Plume Puzzle by Adam Hodge

April 21, 2016

in Garden Reviews, Reviews

Jardin Plume is one of those gardens which not long ago got featured everywhere. So when Charles Hawes was in France for the Chaumont Garden Festival he made a long trek to go and see it. And I waited for his response with eager anticipation. He was disappointed. (Is this the inevitable consequence of too much talking up?)

But could I get him to write a review? (answers on a postcard, please..)

So I was very pleased to be offered one – and it comes with a question about the blocks of grasses. I’d say they are not ‘Prairie’ – but I’m interested in what others may have to say. Please chip in..

The first picture is one of Charles’s, the rest are Adam’s.

Anne Wareham, editor.
Anne Wareham Portrait, copyright John Kingdon

Anne Wareham

Le Jardin Plume, Normandy France, photograph copyright Charles Hawes

Le Jardin Plume, Normandy France, grasses.  Photograph copyright Charles Hawes

My Puzzle about a popular Plume by Adam Hodge

 One of the raves these days in the context of must see gardens is a place called Le Jardin Plume, a garden in Normandy and winner of ‘The Garden of the Year 2008’ awarded by the Garden Museum and Gardens Illustrated. It has a plethora of distinguished revues so was a destination I had to visit.Through a small gate in a country hedge in the middle of a vast flat plain you make your way to some lovely barns beside a small ‘pepiniere’ (nursery) full of perennials grown by the owners. Beyond that unfolds the garden, the preface a strikingly profiled hedge. It almost acts as a precursor to a study in different forms of low hedging with a nod of styling to Sissinghurst.

Moving to the front of the ‘maison’ a lovely tranquil view of the flat fields of Normandy is the focus of where to walk next. But not so hastily – fiery coloured beds awash with yellows reds and oranges compel you to linger. Here are hedges that remind me of the white garden at Sissinghurst.

Moving from the hot coloured beds to a field of square spaces, a grid of squares with wide mown paths leading to the far end of the garden is quite a change of styles. From now the planting is more a study in the use of blocks of grasses decorated with the mute toned perennials so popular in these oh so trendy ‘Prairie’ gardens.

Prior to searching out the depths of this grided layout and the distant landscape there is the frontispiece of a square pond, flush with the ground level and with grass to the water’s edge. Two easy chairs  are placed nearby, an integral part of the peace the water reflects.

Jardin Plume P7210246 Copyright Adam Hodge
Jardin Plume P7210254 Copyright Adam Hodge
Jardin Plume copyright Adam Hodge 1 P7210252 (2)

Jardin Plume copyright Adam Hodge

Jardin Plume resized fascinating hedgescape P7210317 Copyright Adam Hodge (2)


Jardin Plume copyright Adam Hodge

So why the ‘puzzle’ ?  My problem is that I don’t ‘get’ the big deal of huge splodges of grass. Blocks of grass akin to a  designer wheat field have as much appeal as magnolia paint. It  is, for my money, uncommonly dull and only has an appeal if one is utterly sick and tired of clipped evergreen hedges or shrubs. The Prairie look is…not for me.
Jardin Plume Copyright Adam Hodge Grasses P7210264 (2)
As I and my tour guest departed we asked each other what were the best bits. For me it was the tranquillity of the piece of water, which could almost have been longer and more dominant in the overall space, running the whole length of the garden.  For my guest I think it was the impressionistic mixed flowers in one of the side gardens, and yes, with its own quite ramshackle styling it was charming. This last picture gives an indication.
Jardin Plume, copyright Adam Hodge 4 P7210279 (2)
It is definitely worth visiting. The owners are very friendly; many people really respond to the style and it has some intriguing plant combinations.
Adam Hodge
 Adam Hodge, portrait Oct 2015 Worcester College lunch with M Millard (2)

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