Welcome to Southern France, where the end of April looks like late June… Balm for a winter-weary New Englander’s soul!
Across the river from Avignon, home of the papal court in-exile in the 14th century, lies Villeneuve lez Avignon – our Easter weekend retreat for this year. Our hotel – that’s the old front door in the photo – is the former priests’ residence for an adjacent church, also built in the early 1300’s.
Calm and serene, the gardens envelope you on arrival. The columned arcade would have once looked out on the priest’s jardin de curé, a garden of healing herbs.
In that space today, a knot garden pays tribute to the past. Small hedges artfully divide the space into separate beds, where bright flowers mix with culinary herbs.
The design of the garden harkens-back to those long-ago priests. Instead of boxwood, they’d have used dense herbs, like germander, rosemary, or sweet-scented myrtle to delineate the boundaries of the planting beds.
Though many of the plants in this garden were unknown in the days of the priests – and others would have been deemed ‘useless’ – rosemary, lavender, sage and roses would have been present, without doubt. We might think of them simply as tasty ingredients or lovely flowers, but they were once the basis of all medicine.
A white pigeon sits above a door.
We can pretend he’s an Easter dove…