I have a little vision for our top terrace, the Mirror Garden, which visitors to Chatillon enjoy as they lean over the wall and look down to the river valley and across to the woods. The simple design will remain as created by sculptor Marcel Joosen (previous owner of the house). His glorious 'walking man', sadly, is no longer in residence on the terrace lawn and we feel the need to find something else sculptural to take his place. But we are not hurrying, although many architectural small trees have been considered - can't make our minds up. I think, like some of the best things in life, this missing sculptural element will be something that simply 'shows up'.
I imagine a very simple garden up here, in green, grey and yellow. You can see from the picture that I have already begun adding grey in the form of Artemesia 'Powis Castle' and Artemesia 'Lambrook Silver'. Since we have very cold winters here, I took out an insurance policy of 'Powis' cuttings last August. Fortunately they were not necessary, since the south-facing wall seems to have provided just the protection needed to see it through the winter. The yellow will be provided by a climbing rose that Nick chose - 'Lady Hillingdon' (yellow is his favourite colour and since I favour the whites, pinks, purples and crimsons of the old roses it seemed like natural justice to let his yellow rose occupy a key position in the garden). Before I planted the Lady we decided to rip away the very invasive virginia creeper on the wall (although it also usefully disguised a crack in the mirror) and to renovate the mirror itself. The wall is part of the old ramparts at Chatillon (which was a fortified garrison town during the Renaissance); the mirror is a clever device to hide the fact that the Lady's future portion of the wall has been badly rendered and is consequently pretty ugly (if you see what I mean!). We took the mirror down together and Nick repaired the crack. After weeding the terrace and planting a lavender hedge on the edge of the drop to the next terrace, the Lady herself was safely installed and Nick proceeded to the fun work of reinstating the driftwood that conceals the mirror's black frame.
Inspired by the surprisingly hardy artemesia, I took another gamble and planted Rosa banksiae 'Lutea' against the tower walls in the Mirror Garden. (If you don't try you don't succeed, and this must be the warmest possible spot in our half acre.) I've loved this rose since I was a student at Kew Gardens, when I used to pass by the specimen planted on the walls of Descanso House every day. Sadly the Descanso House rose is now dead, as is the little sprig of a cutting I took from it and transferred to my garden in Suffolk in 1990. Gardeners really can't afford to move too often, can they? But maybe there are ex-Kew gardeners or students out there who have its offspring still planted in their gardens? I do hope so.
The little creamy yellow house (with steps) that is built into the ramparts is a newly renovated and perfectly formed visitors' centre and toilet for the tourists who come to admire the perfect, if decidedly crumbling, little Renaissance gem that is the village of Chatillon. It is known as the Maison de Marie. The story of its renovation last summer and the cheering (and not so cheering) comments exchanged between myself and the builders as they took off the roof and replastered the walls over many, many months is, thankfully, now history. But my curiosity is aroused and it is time to start asking around the village in order to find out just exactly who the 'Marie' of this petite maison charmante actually was.
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