Saturday, February 2, 2008

Long, cold winter days, dreaming of the perfect garden to visit......

Last year, a gentleman I do business with in the bamboo trade, was kind enough to give me a catalog (attached) for a really spacial place near Anduze, France (southern part of the country) called La Bambouseraie. La Bambouseraie is a bamboo park and has a long history stemming back to 1856. Considering that this park survived a few wars, including the two world wars, its amazing its still around.

Below is the history excerpt from the La Bambouseraie website:

"This property, which extends over 34 hectars (84 acres), is located 11 km south-east of Alès and 2 km north of Anduze. Geographically, it is a basin whose bottom is made of alluvial deposits from the Quaternary and whose sides are formed by limestone from various periods, and by granite. Not far from Prafrance, the river Gardon makes its way through a narrow canyon, of granite upstream (Roucan) and of limestone downstream (Anduze Rocks). Prafrance enjoys a Mediterranean climate, with an average rainfall of 1100 mm per year, but it can be very irregular, from torrential storms to drought. This is why the park has been equipped with a 5 km long network of permanent irrigation canals.

It is in this privileged setting that the “bambouseraie” of Prafrance was created by a native of the Cévennes region with a passion for botany : Eugène Mazel. Mazel had made a fortune in trading with spices he directly imported from Asia. This activity allowed him to have plants, practically unknown in Europe at that time, sent to him from these distant countries. In 1856, Mazel bought the property of Prafrance from Anne de Galière in order to realize his dream : create a bamboo plantation, a “bambouseraie”. The word “bambouseraie” did not exist at the time. Only many years later was this name given to Mazel’s plantation in Prafrance. The natural conditions of the site seem to be favourable for his project. The local microclimate apparently suits the bamboos. Only one thing is missing : water. Mazel then undertook gigantic works to bring the water harnessed upstream from the Gardon. Thanks to the three elements : water, soil and climate, the undertaking was a success. Mazel was able to acclimatize a number of bamboo species, and many other exotic plants as well. Fabulous plant collections were put together in Prafrance, which required the care of a great number of gardeners. This cost a lot of money and in 1890 Mazel was ruined.

He would never recover from having to leave his property to the Crédit Foncier de France. Prafrance was managed by this bank until the 2nd November 1902, when it was bought by Gaston Nègre. Nègre devoted all his energy in salvaging what remained of Mazel’s collections, trying not only to preserve them but also to enrich them. From 1948 on, Maurice Nègre, an agricultural engineer, carried on his father’s work. While fighting to restore the park, which had been heavily damaged by the floods of 1958, he died in an accident in 1960.

The “Bambouseraie” might never have recovered from this lost, had not Mrs Nègre decided to devote her life to continuing her husband’s work. She did it with courage and success. In 1977, her daughter Muriel and her son-in-law Yves Crouzet, an horticultural engineer, took over the management of the estate and the development of the park. Since 2004, Muriel is running the Bambouseraie."

Today, I couldn't help but think about how cool it would be to visit La Bambouseraie. Unfortunately the English version of their site has a lot of broken links, but the French version has a virtual tour you should check out.

Also, check out this video (click link), its in French, but you can see from it why this looks like a gardners dream:

La bambouseraie - kewego
La bambouseraie - kewego

Winter days, what garden pardise do you dream of visiting to escape it all?



kate said...

This is the perfect garden to visit - I'm glad that I came across your post just before sleep. Now I have beautiful images in my mind. The history of La Bambouseraie is amazing - how it survived through wars and changes of ownership is mind boggling. I have bookmarked this and will be going for some virtual visits. The website is a treat.

I've added your blog to my 'Playing in the Dirt' links!

EdenMaker said...

The park you have on the photo looks like a great place to visit. I love the "serenity" of bamboo. I'll have to pay you a visit sometime and check out your growing grounds. Have a great weekend.

jodi said...

Someday, I'll visit Butchart Gardens in British Columbia....and the Chicago Botanical Gardens...and the NY Botanical Gardens...and Great Dixter...and and and and....

note to self. Must win lottery. Other note to self. Must buy winning ticket.