From 1900 to 1989

At the beginning of the century, taking the ‘petit train des pignes’ (‘little pine cone train’), a few wealthy families discovered the shores at the foot of the Maures. Dazzled by the beauty of this unspoilt coastline, the Adam, Eiffel, Royce, Clément-Bayard and Foncin families had their holiday homes built above the blue waters amongst the heather, rock roses and arbutus…

The Courmes property

A Parisian businessman, Alfred Théodore Courmes, set up his retirement residence at Le Rayol in 1910. He had his house built on a headland overlooking the Baie du Figuier. He organised his ornamental gardens around an antique-inspired pergola, planting palm trees, date palms, eucalyptus, agaves and mimosa. Nearby, there was a terraced vegetable garden and an orchard on the side of a hill above a charming little farm. In 1925, whilst a real estate company was setting up a seaside resort in Le Rayol, the Courmes family sold their house which became the ‘Hôtel de la Mer’. The couple then went to live in the Villa Rayolet built at the other end of the property.

The Potez Domaine

In January 1940, Madame Courmes sold the Domaine to the famous aircraft manufacturer Henry Potez. Forced by the war to abandon his factories in the Somme, Potez came to take refuge at Le Rayol with his family, at which point the houses underwent refurbishment. A number of servants attended on the family, whilst a dozen gardeners tended the garden. A majestic staircase was built under the pergola. It is during this period that the garden enjoyed its golden age. Once the war had come to an end, the Domaine du Rayol became only a summer residence. It was abandoned at the end of the sixties, for want of staff and maintenance.

The Domaine du Rayol safeguarded

The property went on to escape many property projects thanks to the action of conservationists. It was bought in 1989 by the Conservatoire du Littoral. The landscapes, flora and fauna of the last wild shores at the foot of the Maures would thus be preserved. At the request of the Conservatoire du Littoral, landscape gardener Gilles Clément’s proposal for the site was to evoke the flora and landscapes associated with regions of the world with Mediterranean climates, namely: the Mediterranean Basin, south-eastern California, central Chile, the Cape region in South Africa and southern Australia. Thus, from the former gardens of the Domaine, several gardens have emerged that reflect the plant environments of the Mediterranean regions of the world.