In this part of the French News Online "Lifestyle" Section,
professional gardener Mike Alexander, takes a break to visit other
- Jardin Botanico de Madrid -
Gardening for a living has to be a passion because the financial returns often don't match what could be gained in other trades or professions.
I knew this to be the case and went into the trade with my eyes
open and so there was no fit of depression when I saw my first
pay cheque. There are still moments however, when one needs to
fan the flames a little to keep the passion alive and so recently
I was very fortunate to pay visits to three grand inspiring gardens
that have done just that.
The Jardin Botanico de Madrid is much more formally laid out than,
say, the Domaine du Royal (see below) and provides an opportunity
to see how many different types of plant perform. One of it's
highlights for me was a wall of about thirty metres long and entirely
covered in star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) which I
could smell well before it even came into view.
The Domaine du Rayol features plants from many parts of the world
all of which able to cope with tough Mediterranean conditions.
Domaine du Rayol, Provence
The landscaped gardens run right down to the sea about an hours
drive west of Saint Tropez and even include guided snorkelling
tours of the incorporated marine garden.
The Jardin des plants in Paris was stunning in August. Of course
to make things even more pleasurable the city is largely deserted
at this time of year as many of the residents have fought their
way down to the coast leaving the capital with a wonderful Sunday
afternoon feel throughout the month. They have a section of the
garden devoted almost entirely to salvias and all clearly labelled
which is both refreshing and useful to the gardener who wants
to nick various planting ideas.
Jardin de Plantes - Paris
Visiting other gardens of this stature or even just the gardens
of friends is always a great way to pick up new ideas, see plants
used in different ways and learn about plants one has not come
Plant names are a constant problem for me as I have a shocking
memory and I never did Latin at school and so where others might
recognize that the word rubra might relate to red-leafed, in my
case it became just another word to rote learn.
The use of Latin names has proved valuable since moving to France,
as not only do common names differ here, but in many cases the
Latin name is the one most widely used. You can try this for yourself
by going along to your local pepiniere and asking for a bay tree.
It is likely that he would he stare blankly, but if you asked
for a Laurus the two of you might eventually get to laurier which
is what you were looking for. I frequently start with the Latin
name when discussing a plant with French clients and by fiddling
around a little with the pronunciation and softening the vowels
slightly I find an understanding can often be reached.
An important word of warning however. The one local plant name
that shall eternally be engraved on my memory is sapin for pine
tree and not the Latin Pinus. I confess I discovered this to my
intense embarrassment after trying to explain to an elderly French
client that my Pinus had been invaded by caterpillars.