The King and Queen of dry gardening, because whilst Olivier is the recognised name, like Piet Oudolf, Clara Filippi is an integral part of their work and enterprise. Together, they have worked, travelled, collected, propagated, grown, photographed and written about what is possible in the wild in the driest places, and what you can translate into the domestic garden. A couple of years ago, I was able to tag along at the back of a gardening group in the Languedoc who had arranged a visit to the nursery, oh joy!, and, even more enjoyable, a guided visit to the Filippi gardens which are normally private as they wrap around their house.
If you read his book, which is available in English, you will discover that his approach is founded upon rigorous science and plant testing, which means that his plant descriptions are scrupulously accurate and graded according to the degrees of dryness that a plant will accommodate. Even more importantly, his approach sets out to encourage the gardener to abandon expensive, wasteful horticultural practices that no longer sit well with our ecological and climate awareness and to embrace plants and growing conditions that can still make for magnificent gardens. It was music to my ears when I bought his book in 2007. For an introduction, there was a good article by Tim Richardson not so long ago in the Telegraph.
I am lucky in that, in my garden, I have a range of growing conditions, from wet to dry, from hot to shady, from semi-decent soil to an area I describe as ‘shitty bank’- and so, if I am careful and don’t make too many impetuous decisions, I can grow different plants for different parts of the garden. Filippi has given not only lots of inspiration for the hotter, dryer areas that were new to me coming from Scotland, but also helped me see the beauty in plants that are perhaps not conventionally beautiful. Here are some views of his private garden:
If you are in the Languedoc near Sete, go and visit the nursery- watch out for bank holiday closures as is normal in France. The website is also encyclopedic and brilliant.