First posted on Mas du Diable website 12/10/2008:
I have been planning to visit Le Potager d’un Curieux, a garden dedicated to forgotten edibles, curious plants and biodiversity, for several years now, but I’ve never quite made it. We are always too busy here and we don’t really take time out to do unnecessary things or stuff that costs money and travelling anywhere these days, costs money. So when someone comes to visit us it can be a great excuse to take the time out and act like tourists in our own land, do laid back stuff, take hours over lunch and go and see things we have always wanted to see. Having Kate, the vegetable vagabond originally from Hills & Plains Seed Savers is Australia, visiting here last week was just the excuse I needed to finally visit Le Potager d’un Curieux. We made our appointment to visit and arranged to meet Ian from Kitchen Garden in France in Saignon.
The Potager is just outside the stunning small town of Saignon built into, and out of, the rock on a hilltop above Apt in the foothills of the Lubéron, Vaucluse region of Provence. Climb up to Saignon and then over the back the road winds down until you come to le potager nestled in a little plateau of its own, two valley’s run down to it bringing water from the mountains and provide protection from the winds. It is a truly beautiful spot, a special place.
Jean-Luc Daneyrolles started this garden over 20 years ago as a haven for curious edibles and biodiversity. Jean-Luc comes over to meet us, kindly breaking from the work he is doing, to explain the layout and set us off on our exploration of his garden. But first he shows us the fragments he has unearthed on this spot all laid out in groups, from geological finds and fossils to early man-made flints and fragments of pots, creating a visual study of the place and its history.
Kate, Rachel and Ian looking at the topological fragments
The potager is spread across both sides of the small road that passes through it. On one side stands the house, seed bank, shop and teaching room below that are gardens that are spread through woodland and include; perennial, herb and flower gardens.
On the other side of the road are the vegetables and polytunnel. The four fields are crammed with edible crops and herbs. The first has Amaranth, Sunflowers, Mara de Balbis, Malabar Spinach, Physalis and loads of stuff I could not begin to identify, next is a more familiar field of tomatoes (although lots of unusual varieties), beans, peppers and aubergines and further on are Jerusalem artichokes, dwarf beans, chard and I forget what else the last fields looks over for the summer. I didn’t ask but it looks as though the garden does not extend into winter crops but specialises in crops that will thrive in a dry hot climate in the summer months.
Everywhere you look there are quirky objects and bright colours, found objects are recycled and rubbish is turned into sculpture, an old TV sits on top of a pile of stones that may or may not be turned into a dry stone wall. There are beautiful drystone walls everywhere. Jean Luc is using the stone to draw out the natural beauty of the undulating land with walkways and retaining walls, even the plants are in relation to the stones; a river of stones is laid to mirror the roots of an ancient green oak tree.
I got far too engrossed in the garden to remember to photograph much, so apologies that you don’t really get a full sense of the place, but perhaps that is just as well as it might entice you to make your own pilgrimage.
It is a marvellous garden created with passion. Jean-Luc sells the vegetables, flowers, seeds and plants at Apt market on Saturday mornings and from the Le Potager d’un Curieux, which is open to visitors but you must make an appointment first. He is the author of several books “Un jardin extraordinaire“, “Creer son potager“, “La tomate“, “L’ail et l’Oignon“, “Le Piment et le Poivron” but more recently Jean-Luc has many other demands on his time; as an active member of the Slow Food Movement France and Le Semences Paysannes as well as consulting on various projects and biodiversity potagers.
La Molière, 84400 Saignon, Vaucluse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France