Mediter­ranean style

Na­tive plants and lo­cal ma­te­ri­als en­sure this Côte d’azur es­tate blends into the sur­round­ing land­scape, cre­at­ing a nat­u­ral­is­tic par­adise

Homes & Gardens - - H&G CONTENTS - Words Heidi Howcroft Pho­to­graphs Mar­i­anne Ma­jerus

The beauty of a nat­u­ral­is­tic par­adise on the Côte d’azur.

Walk­ing through the gates that lead to Carine Reckinger’s prop­erty on the Côte d’azur, the sight that greets you is enough to make you feel as if you have taken a step back in time. Here, hid­den from view and set against a back­drop of rugged moun­tains, Carine has, as she de­scribes it, ‘tried to recre­ate Provence as it was sev­enty or a hun­dred years ago’. Ac­cord­ingly, ev­ery­thing is pared back, there is no grand drive, just a gravel track, and there are no lawns, only mead­ows that ex­tend along the ridge to the wood­land.

For the past 40 years, Carine has worked with the to­pog­ra­phy and ex­ist­ing veg­e­ta­tion of her land. ‘Any ideas of plant­ing del­phini­ums and other com­mon gar­den flow­ers were quickly aban­doned in favour of the ro­bust and drought­tol­er­ant va­ri­eties that are typ­i­cal of the Mediter­ranean,’ she says. ‘The de­sign also had to be as sim­ple as pos­si­ble.’

With about two hectares of planted gar­dens em­bed­ded in a larger land­scape of mead­ows, groves and wood­land, Carine is work­ing on a large scale. The ex­tent of the es­tate is di∞cult to gauge, as bound­aries meld seam­lessly into sur­round­ings. Build­ings are un­ob­tru­sive, so much so that it is di∞cult to tell which is the main house. Views of hill­sides and ravines are framed, most no­tably by a cir­cu­lar metal sculp­ture by Ital­ian artist Bruno Romeda. Placed at a piv­otal po­si­tion on the ridge, the house is a re­minder that this pas­toral land­scape ap­pears by de­sign, not chance. From here, the land slopes to the west to the grove and, to the east, to the ter­races.

A stand of pine trees fil­ters the view from above, so it is only when you are down in the gar­den that the na­ture of this area and Carine’s in­put be­come ap­par­ent. En­closed on two sides by ter­races, and bounded by wood­land with a large rec­tan­gu­lar pool in the cen­tre, the space is like an am­phithe­atre. An­cient dry-stone re­tain­ing walls climb the steep­est slopes, topped by nar­row grass ter­races. The walls have a sculp­tural qual­ity en­hanced by the oc­ca­sional gnarled olive tree cling­ing to the rocks. Adorn­ing the lower ter­races are spiky blue Echium

can­di­cans (pride of Madeira), which Carine has trans­planted and re­grouped in keep­ing with her pref­er­ence for a pro­lif­er­a­tion of flow­ers of one species.

Up on the ridge, be­yond two tall Ital­ian cy­presses and along a stone wall cloaked with the scented Rosa ‘La Fol­lette’, stands a guest house, its per­gola drip­ping with wis­te­ria. Thyme grows through the crazy paving and loosely po­si­tioned around the swim­ming pool are pots of tum­bling roses.

As a bi­ol­o­gist, Carine un­der­stands the im­pact of ur­ban­i­sa­tion on the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment and is do­ing her ut­most to re­dress the bal­ance. No pes­ti­cides are used, so her gar­den is alive with bird­song. ‘I count my­self lucky to be able to wan­der through the gar­den and ob­serve which flow­ers re­turn year on year. Those are the magic mo­ments,’ she says.

Gar­den owner Carine Reckinger has nur­tured this ven­er­a­ble wis­te­ria, so it grows in abun­dance over the per­gola in front of the guest house.

LEFT, FROM TOP Ter­races around the main house catch the sun at dif­fer­ent times of the day and year; with its spec­tac­u­lar dense pur­ple flower spikes, Echium can­di­cans (pride of Madeira) was trans­planted and re­grouped to give gen­er­ous splashes of colour...

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