The Garden of Moulin de Maulne
When looking for a property in Loire Valley in France I came across Moulin de Maulne. On the first visit I was struck by the open, gently sloping, aspect of the property with its uninterrupted views in all directions. The imposing buildings, once used as an ancient mill, were set in the middle of this awe-inspiring valley landscape.
One of the great things in designing a garden like this one, was the scale of the planting that could be done. It was clear to me from the outset, that I had to use the idea of many island flower beds flowing from the highest point in the land down to the river. This allowed me to use the natural curves of the borrowed landscape.
The choice of plants was dictated mostly by the climate and the garden position. This area of the Loire valley, so called Touraine Angevine, is influenced by the Atlantic and the Gulfstream. Also continental Eastern or North African winds can sometimes bring unexpected changes to the temperature. The summer period, especially July and August, is generally hot and sunny, as such the use of drought tolerant plants was necessary.
Living in a large converted barn at the top of the garden, with big open views to the east, west and north, it was important that the garden gave year round interest. I decided to use many structural perennials and ornamental grasses, that are known to keep their architectural and decorative looks even during the winter.
This group of plants is also outstanding for designing individual spaces and rooms within the garden.
Multiple rows of calamagrostis x acutiflora “Karl Foerster” create a feeling of a green corridor, that leads to the swimming pool area, which is surrounded by tiers of Miscanthus sinensis “Gracillimus”, miscanthus kleine and hundreds of cortaderia selloana. In total, there were over a 1000 of ornamental grasses to plant. A big task to do in such a short time so I called upon my good French neighbours and friends. One long easter weekend and the job was done. The final effect was well worth it, you could believe you were anywhere in the world when at the swimming pool, surrounded in all directions with the movement of grasses playing with the light in the breeze.
The curving flower beds encapsulating the Mill buildings are mainly planted with herbaceous plants. The flower beds are set in what is called here ‘falun’, the material traditionally used for paths and courtyards in this part of France. It comes from local quarries and is a sedimentary deposit from 10 million years old oceans that once linked the Atlantic with Tours.
The old fenced vegetable garden located next to the waterfall was great for the summer use but was to wet for growing vegetables during the winter, so we moved the kitchen garden to a higher, larger and sunnier position in the grounds. The old potager is now being transformed into a cut flower garden.