Birth of a garden

At her father’s death in 1976, Hélène d’Andlau inherited a piece of land with two houses built in the mid-XIXth century at the edge of Rémalard, a village in the Huisne valley. All that remained of this formerly cultivated piece sheltered from the prevailing west winds by wild hedges and low walls were two beautiful walnut trees and a few old apple trees. The soil pH was generally neutral and slightly acidic at the bottom of the garden. Late frosts, right into mid- to late April, are common under this Atlantic climate.


Summer 1976: a long spell of catastrophic drought turns pastures all over France into brown doormats. So work starts on the smaller house which is in dire need of restoration before anyone can settle there.


Autumn comes, and some rain: Hélène d’Andlau designs the layout of the piece of land extending in front of the house and plants some - still small - trees at the far end of her land as shelters from the wind and the neighbouring houses. Then progressively over the years she “conquers” the rest of her property, dividing a rather boring flat and rectangular area into several gardens by hedges and openings that lead from more structured or more enclosed areas to more open ones. Along the garden edges she plants a hedge of conifers as a backdrop for flowering trees and autumn foliage. Water is an important feature for Hélène: to compensate for the lack of running water she creates pools wherever she can.  Another concern, which would influence the general organisation of the garden is, in her own words, “never to let the visitors’ eye see everything at one glance.” Colour patterns are also an essential feature for her: one does not mix pinks and yellows. So two gardens only are based on yellows and oranges, the rest are planted with pink, blue and white flowering plants and trees.


Thus over a period of 36 years, Hélène created ten gardens, the latest two in 2012.  The photos below show the “Jardin du Silence” being created last year between January and April.