Paradise on Earth

This is a story I have been meaning to write for a while. Alas, with the business of life I had not as yet gotten around to it. But on such a bleak winter day when my mind, if not my body, is in the garden, and  I am watching a light snow at cold  Weatherstone and  ordering seeds ( to start in the green house)   I thought what an appropriate time to write about, and share with all of you, one of the most most beautiful and peaceful gardens I have ever been to. In fact I would so far as to say that for me this is probably as close to paradise on earth that I have ever been. I had read about the Priory d’ Orsan in French magazines but had never been there so on a recent birthday I said “enfin” lets go.

Carolyne Roehm Garden Book

This is the amazing cloister with the “Architecture” all in clipped hornbeam. The four quadrants are planted with grapes.

My words are not poetic enough nor my photos good enough to do justice to this amazing creation by two architects and a master gardener who shared a vision that resulted in this extraordinary garden. Many of you may know of this garden by now but if you have not been and love gardening I suggest you go.   All I know for sure is on an early spring morning, before sitting down to a marvelous breakfast, I strolled around this garden with dew on the ground, birds chirping, looking at the purity of line and thought that went into it’s creation I was in awe, at one with nature and felt a surge of peace inside of me. To me this place  is the equivalent of Vladimir’s flowers using the garden as the medium to create this wonderful space. The refinement  of the detail, the knowledge, the retrained palette of materials and plants coalesces into a rare thing. It has been three years since I was there and I long to return.


I love the windows of trained and clipped hornbeam with the foreground planted with wheat. Are the snail shells for decoration or to keep water out of the bamboo?


Every garden needs the sound of water and of course the old well was a vital part of the medieval garden, symbolically, as well as for practical needs. The seats are formed from living trained trees.( sorry I forgot the type). This is just not some vine growing over a freestanding shape

The idea conceived by Patrice Taravella and  Sonia Lesot,  and then planted and maintained by gardener extraordinaire Gilles Guillot,  was to create  a medieval monastery  garden as it would have been when the priory was gardened by monks. The driving concept of this type of garden was that all that would be grown would be elements that were the symbols of Christ in the Bible. Just as in the middle ages today’s owners  grow crops reflecting this tie to early Christianity; wheat for making the bread, the symbol of Christ’s body in communion, grapes for wine, the blood of Christ, and olive oil for the last unction.  Just as in a medieval monastery  gardens medicinal herbs are grown.  Gilles’ beautifully espaliered fruits bushes, pleached apple, pear and plums represent the bounty of fruit found in the garden  of Eden.  A maze represents the arduous path to paradise.

The owners have created a cloister out of clipped hornbeam that makes this place a beautiful environment for contemplation or prayer.  As I mentioned I went outside on this early spring morning, the birds were chirping, butterflies were kissing the plants, a cobweb on a grapevine was  studded with morning jewels of dew and I felt as if I had surmounted the maze and was truly in an earthly paradise.


When I first saw the garden I thought it had been restored and resurrected by Patrice and Gilles but in fact the garden was only started in 1994–they bought the ruin with barren land in 1992. It is amazing to see what had been done in under twenty years. Which may seem like a long time to some but everything was restored or rebuilt in the purest of ways. Besides the garden there is a seven room Relais and Chateau Hotel and a fabulous restaurant that uses food from the garden and region.


Many structures are made from wattle that is produced on the property. I cannot imagine the hours of work , plus the design and thought to approximate as closely as possible how things would have been done in the middle ages.


What a joy to sit down to one of Patrice’s creations. Besides being an architect he is also a marvelous cook. The taste of the food was fresh and sparkling. One knew the fresh ingredients had just come from the garden.


One can savour the intensity of veggies and herbs and the portions were just the correct size as well.


I love the beauty of the structures Patrice builds with his food, never pretentious but you know an architect is at work here.


A lovely wine from the Berry region of France.


The famous breeds of cattle Limousine, Charolais and Fresien are raised in Berry the area of France where one finds Priory d’Orsan


The fields of poppies are beautiful but do always reming me of the First World War in France


This is one of my favorite roses Pierre de Ronsard. named after a famous poet in France from the 16th c.


In addition to the hotel and restaurant there is a marvelous shop with books and products that are produced on the property. Everything is so tastefully, simply and authentically done.


I loved how the bouquets of flowers are made


Patrice was a bit mysterious as to the meaning of the stacks of rocks found through out the garden —I think it has something to do with the growing or production timing process of the different crops.


Rustic simple gates and old style gate latches are just a couple of the many many details that are not ignored.


The amount of wattle that is used is amazing. Even all of the fruit trees and fruiting vines are tied to it with will rope created from the willow


Notice the willow ties-no wire or plastic is use here. I had never seen how they created Poire William . When I was younger I always wonder how they got the pears in the bottle


The medicinal garden. The handmade trellis is waiting for climbing vines to ascend. They make a lovely sculpture for the garden


Notice how the garden bed i shaped and planted in the form of a cross.


These are the famous raised beds that house the pumpkins and squashes that have been photographed so many times. I was there in early May for my birthday so they were not as yet planted. You can see photos on their website.


Love the bunch of wonderful Hellebores next to the old watering can. As I say attention to detail is evident everywhere.


One of the living seats in the cloister.



See the arched trellis supporting the young vines adding design to the cloister


The view out my window.


My beloved Pierre de Ronsard climbing on the wall of the tea room. I discovered this rose in France the equivalent here is called Eden but I find the color not as vivid as the French variety. The only negative to this rose is it has no fragrance.


The garden is filled with nooks and crannies to sit and contemplate the beauty of nature.


I am not sure why the rhubarb is supported by these large and overly study walls but knowing Patrice I am sure there is a reason, I forgot to ask.


15 thoughts on “Paradise on Earth

  1. carolyne I have been to priory d’Orsan and took thousands of photographs and felt as you did while there, have you seen the garden patrice taravella has done at a vineyard outside cape town, I have only seen pics it’s young but looks
    equally as enchanting, definitely worth putting on the ‘would love to visit’ list

  2. I would have to agree with you, this is as close to paradise as one could possibly get. Thanks so
    much for taking the time to share such extraordinary pictures with us all. Without your photographs,
    some of us would never be able to view otherwise.
    Thanks for sharing so many of your beautiful visions.
    Donna Chappel

  3. This garden is amazing. What talents the people are who created it. Thanks for showing these lovely images..

  4. It’s all beautiful….but I especially love the photo of the Pierre de Ronsard climbing rose….very, very special!

  5. What a revelation! This has come at the perfect time as I consider how to dog-proof my garden. Now I will be looking to more natural materials than I previously would have. And that rose…. I must have! Must I travel to France and smuggle it in?

    • they say the equivalent is Eden here —i find it is not exactly the same—but you will not have to smuggle it in ….go on line and you will see many sources cr

  6. Gorgeous!! And so healthy looking. For the palate and the soul. Thank-you.

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