A September morning, here we are on our way to visit the garden of domaine d’Orvès in La Valette-du-Var. Our knowledge of botany is somewhat hazy, of course we are able to recognize an oak tree from a pine tree, a geranium from jasmine flower, but we would truly be unable to talk about Mediterranean flora! Nevertheless sensitive to the beauty of nature in the Var region, we are enjoying ourselves by attending this guided tour by the owner.
The garden of domaine d’Orvès : a family history
This garden is a likeness of Épinal of Provence: an grove of olive trees bordering the path that leads us to the crafted wrought iron gate, we hear the soft sound of a stream, the plush greenery. From the entrance gate, impossible to see the bastide hidden by trees, groves and flowerbeds…
Once within the garden walls, our eyes do not know where to look because it is like being in a Monet painting. Two water lily ponds surround the lower level of the garden, the light pierces the foliage of olive trees, our feet tread on the gravel the sound of which completes the idyllic setting. We are under the spell !
The history of the domaine runs through centuries : even if no original plans have been updated until now, it is quite possible that the gardens were built at the same time as the main house in 1691. After numerous uncertainties between the revolution and 1844, a period during which the domaine belonged to the commune and was rented out to the Marquis de Castellane, it was bought by the painter Pierre Deval and his wife in 1925.
During the war, the domaine was requisitioned by the German army, which established its headquarters and undertook to destroy everything and fell all the trees, including the olive trees of the access road that are hundreds of years old. After the war, Pierre and Henriette Deval returned to the work of rebuilding and replanting, at least around the main house, a large portion of land for farming and used for growing vegetable crops.
The domaine was a place of artistic inspiration and for visits by the painter friends of the couple: Albert Marquet, Jean Launois, Jean Puy, Willy Eisenchitz, Claire Bertrand, the painters of the School of Toulon (Eugène Baboulène, Mentor, Pertus among others), photographers (David Eisenchitz) and musicians, and also of the literary movement (Henri Bosco, Jean-Louis Vaudoyer, Pierre-Jean Jouve).
Since 1993, their daughter and their grandchildren have been working to ensure the continuity of the gardens and its reconversion into a botanical reserve. In 2006, the domaine acquired the classification of “Outstanding Garden” (“Jardin remarquable”) .
In the garden of the domaine d’Orvès, the attraction of a timeless experience
Our guide, owner and gardener of the premises, involves us in the labyrinth of footpaths, right across this huge domaine over which he controls even the smallest plot.
Humble in the face of this treasure trove that he sculpts every day, he describes the ‘Restanques’ (terraces) to be renovated, leads us toward the chapel and the large basin, the sculptures by Pierre Deval. With him, we discover varieties of plants and trees with names that remind us of travelling : Chinese evergreen magnolia tree, Karou African acacias, monkey puzzle tree, Sichuan pepper plant, strawberry tree from New Mexico…but also images of Provence : iris, eucalyptus, lemon tree, wild garlic, oleander, olive tree, stone pine…
This visit arouses our senses: the garden extends endlessly, insects buzzing, humming in our ears, the scents of flowers, foliage envelops us with delight. It is a total change of scenery: the garden sweeps us into a world of enchantment.