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Dry-stone Walls in a Garden in Provence

by Kate Marcelin-Rice
photographs by Louis Marcelin-Rice

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 80, April 2015

The whole article can be found translated into French on the MGS French website with further photographs showing the reconstruction.

Kate and Louis Marcelin-Rice inherited their house in Provence in 2003 and Kate wrote about the garden in TMG No. 50 October 2007 in an article entitled Lou Capitani: Making a Dry Garden in Provence. For ten years they could visit only twice a year while living permanently in Rome in a wonderfully painted flat described by Louis in TMG No. 46 October 2006 in the article A Room with a View.

Since finally settling in France in 2013, Kate has undertaken to restore the magnificent but crumbling walls, called locally restanques, which retain the high terraces behind the house.

Kate writes:
“Dry-stone walls are built without mortar. Their solidity is ensured by the weight, shape, inertia and especially the position of each stone. In our part of Provence (Var) they are made of limestone. People here say that the use of restanques to prevent erosion on hills and to facilitate planting and drainage is at least a thousand years old. We recently discovered that the terraces behind our house were not the usual vineyards; rather they were used for the cultivation of flowers, especially carnations…”

The restanques in their original state. The tree trunks are left over from the
ninety-nine Pinus halepensis which had to be felled under fire prevention laws

The lowest terraces restored and ready for planting

“My idea was and still is to reclaim the lowest three or four terraces from the wild and to plant them with the sort of plants that flourish on the poor stony calcareous soil of the garrigue, adding a few other mediterranean plants from areas with a similar climate.”

A prostrate rosemary acting as vertical groundcover and new planting on the bank above

A small but vigorous Hardenbergia violacea flowering at the foot of the second restanque

The Banksia rose at last scrambling over the giant rock at the end of the terraces

The first week of April and the native Cistus albidus is starting to bloom

The Globularia alypum planted behind the muscari in the photograph below should eventually develop into a rounded sub-shrub covered in blue flowers for many months during the winter and spring. Lavandula angustifolia is planted to the right of the muscari and a Leucophyta brownii (syn. Calocephalus brownii) to the left. Higher up are two Silene coronaria, (syn. Lychnis coronaria) and right up on the left is a Santolina benthamiana.

Bank planted with drought-resistant species.

And Kate demonstrating how to plant a steep bank.
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