Step through a hole in the hedge off a field of stubble and you’ve got the hallmark of Le Jardin Plume: simple restraint. The garden, some 20 years old, was created by the Quibels to bring attention to their nursery. It is, as you might guess, a plantsmans’ garden. Not many minutes in, we started drooling with horticultural desire.
In the entrance shed, cut plants in bottles show off the divas and sharpen the eyes. The autumn palette runs amok with miscanthus, panicums, veronicastrums, sansuisobas and eupatoriums. Oh, and asters. On my part, time to shed impatience with a plant type – there are so many more asters out there. All scribbling names furiously: Aster ammelius ‘Violet Queen’, Aster novae angliae ‘Alma Potschke’ and Aster novae angliae ‘Violetta’. Choose from these to shoot the late flowering season with slugs of pure colour.
Bottles apart, the nursery beds are labelled up and Msr Quibel, on hand, modestly pretends not to speak English, but does. We had got somewhat lost in the Normandy lanes and he allowed us half an hour of extra looking time before closing for lunch.
If you go and look round two or three gardens on the trot, a shorthand for a filing of the memories develops. For this one, it has to be spring, summer, autumn, winter. Bits of the garden are dedicated to different seasonal climaxes. On the way in, an alleyway of limes and scattering of box balls gives a stage for the spring flowering plants. In front of the house, a parterre, box edged, is trumpeting a late summer blast with dahlias, helianthus and skeletal crocosmia.
We were a small group of keen gardening ladies. More than once we broke into a trot, squealing with delight and threatening to fall over one another. The autumn garden was the first cause of this. Under the pergola there is an immaculate low table of box – perhaps as big as my small sitting room, say 4 metres by 5 metres. Kept at bay beyond, and staggering in vertical crescendo, the perennials of autumn. Veronicastrums, cimicufugas, persicarias. We could have lain on that box table and crooned.
There is a potager of thyme banks, coily-shaped low hedges with shape and form underpinned by old espaliered pears. A rampant muddly cutting garden with orange zinnias that look like Tibetan terriers, french marigolds (Tagetes tenuifolia) and cucurbits hanging from a tunnel. Beyond this bust through a hedge of waving miscanthus to stand stock-still by a formal square pond.
The garden an example of the perfect essay, not too wordy and sentences short but pithy. These Quibels are masters of punctuation. If you look on-line you will find their catalogue. Botanical latin overrides a cursory tussle with the language. Flagged, in my case, for a full investigation and plant ordering in deep winter. Le Jardin Plume website is worth a look. Impossible to resist, for instance, the implicit poetry in “floraision rose des agrostis en juillet”. Forget about crooning on a table, this garden made me want to sing outright. Justly lauded and justly worth the trek.