Saturday, 4 June 2016

Jardin Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales in Lauris and Jardin La Louve in Bonnieux - 24/5/2016

It is not by chance that the 'Jardin Conservatoire des Plantes Tinctoriales' based itself in Lauris.  Since the 16th century Lauris has been a centre for the production of natural dyes. It was the colour 'crimson' produced in the area that became so important. The Kermes insect that feeds on the sap of the Quercus coccifera (Kermes Oak) produces a red dye. After laying her eggs the female insect dies and dries out on the tree.  The women in the area collected these dried up insects, they were then ground to a powder. It was a very lucrative industry at the time.

Kermes insect

In addition, from the 18th century onwards up to the 19th century Rubia tinctoria (Madder) was cultivated on the plains of the Durance, from Pertuis to Althen-les-Palluds, to produce a different colour red.

Rubia tinctoria

Apart from the red dye, a yellow/greenish dye was produced from the berries of the Rhamnus spp (Buckthorn), a native to the region and

Rhamnus alaternus

a different yellow dye from the wood of the Cotinus coggygria (Smoketree), another native.

There was silk production going on at the same time. One of the local landowners owned 2001 Mulberry trees, the leaves of the Mulberry tree is food for the silkworm.

When the synthetic dyes started to appear as by-products of the petro-chemical industry the natural dye industry died.  In the last few decades the interest in natural dyes has been revived, more and more people seem to be allergic to synthetic dyes.

We know so much more about plants nowadays, not just the botanical characteristics, with chemotaxonomy, we can classify plants according to their chemical composition.

The plants that produce the different coloured dyes are not just there for the colour, they have many additional benefits.

Thalictrum flavum produces a black dye

The yellow dye plants are the most wide-spread in the world.  Yellow colourants contain flavonoids.  Flavonoids have anti-inflammatory properties, they are captors of ultra violet rays and other radiation.  For medicinal and dietary purposes, flavonoids are strong protectors against cellular aging.

A lot of trees ( in the bark) and plants contain tannin. Tannin has astringent properties, is used in the dyeing process as well as in the treatment of leather.  The leather becomes soft and supple and does not spoil.  Clothing that has been subjected to tannins in the dyeing process, protects our skin from infection in case of injury.

Before the introduction of Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) from Asia, we used Isatis tinctoria as a blue dye.

Isatis tinctoria

Indigo produced a stronger blue and overtook Isatis tinctoria. Indigo was later replaced by synthetic dyes.
Indigofera tinctoria

By adding plants that have anti-oxidant properties to the Indigo, the blue dye contained in the roots of the plant become more soluble, no need to use sodium hydro-sulphite which leaves a toxic residue.

Indigo posseses a substance called 'indigotin'. Indigotin repels infra-red rays, insects and is anti-carcinogenic. Jeans are made of a material called Denim.  The word 'jeans' comes from 'Gêne' (Genoa)  and 'denim' is derived from 'de Nîmes'. Denim material was dyed blue with dye of the Indigo plant and was produced in Gêne and Nîmes. At the time little did the blue colour workers know, by wearing the jeans, it was protecting them from excessive temperatures and unwanted insects.

Most dyes need to be stabilised.  Different methods are used eg. lime, urine, ash and mineral salts like iron and aluminium salts.

Bibliography: Literature supplied by the Conservation of Natural Dye Plants.

Jardin La Louve

After lunch at the Chȃteau de Lauris, we made our way to Jardin 'La Louve'. Our previous visit to Jardin 'La Louve' was in June 2011.  Judith Pillsbury owned the garden at the time. The present owner is Mme Sylvie Verger.

Sue with Mme Sylvie Verger

The garden was designed by Nicole de Vésian, a fabric designer and stylist at Hermès. When she bought the house there was no garden to speak off, just a green hillside.  She decided to create a garden of mostly evergreen shrubs, many native to the region and sculpture them into shapes,  although the overal design is formal, she was very clever in making her garden flow into the landscape beyond.

