The Jardin Plume is beautiful private garden near Rouen created by owners Patrick et Sylvie Quibel. Their design borrows many formal elements from traditional French gardens but these have been used in a very contemporary way. There are formal allées, reflective pools and parterres, all designed in a modern style. This formality is offset with exuberant and romantic plantings of wild flowers, grasses and perennials.
The Quibel’s open their garden and small nursery to the public on summer afternoons and are very hands on and happy to answer questions. We arrived at Le Jardin Plume after a morning of heavy rain in June. The skies were still grey but the low light level brought out the lush greens of the Normandy countryside.
A flowering meadow and orchard forms the main axis of the garden, running from the house to the boundary, where a simple wire fence allows it to melt into the surrounding farmland. Rectilinear paths mown into the meadow are superposed onto a formal grid of fruit trees.
A playfully pruned hedge separates the meadow from the smaller “Jardin Plume” (Feather Garden) which gives its name to the whole garden.
The curves of the timber in the beautifully restored barns are mirrored in the organic forms of the hedge and the rounded back of the bench.
The entrance to the Jardin de Printemps (Spring Garden) is flanked by a clipped box hedge contrasting with the billowing forms of starry white and pink hardy geraniums and astrantias. A short flight of steps is made from old worn cobblestones.
The visitor is enticed forward along the path by metal arches which have been left untreated allowing them to obtain this lovely rusty patina which harmonises so well with the warm brick of the barns.
The Jardin d’Été (Summer garden) is inspired by classical French parterres with clipped box hedges containing flowers in hot colours. The box hedges are left open on one side allowing light to reach the plants and for ground cover plants such as nasturtiums to flow out over the paths.
One of the most striking elements in the garden is the square reflective pond in front of the house, a device used by André Le Notre at Versailles and Vaux le Vicomte. Inserted into the grid of the meadow and orchard and aligned with the house and parterre, the rectilinear shape set into the lawn and left unplanted makes it totally modern yet rooted in the past.
On the other side of the Summer Garden, Le Jardin d’Automne (Autumn garden) was full of colour and texture despite it being too early in the year to see this garden of tall grasses and perennials at its best. The hedge clipped into waves creates a strong graphic backdrop.
Le Jardin de Fleurs (The Flower Garden), enclosed by a simple fence of split chestnut, was once the potager but has been transformed into a garden of annual and perennial flowers. Two clematis flank the entry, a white clematis montana and to the right a more unusual purple-leaved C. recta purpurea, a herbaceous non-climbing clematis. Mr Quibel told me that he stakes it firmly to stop it flopping over.
The flower garden was full of early summer flowers such as these beautiful dark purple aquilegias. The flower pots on stakes may be earwig traps, or maybe to make the posts more visible, but they are a charming feature and a reminder of the former use of the garden as a potager.
The Underwood garden is very informal with a really wild hidden-way feel. The path runs between tall swathes of white rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium ‘Album’) which are shaded by Cornus mas and hazel trees (Corylus avellana).
Alongside the Underwood is the Miscanthus Cloister and pond which repeats the square reflective pond nearer the house. Part cloister, part labyrinth, this space is intended for relaxation and reflection. Later in the summer, the miscanthus at their full height of 1.5 to 2 metres create a more intimate space.
To the right of the meadow, the squares of native wildflowers and grasses are mirrored in a garden of American prairie grasses. In June we were able to admire the structure, but later in the year the flowers will make an impressive sight before turning shades of red in autumn. The grasses include red-tinted Panicum virgatum ‘Squaw’, delicate Sporobolus heterolepsis and tall Andropogon gerardii.
The barn is separated from the nursery beds by formal box hedges and a warm brick path. Throughout the garden the Quibel’s have used beautiful wooden benches as focal points which encourage the visitor forward either to rest and contemplate, or to lead them to discover new parts of the garden.
Le Jardin Plume is one of my favourite French gardens as it is so beautifully designed at different levels. The formal layout has a contemporary feel and this is contrasted with the exuberant planting. The attention to detail is lovely especially the hard landscaping and the use of traditional materials which harmonise so well with the beautiful Norman barns. I hope to go back to Jardin Plume in the late summer to see the American squares and Autumn garden at their peak.
Le Jardin Plume, 76116 Auzouville-sur-Ry, Tel: +33 (0)2 35 23 00 01. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.lejardinplume.com
The garden is open from April to October but not every day of the week and is closed at lunchtime. For information on opening hours go to the jardin plume website. The garden is 20km from Rouen and really in the middle of the countryside so better accessed by car. There are very clear signposts from Auzouville-sur-Ry and around. Entry in 2014 – 8,50€.
The garden also hosts two plant fairs a year, in June and September – check the website for details.
There are good toilets but no café.