Monday, 01 July 2013 12:37

Ouche - a Lot of Garden Featured

Written by 
  • font size decrease font size decrease font size increase font size increase font size
  • Print
  • Email
Rate this item
(1 Vote)

Garden Diary July 1st 2013

During the week, I made a visit to see a local garden with the Saintes AVF “Atelier de Jardinage” group. The garden called “Jardin de l 'Ouche” is located close to Cognac and owned by M. Jacques Léoty. He is a very enthusiastic private gardener who is now retired from his non-horticultural career and must spend most of his time (and possibly income) on his magnificent creation. Perfectly located in the rolling hills of Cognac vineyard country, the 20 000 m2 plot is divided into three areas, all with a challenging sloping aspect but magnificent panoramic views that extend for tens of kilometres.

M. Léoty started this garden in 2002 when he purchased the first plot of former agricultural land. He claims that the soil had been so intensively worked and saturated with herbicides and insecticides that it was initially to all intents and purposes “dead”. There were no insects, worms, or evidence of active micro-organisms and it took a few years before reverting to a less hostile growing medium.

Over the years he expanded the area by purchasing more land, and planted over 1000 trees. There lies his true passion and he displayed a detailed knowledge of the characteristics and origin of most of the specimens. He also has an impressive collection of shrubs, with more varieties of Viburnum than I thought existed. He sources plants mostly from professional growers, and increasingly from his own cuttings and divisions. For the latter he has built an impressive “laboratory” which would be the envy of any serious gardener. The mixed beds and borders are recognisably of the “English Garden” style, and contain complementary groups of herbaceous perennials, roses, shrubs and annuals.

M. Létoy's philosophy is to only grow plants that will prosper in the local soil and climatic conditions. It was thus rather reassuring to spot there very many of the plants that I've introduced to our own garden. Not unexpectedly he doesn't use any chemicals or fertilizers, and recycles all his grass cuttings and weeds. What is very surprising is the fact that this charming Frenchman gardens alone. A garden of 20 000 m2 with dozens of beds to tend on sloping terrain is quite some challenge. On the day of our visit the grass looked perfect after a recent mowing, and there were hardly any weeds visible – though in fairness all attention was directed to the wonderful plants. I've been gardening for a similar number of years, on a plot that's a mere sixth the area, and there's never been a time when it has looked as well-maintained as his. I half-expected to turn a corner and discover a shed with six resident gardeners taking a pineau break.

The Jardin de l'Ouche has been awarded the prize « Jardin en devenir » (Developing Garden) by the Société nationale d'horticulture de France (SNHF), and is open to visit by appointment.

Read 1318 times
Login to post comments