A Gem of a Garden in Aveyron

I have gardens on the brain at the moment. Much of Easter was spend wrestling ours into shape after the winter and finding it messier than usual, perhaps because of last year’s heat and drought. On Monday, I’d had enough, so I dragged my husband off into deepest Aveyron to visit a garden that I have often heard about, le Jardin de la Mothe. Gardens to visit are not plentiful in our region, so I can thoroughly recommend this one. The contact details etc are at the end.

Off the beaten trail

La Mothe is a tranquil hamlet on a hill a few km from the pretty village of Salles-Courbatiès. It’s about 35 minutes’ drive from us, or at least it should be. Our legendary tendency for getting lost came to the fore once more.

We somehow missed the signposting and ended up in a warren of little lanes. Losing patience with our hopeless onboard GPS, I got out my phone and Google’s version efficiently guided us there. It didn’t matter, and we had a good laugh about it. The weather was fine, the Aveyron countryside amazingly green and rolling, and we found la Mothe in the end.

Jardin remarquable

La Mothe is a tranquil spot, and the garden has a ‘Jardin remarquable’ label from the Ministère de la Culture, renewable every five years. For a modest 3 € entrance fee, you can wander around at your leisure and enjoy the planting and the tantalising views of the glorious landscape.

The owner, Marion Wilson, gave us a warm and friendly welcome and told us about the house and how they developed the garden from 1997. She and her husband moved there 30 years ago, when the former farmhouse had virtually no planting and little of its farmland left around it.

We learned that this inscription is in fact a date – 1774. This is how people wrote 7 at the time, apparently. Some of the stones in the house may have come from a nearby château, of which no trace remains. The name la Mothe (motte) might be a clue to its past existence.

Artistic planting

Marion is an artist, and this shows in the planting. Architectural plants and shrubs, such as box and cardoons, give structure and draw the eye, while tubs of flowers provide colour in spring. Acid green euphorbia seems particularly at home there. Marion said she spends a lot of time pruning and shaping the topiary.

I loved the openings cut in the hedges in places to give you a glimpse of the rolling scenery beyond the boundary.

Paved pathways bend around the trees and shrubs and give access to intimate spaces and terraces. La Mothe has several peaceful sitting areas, with benches strategically placed to take advantage of various times of day and aspects of the garden.

A curious hen, obviously used to visitors, came to inspect our feet and pecked at the SF’s shoes. Cats basked in the warmth and submitted to stroking.

The soil in that part of Aveyron is clearly richer and more rewarding than ours just over the border in Tarn-et-Garonne, which is stony, concrete-hard in summer and claggy in winter. I was green (appropriately) with envy as I strolled around. Even so, la Mothe is probably higher up than we are (here is 320 m) and has the rugged Aveyron climate.       

You walk through a ground-level tunnel, where ‘before’ photos show how the place looked in the early 1990s, and emerge into a gravelled courtyard in front of the house. Opposite, a large barn houses a grand piano and is the venue for occasional summer concerts. What a fabulous setting for music!

Garden with a soul

This will sound unusually whimsical (for me), but the whole place had a happy feel to it. If a garden can have a soul, then this one does. I found it peaceful and restorative. It’s clearly a labour of love and gave me many ideas for improving my own feeble gardening efforts.

You could combine la Mothe with a visit to nearby attractions: Peyrusse-le-Roc, Belcastel, le château de Bournazel. But I advise spending plenty of time here and not rushing from one village to the next.

Marion told us that a condition of the ‘Jardin remarquable’ label is to open on at least 40 days per year. In fact, Le Jardin de la Mothe is open daily from mid-April to mid-October from 10h to 19h.

A word of advice. Set up your GPS before you start out.

I’ll leave you with a few more photos from La Mothe.

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  1. I’ve a visit planned to Beaulieu in May, to catch the ‘burning’ installation just before it is taken down. This garden would be a nice side trip!! 🙂
    It’s definitely much greener than here in Saint-Chinian!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, great! The installation is wonderful (IMO), but the whole place is worth a visit. They opened last Saturday evening until 11.30 pm, so that people could see it lit up in the dark of the abbey church, but we couldn’t go, unfortunately. If you have time to meet for a coffee or something, that would be lovely, but I understand if you won’t have time.

      A friend was in the Aude a week or so ago and said how horribly dry it is down there.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Vanessa. Fabulous. Great pics and I confess I felt envious. Envious of you for such an enjoyable visit and envious of them having such a beautiful garden to develop and nurture.
    Spending our summers travelling on the boat and our winters travelling any way we can means we no longer have the pleasure of tending a garden. I always have a few pots on the boat to keep me sane, but we are away from Le Shack so much that the garden is left to run wild. Although we do have a good show in the spring and we have plans to extend plantings in the coming autumn as we are usually there for a month or so in the spring to see the results of our efforts. Enjoy your new ideas and enthusiasm for your own garden and maybe you can share the results on a blog later in the year! We are off to the boat, by train, on Monday so I can start thinking about how to do my pots soon. Cheers MJ

    Liked by 1 person

    • As I said in the post, I was green with envy! I can’t imagine living without a garden. Even when I had a flat in London, it had a small garden with it. At least you can have some pots on the boat and can come back to the garden at Le Shack. I guess the trick with the latter is to plant things that don’t need much tending – and that don’t grow madly in your absence, either. I’m looking forward to trying out some ideas I picked up at La Mothe. I particularly liked the zinc tubs she used for planting. I can feel a tour of the vide-greniers coming on! If the results are worth it, I will share!

      Liked by 1 person

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