretty.  it needs some moisture but not too much.

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Arundo donax ‘Variegata’, Tostat, June 2017

This clump of Arundo donax ‘Variegata’ has been in very dry, hot, stony soil for the past 9 years- so, contrary to the link to Tropical Britain, I am sure it needs less moisture than they suggest and just as much sun.  It reaches 3m high and about 3 m wide, and looks spectacular overlooking Shitty Bank.  But last winter did give it a hammering, and so, for the first time, we cut it right back in the spring, and this is obviously what we should have been doing all along, as it returned to form magnificently.  This year has reminded me how good it is.

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Eryngium eburneum, Tostat, June 2017

A massive tumble and thicket of spikey little fists is a good way to describe Eryngium eburneum, which also lives on Shitty Bank.  Another faithful friend from the early days of the garden, it self-seeds politely where conditions suit, dry and sunny being right for it.  It can get very tall, easily 1.75m some years, and amazingly, it copes with high winds and lashing rain by just waving a little.  The flowerspikes stay all winter until they are bone dry, when they can be cut down or left to drop naturally depending on your taste. They make a great aerial statement without dominating, and are a forgotten hero a lot of the time in the garden.  Very tough.

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Hydrangea quercifolia, Tostat, June 2017

The rain of the last few days has brought out the first buds breaking on the Hydrangea quercifolia, which lives in the moister, semi-shade area by our ruisseau, or canal.  It was another early purchase and is now a beautiful, sharp green presence in the border about 2m x 2m roughly.  The crisp, white flowerheads open slowly and are quite fabulous especially early on with lime green buds still showing.  Now that we have a bench close by, I am much more likely to sit and notice it- a good thing.

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Looking north from the Hydrangea,  Rosa ‘Salet’, Populus deltoides ‘Purple Tower’and the banana rearing up, Tostat, June 2017

Like all the other roses, one that came with us from Scotland and, in truth, has only been barely tolerated, has really shown what it can do this year.  So, Rosa ‘Salet’ has saved itself.  It is a rambling, straggly, bush.  A Moss Rose, with those hairy, spiny stems and fuzzy leaves, it is not the most appealing sight often.  But it has flowered, small, bright pink densely folded flowers that have been liberally spread about the branches this year. It is a French rose, from Lacharme, dating from 1854.  It stays.

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Rosa ‘Salet’, Tostat, June 2017





Come rain, come shine…

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End of the evening with Stipa tenuissima, Oenethora speciosa shutting up shop, and the last of Cerinthe major ‘Kiwi Blue’ in the distance, Tostat, May 2017

This May has been a bit of a rollercoaster, and in these moments, it is hard not to become totally obsessed with the weather forecast, and then what actually happens- usually not at all as predicted.  In summary, the dry soil sun-lovers have really enjoyed themselves and other things have not, some of which have hung on in there and one or two may have bitten the dust.  This is because I don’t water.  To be precise, I do spot-water things in extremis in their first year, but after that, I don’t.  Stubborn or what, you might well say.  But I am trying to finetune the selection and growing of plants that can live here unaided, and now that there is so much variability in the weather at any time of the year, it makes you feel a bit like William Tell trying to skewer that apple with both legs bound, and from a moving platform.

One of the plants that may have crashed and burnt is one of two Rhamnus frangula ‘Fine Line’.  Interestingly, the one that is in the ER wagon is the one in the slightly less hot spot. I so wanted to grow this plant, having chosen it years ago as part of a planting design for my diploma course- and it was the devil of a job to find it here in France.  So I was mightily pleased when I found not one but two plants last year, and planted them in the early Spring.  It is a delicate, airy columnar shrub, which is pretty undemanding and is reputed to cope with almost any conditions, especially frost.  So, I will have to see if it will perk up from the bottom or find a way of making a comeback.   Meantime, some gentle watering on occasion as it is in the ER wagon.

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Verbascum bombyciferum, where it put itself, Tostat May 2017

Some delights have also turned up. That is not to say that Verbascum bombyciferum is entirely a delight as it can plonk itself slapbang where you don’t want it, and then you have to keep beheading it as it is impossible to get out, with a giant root system that practically goes to Australia.  But it is a mighty and impressive beast when it lands where you might not know that you want it, but you discover that you always did!  With us, the first year is quite a small affair, and then, aged 1-2, the giant seems to leap fully formed out of the ground in front of your eyes.  Felted, hairy and covered in custard-yellow small flowers, it is a one-stop insect feeding station.  It keeps the form and stature right through winter until, totally dried out, it keels over and you are tempted to shout ‘Timber’.

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Assorted foxgloves in dampish soil and sun, Tostat, May 2017

Curiously, it has also been a great year for foxgloves- all self-sown and obviously selecting the parts of the garden where they stand a chance.  That is one of the lovely things about not being too rigid about what goes on where, I love being surprised by what pops up and, also, flip side of the coin, by what doesn’t pop up.  Some years, the foxgloves don’t make much of an appearance- but they always return in the end.

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Euphorbia sikkimensis, Tostat, May 2017

Now here is a survivor.  Grown from seed and fairly weedy for a couple of years, this is the year where it has broken through youth to become a real plant of substance.  I think it’s Euphorbia sikkimensis anyway.  It’s at least 5 years ago that I grew it from seed and it wasn’t a happy sowing, as not much came up, and I lost the tag.  This plant is the only survivor of three.  But it really is worth it.  It is going to make a handsome 1m tall and wide plant, with these electric yellow flower bracts that form on the top of each stem.  Unlike some, it is not a thug, in fact, I would put it in the ‘shy and retiring’ category.  It flowers much later than the rest- sometimes as late as the end of June, and it is willing to cope with the driest, sunniest spot in the garden without any visible complaint.

