This is my second visit to a garden that I found perfect. The thought of returning to this garden has made me feel somewhat anxious. This garden is privately owned and has essentially been created by one lady. Such gardens are, by their nature, ephemeral. They depend on the health and wealth of the owner. Wild nature (or developers), wait at the gates, ready to pull it down. However, the garden is still in perfect beauty. It is a month later in the season and roses and peonies are now replaced by the flowers of hydrangeas and white astilbe. The present owner bought the property in 1989 and restored and created the long neglected gardens. The whole reflects her skill and intimate knowledge of the garden and of plants. She dances on that tightrope where poor judgements can make the garden fail. What can be left to romp? What must be constrained? What must be clipped and what just left, as is.
When we enter and ring the bell she appears, with her wild halo of hair, she looks so happy, so fulfilled, in the thrall of her creation. There are places to sit everywhere in this garden but are they ever used by the owner? She must need to work ceaselessly to manage this whole. It seems impossible, but the garden is thoroughly managed.
Arriving in the village one first sees the exuberant planting that has spilled out of the gate, crossed the road and is marching outwards, into the French landscape.
The entrance could be overlooked as it is through a side gate made of dull solid metal. The gate is ajar and gives a view of a gravel path that turns invitingly. There is a glint of golden bamboo and intriguing buildings, and a sense of beyond. Follow the path and the garden opens into a kingdom. There is a pretty chateau, more formal gardens to the front, outbuildings, a lawn to the rear, and then mature, bare-stemmed trees. The extent of the place is astonishingly revealed as one explores with ever-increasing delight.
In general, most of us major on colour in flowers and foliage in our gardens. There may be some ‘specimens’ chosen for their shape as well as plants primarily selected for foliage. Madame Catherine Guévenoux makes extensive use of texture and shape and the repetition of shape, perhaps designed to be viewed as silhouettes. Parts of the garden can work in black and white. When within the avenue of tall, bare-stemmed trees the leaves shift constantly with a susurration both soothing and intoxicating and engages the hearing. In the shade of the trees there are cool breezes, like cool water on the skin on this hot day.
One finds white doves, ponies, and chicken. There is an orchard and long grass meadows. There are unexpected vistas with long paths that control the design, and everywhere, a cornucopia of birdsong.If you want to find this garden for yourself, it is called the Jardins de Maizicourt, in the village of that name. It is around 39 kilometres NNE of Abbeville, in Picardy.
Susan A. Tindall