Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wondrously Magical - The Alchemist's Garden

The Garden of the Alchemist
and .. Mas de la Brune
Imagine the quietude of early morning, in a place where you're enveloped by the fragrance of Iceberg roses. A gentle breeze causes the tall plumes of miscanthus to brush up against your face and you lose yourself in the sensory delights unfolding along the garden paths.

My all too brief stay at Mas de la Brune enabled me to wander in the Alchemist's Garden whenever I wished. 
It's an experience that remains as potent in my memory as it was in the moment.
 The Alchemist's Garden is nestled in the bewitchingly blue Alpilles mountains of France, in the picturesque village of  Eygalières in Provence.
The garden opened to the public in 1999 on a site adjoining Mas de la Brune, a country hotel housed in a Renaissance manor. The owners worked with designers Arnaud Maurieres and Eric Ossart to create a uniquely conceived, contemporary gardenscape.

Looking through the circular entry to the White Garden, from the 'Garden in Red'

Inspired by the belief that the property's main building had once been the home of an alchemist,  the garden took shape using symbols, colors, shapes and forms, directing visitors along a trail of discovery.
The sensual atmosphere of the garden is experienced after traveling through a narrow labyrinth sculpted into a section of dense hedging. 
Going forward, one enters a garden of magic plants, serving as a prelude to the Alchemist's Garden.
Here, an ample, open layout is intersected by wide aisles, where the plantings celebrate the esoteric repute of local flora; taking in aphrodisiac qualities, divining rods crafted of hazel branches, nettles, and a botanical assembly from olive trees to apothecary's roses. 

Decorative devices employed in the magic plants' garden include a vine-shrouded arch, spanning the garden at midpoint to provide a pleasing balance.
A long rill cut into the ground plane flows silently crosswise, while magic forests - wooded plots with curving paths -bracket the outer boundaries.
A far-reaching row of white curtains stands oppose wreathed fencing of living willow, acting to screen and separate horticultural groupings of magic plants from the mystical garden beyond. Composed in 3 parts, the Alchemist's Garden - Le Jardin de l'Alchimiste, proposes a transformative walk through the stages of life - from the early years to mellow adulthood, and finally, to a spiritual state of being. The alchemist's methods are presented in the enchanting guise of tonal works, i.e. the work in black, in white, and in red.
Each area is imbued with an acute materiality. The black garden features a shaded passageway upholstered in leafy shrubbery, transitioning into a space furnished with black mondo grass aligned in pots perched on metal stands. Around the corner, emerald hedges set the stage for a queue of terra cotta planters showcasing fleshy, claret-hued Aeonium arboreum.

Entering the luxuriant white garden, a gently twisting path paved in glistening gravel guides you on a course through an overabundance of 'Iceberg' roses intermingled with a silvery-striped cultivar of  Miscanthus sinensis.
Delicate flowering wands of gaura nod overhead, effectively, pure magic.

One more experience must unfold before the unusual garden journey culminates - the satisfying architecture of the Red garden. 
A fountainhead rises up at the heart of the space, from a water feature shaped like the Star of David. Hue and texture marry in a level expanse of iron-red stones complemented by sections of green turf, while an ordered structure composed of row upon row of red roses radiates outward from the pool's central star.


  1. This garden is quite a treat. I have quite a few black specimens. I'll have to make a black garden or a black spot in the garden.

  2. mng, As a lover of dark foliage and flowers, I say...'go for it', a touch of drama in the garden is always a good thing.

  3. Hi Alice, you have transported us the this magical place. Imagining a discovery garden of winding paths with black, white and red featured between hedges and vines, it is easy to get lost in a reverie. Thanks!

  4. There are so many things I love about this garden - I am speechless!

  5. That is just wonderful and love that slate pool just like a mirror.

  6. What a magical garden, I love the photo with the red roses & the star shaped fountain.

  7. I love modern garden design that is livable and inviting, and I love the idea of an alchemist's garden: I don't think we should ever have left the alchemy out of science! Red, white, and black have a lot of alchemical significance, and not only in European culture, interestingly enough. Especially enjoyed the living willow fence, and the curtains!

  8. Frances, Garden Ms. S, Hermes, Joanne & Susie, Thank you for following along the pathway's of the Alchemist's Garden. Much more to see and experience should you ever venture to Eygalières.

    PB, Alchemy is such a rich area to explore in-depth. I only touched on the background from my interview with the owner. And there are, likewise, design elements not shown that add layers of interest to the setting.

  9. Oh. My. God.
    What a garden. What a POST! You totally TOOK me there, Tendril! And I have to go BACK now! The photos are beautiful, but the eloquence and passion of your words are heartstopping. THANK YOU!

    I can't travel as much as I want to, but I am a fervent believer in the inspiration of magical places, man-made and created by nature - and I know my best work has come from seeing amazing landscapes and then processing parts through my particular sensibility. We are so lucky that you give us access to the treasures you've experienced!

    Always a joy to travel with you!

  10. The little square sunken pond set in the middle of the row of trees is such a great surprise. Some very nice spaces here!

  11. Oh Alice, I'm not sure I ever should leave comments here because I find so many things funny - and I really am totally perplexed by what I see of this Alchemist's Garden. Everyone else clearly thinks it is wonderful - but . . . !

    I like the idea that nettles are plants worthy of a place in a garden. And I always feel warm towards hazel - partly because I like the nuts themselves and partly because I've experienced hazel twigs swinging round so strongly in my own hands that they have twisted and snapped.

    Wish I could do Alchemy too!

    Glad I don't own this garden!

    (Now I'll put on a crash helmet and run for it!)


    P.S. Worse. I think it's ugly. Help! I'll put on two crash helmets!

  12. Germi, What can I say.... we're soulmates!

    James, I wish my photos had better conveyed the lovely shallow circular pond, too, in the white garden. These features provided surprise along with the cooling effect of introducing water elements.

    Dear Esther, I've dedicated my newest post to you. Here's to a continuing dialogue!!

  13. UFG, Day dreaming = a good thing! We all deserve a bit of a release from stress.