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Evening sun and handling no rain pretty well, Tostat, May 2017

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Clematis viticella, Aruncus dioicus and the foliage of Paeonia lutea var.ludlowii, Tostat, May 2017

le Jardin d’Entêoulet

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Cotinus coggygria ‘Kanari’ encircled by Stipa tenuissima, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

The first ever garden-visit expedition was made by Tostatenfleur last Saturday to the Jardin d’Entêoulet, just outside Lasseube-Propre in the Gers.  We deserve a blue plaque to mark the occasion!  Nearly 20 of us assembled there at 0930 to be given an excellent and very relaxed tour by the garden-maker, Mme Renée Boy-Faget.  She has made an exceptional garden, and having the energy of an army herself,  it has been a single-handed labour of love.  The word ‘passion’ applies to Mme Boy-Faget.  She is no shirker from hard work and physical labour, and is a walking advert for the benefits of spending her time creating the garden she wants.  In terms of space, it is much much more garden than most of us would contemplate, more than 2 hectares of what were simply fields and farmland up until 2001.  Her work achieved the accolade of being voted ‘Le Jardin Préféré des Français’ in 2014, fighting off 21 other gardens in France- and it was richly deserved.

She has and had a vision.  She clearly has the ability and the ‘eye’ to look at a space, small or big, and see how it could be.  So that is greatly to be admired.  But, perhaps, even more impressive is the simplicity of much of her planting.  She has blended easy-to-grow ordinary perennials which repeat through much of the garden with the occasional show-stopper, like the extraordinary Cotinus coggygria ‘Kanari’ that I have never seen before.

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Rosa Leontine Gervais, Barbier 1903, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

Her lovely collection of more than 280 rose varieties, many of them very unusual, are also accompanied by simple, repeat plantings of catmint, phlomis and sisyrinchium. Grasses are everywhere, much to my delight.  Above is Rosa ‘Leontine Gervais’, which is very similar in colouring and tone to ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ but with much larger trusses of flowers from cream to warm apricot.  Absolutely gorgeous.

Her planting style is relaxed, plants find their space- and she resists the urge to over-stuff or prune/trim,  the feeling she creates is that the plants get the chance to do their own thing.  Although she will cut back if she dislikes something or becomes too big for its boots- no messing there.

She clearly uses every single one of the many babies that your average Miscanthus produces in our climate here- and to great effect.  I will definitely be going back for an autumn visit when the grasses will be flowering magnificently.  I also really liked the sense of integration in the garden.  It is a glorious whole, with different scenes, areas and colours, but the whole remains connected.  To a great extent, the simplicity of the repeated plantings really helps with that, but also there is a flow through the garden that works even in the new plantings at the bottom of the slight hill.

No more words- here are some views and some plants that really caught my eye.  If in the Gers, ring up and go.  A really inspiring three hours.

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A romantic view of the entrance path, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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A view to the Lutyens bench, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Looking through the relaxed planting, le Jardin d’Entêoulet. May 2017

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The dry garden, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Complete with resident frogs sitting on the lilypads, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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The formal pool, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Red painted vine stumps lead the way past Papaver, ‘Beauty of Livermere’, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Sir Cedric Morris’ performing brilliantly by the formal pool, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Sir Cedric Morris’, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Vilchenblau’ coming into the sun, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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Bees enjoying the peony poppy, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017

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The vine stumps appear again at the pool, a good bit of theatre, le Jardin d’Entêoulet, May 2017



La Roseraie du Désert

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View of la Roseraie du Desert, Bouzon Gellenave, France, May 2017

Yesterday, on a supremely sunny, warm day, we visited Becky and John Hook at la Roseraie du Désert, about 50 minutes drive from Tostat.  I inherited quite a few roses when we moved in, and along the way have probably trebled the roses in the garden originally.  My best ever purchase was ‘Marguerite Reine d’Italie’ which flowers continuously and gamely all summer long in hot, semi-shady, stony position without complaint- and she was recommended by Becky Hook when I described the fairly ghastly position I wanted the rose for.  A tough call.  So, I have a very soft spot for their nursery, and was sorry to hear that they would like to sell up- but, for the moment, they are continuing the business.

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Rosa ‘Marguerite Reine d’Italie’, Tostat, July 2015

They have fabulous roses, all grown directly on their own roots rather than grafted, so no unwelcome suckering guests ever.  And the collection contains some very historic, and unusual varieties, mostly Teas, Chinas and Noisettes- so the perfume is often delicious.  We were there pretty much at the end of the rose season this year, which seems really early, but April warmth really brought them all out, almost all together. Nevertheless, there were some lovely roses that caught my eye. So here is my selection from yesterday.  Incidentally, many of them are remontant, but some are so gorgeous that you would willingly have them in your garden for just a day.

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Rosa ‘Irene Bonnet’, 1920 Nabonnand Clément, La Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Ducher’, Ducher 1869, La Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Andre Schwartz’, 1882 Schwartz, la Roseraie de Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Fritz Nobis’, Kordes 1940, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Homere’, Robert et Moreau 1858, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Souvenir de Pierre Notting’, 1902 Soupert et Notting, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Marie van Houtte’, 1871 Ducher, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘Ornement des Bosquets’, 1860 Jamain, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

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Rosa ‘l’Abondance’, 1887 Moreau-Robert, la Roseraie du Désert, May 2017

Please contact Becky Hook if you are interested in taking over their magnificent collection of roses, their business and their house and land, they are looking for a buyer.