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