Chateau de Gudanes...a magical place. Part 1
Once there was a little girl who grew up thinking that somewhere there would be a special place where she could go to find her truth. She didn't know, that little girl, that it would be well into her later years that she would find that special place and she would find her truth.
What began as an email inquiry to a stranger far away ended as a dream come true. The stranger had recently found a languishing Chateau in the south of France and together, with her husband Craig, decided to take on the large scale project of bringing the heart back to this magical place at the foot of the Pyrennes mountains.
This email was about my willingness to help put in place a beautiful garden on property grounds. I imagined a garden that might be maintained in a manner that would compliment the incredible charm of this Chateau. That was in 2014. Time, as it often does for all of us, slipped away; living my life got in the way, and I feared the opportunity to help with this project would fade away. But, the gods of fortune spoke and....HERE I AM!! So now I am excited to finally get to meet the lady of the house, Karina, to discuss what possibilities lay in store for her garden.
The original Chateau gardens are now the site of local fish farm near the river running just behind the property. Over the years the property that once belonged to the past Chateau owners has been sold off. Now the actual grounds the Chateau is situated on is quite small in comparison to what it once was.
My home while here in the town of Les Cabannes is at the former Chateau stables that were turned into lovely vacation homes and are not actually owned by the Chateau. I was very lucky to have found this place as it is on the original Chateau grounds and is part of its history. https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental
I imagine the sounds and the smells of the stables and the pastures surrounding this beautiful structure. I wonder what the stablehands were like and how they came to be at the Chateau. I am curious about most everything. Especially the past; how was it then and what was a typical day like? Who were the people that called this place their home? What was the hope for their lives?
But, I digress. As the main reason I am here is to look at the garden plots. I am trying to imagine where the plantings might go and what preparations need to be put into place in order for the garden to give back.
The garden will be settled into a south facing area that contains a set of three terraces. Each of the terraces is slightly wider than the other, starting with the top being the most narrow. The top level of the wall to the upper grounds of the Chateau is near 15 feet.
The photos below are the stairs leading from the Chateau level to the first terrace and the look of the existing garden. The hope is to use a rain catchment system from the Chateau level and have it feed into the gardens.
The abundance of weeds and other invasive plants that have taken over the garden spaces. A few months of hard work weeding, preparing the soil, and applying heavy mulch would be of great benefit.
Even as I write this I want to be there working in the garden.
Below are the stairs leading from the first level terrace to the second & third level. You can see how much wider the bottom two terraces are.
I would love to see benches along the trellis wall in the lower right picture. It would make such a beautiful place for someone to sit and reflect as he or she views the garden. A place to write or paint?
So, what do you think of the garden so far? A lot of weeds? A lot of work? I see it as a blank canvas waiting to be painted. With a new canvas the creating takes on a life of its' own.
I think it to be a treasure of good findings once it has been given life. I doubt it to be a fancy garden and I hope it incorporates several different methods of gardening such as huglekultur, keyhole and permaculture. All of these would provide a way to let the garden live as it should....without harsh chemical interventions so that it will offer quality nourishment and good health to those that harvest and cook meals from the gardens.
I am excited for the possibility to return next spring to work on this wonderful project. In the meantime I will draw up a few planting options for Karina to review.
As I was wandering through the garden area I came across a few of last years leeks. Karina added them to a delicious soup the next day. It was a wonderful soup to be sure.
To be continued....