On Wednesday we traveled to Vargeneville sur la Mer
On the Normandy Coast
To visit the Mallet sisters
Claire and Constance
And their homes and gardens.
Claire lives on the family estate
Le Bois de Moutiers
Built by her ancestors
One of whom was a Haviland.
As in china.
Gardens and china.
I’m in double heaven.
It was designed by the then young British architect
Edwin Lutyens in the Arts & Crafts style.
It’s a splendid house
A home really.
Unlike many period homes I’ve toured
This one was inviting
Full of life and light
Streaming into the house
Through large and plentiful windows
And back out with a view of the forest
Leading to the sea.
The grounds and the gardens
Were designed by Lutyens and the owner Guillaume Mallet
In conjunction with Gertrude Jekyll
The renowned English garden designer
Who brought us the perennial border
And a more relaxed feel to gardens
The garden is walled
With crisp clipped yew hedges.
There are sweeping perennial borders
Doing what they do best.
Amaze and inspire.
Claire is tall and stately
And ever so gracious
Walking the garden with us
Pruners in hand
Snipping away as she goes.
She reminds me of my friend Nancy
Full of grace.
She tells us the stories of how the home and garden
Came to be.
Of the war years when it was occupied.
Of the art
And family treasures
That have been sold
To help pay for the upkeep of the estate.
When my family was struggling with
What to do with the family farm
Hers was having the same conversation
On another continent.
From Claire’s home
We traveled to see Constance.
At 85 she gardens 4 -5 hours a day.
I like this lady.
She is shorter
Her garden reflects her personality
Wild in areas
And on a smaller scale.
Widowed for 20 years
With both children living abroad
Most of the year
You might think she is alone.
But something tells me
People are drawn to her.
Constance reminded her
Of her own spunky grandmother.
They had a long visit
Including a tour of her home
Which is much smaller
She told Kristina
Her garden was inspired by Gertrude Jekyll
Since she was a friend of her parents
“She was in the milk of my bottle.”
Constance drank her in
In a sense.
Gardening is a common bond
And across continents.
“A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness; it teaches industry and thrift; above all it teaches entire trust.”
“The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives.”