Italian Idyll

ENGLISH ESSENCE, FRENCH PERFUME

Among gardeners, it’s the equivalent of an Oscar, or, this being France, a César, that is, being recognized by the French Ministry of Culture for having grown and nurtured a natural locale sufficiently spectacular to earn the Jardin Remarquable designation. Despite its small size, this 2.5-acre “remarkable garden,” known as Les Jardins de Roquelin, won the hearts—and the noses—of the cultural committee members who determined that the verdant expanse would join the elite of France’s most striking, and often historic, gardens.

As its creator, Stéphane Chassine explains, “It’s not size, nor is it about the age of the garden. Roquelin was recognized for its overall aesthetic, botanical interest, size and quality of the rose collection, organic principals, and also that it’s been open to the public since 2005.” The garden, tucked away in the storied Loire Valley, envelops the Chassine family’s 16th-century farmstead in a profusion of billowing perfumed roses—the kind of nostalgic, old-fashioned blooms one associates with grandparents. The roses’ provenances span continents and date back centuries.

Roquelin is situated across the river from the medieval town of Meung-sur-Loire, 80 miles south of Paris, 15 miles south of Orléans. The rural area is dominated by agriculture, the terrain is flat, the soil rich, and the water supply plentiful. The locale presented an attractive proposition for Chassine, who bought the farmstead in 2002. “We were excited by the opportunity to create a rose garden on my own land,” he says. “Though I had no formal horticultural training, I learned my trade from my former employer, the famous French rose breeder André Eve, who specialized in salvaging beautiful, old-rose varieties, those in danger of being lost from cultivation. I adore their glorious abundance, packed with petals, soaked in perfume, qualities I value more than the ability to repeat-flower, which few possess, and which is actually of little consequence in a garden of such abundance.”

To read the complete story or to see all photos, visit the MILIEU Newsstand to purchase this issue in print or visit Zinio.com to purchase this issue in digital format.

WRITTEN BY JACKY HOBBS
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CLIVE NICHOLS

This story appeared in the Spring 2024 issue of MILIEU