Very few flowers are used, the overal impression is of a green foliage garden.  In total there are 5 terraces, the whole plot is 1600 m2.

The lavender field with clipped and normal lavenders

The lavender field as part of the surrounding countryside

Photographs:  Tineke Stoffels

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Garden Visit, 27 April 2016 - Le Chemin de Ronde at Figanières

Mr. Denis Weis, the owner of 'Le Chemin de Ronde', believes in an ecological approach where his garden is concerned. He has between 400-500 plants in a relatively small garden.  A path in a circle runs along the garden with different aspects as you go along.

M. Weiss had created a lily pond with fish leading into a small stream with a little bridge over, which in turn flowed into a smaller pond with a fountain.  The garden was divided up into "'regions" and thus appeared much larger than it was.  He explained, when I asked him if there were any frogs, that they do not croak when it's windy!

A variegated Artemisia, I was giving a piece when we last visited the garden, very invasive!

He suggested that you should have here and there gaps in the lay out of the garden that lead the eye towards a distant statue or decorative plant/pot.  Makes the garden look larger.

Mix evergeen and deciduous shrub so that you have always some colour in the garden, even in winter.

Scilla peruviana

He has also constructed small ponds at several places in the garden with the help of agricultural plastic with the purpose of trapping insects.

He used to have an automatic watering system but he disconnected it as he found that different plants have different requirements so he now does it by hand.

Some of his advice:

If you have an exposed garden, as a windbreak, use a mixed hedge. Some of the shrubs that he recommended to use in a mixed hedge were, white and pink flowering Hawthorn (Crataegus); entwined with different rambling roses, for example Rosa 'Kiftgate', Rosa banksiae; Pittosporum; Cornus alba.  Using as a windbreak an impregnable, thick hedge made up of conifers has the effect of the wind going over the hedge and down into the garden, in fact it does not serve as a windbreak at all.

Above 8 photos of plants used in the mixed hedge

He mentioned that Horse Manure (Fumier de Cheval), using his expression, is a 'hot manure' to be used in spring, whilst Sheep Manure (Fumier de Mouton) being a 'cold manure' should be used in autumn.

To prevent and treat plant illnesses he uses 'Bouille Bordelaise', the clear powdered one.

Vegetable Patch

When you dig up your Irises after they've become too dense and have stopped flowering, do not put them back in the same spot straight away. Wait a year before you replant them after have fertilised the soil.

If you use your own compost, make sure it is well rotted.

Euphorbia milii

Cistus x skanbergii

Tanacetum crispum

To control mosquitoes he has a machine that works over a distance of 1000-2500 m2.  The machine in itself costs about 500€ and uses cartridges which cost 40€ for 3, but works very well! It had a small pump and the cartouche attached to the base was suffused with human aromas (he didn't go into details!) that attracted the female moustiques which entered and then got trapped in a filter, at the top. Each cartridge lasts one month.

He also relied on the frogs and small fish, pond life etc. to eat the  larvae of the insects! 

Wood shavings around the vegetable plants thwarted the slugs and also made good mulch when broken down at the end of the season. This can be bought in bags.

He showed us a multitude of bio products which he puts around his plants for nourishing and improving the soil. 
Savon noir made a good black/ green fly killer.

To treat the Box moth he uses a product called 'Bacillus Thuringiensis' which you can buy from the Co-op.

Viburnum opulus

He suggests to use variegated syringa, it looks much more delicate and attractive than the common bush.

He had some large and dwarf bamboo, but it must have been kept in check by some sort of barrier.

He had various types of roses including a pale lemon banksiae.

A pale pink euphorbia (crown of thorns) was growing in a pot.  A lot of his plants were growing in pots, so that, I assume, he could bring them indoors if the weather turned frosty.

He had a lawn but not of was made up of daisies and other small flowering wild plants for the bees and other insects.

Photos: Jacqueline Hodkinson, Ellie Bos, Liz & John.
Info contributed by: Diana Hart, Jacqueline Hodkinson, Rini Rubbens and Sue Spence.


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