The concept of the Garden

The Domaine du Rayol is more than just a garden… It is a concept, created by Gilles Clément, the French gardener and landscaper. Discover the intrinsic spirit of the Mediterranean Gardens.

The Mediterranean climate

The Mediterranean climate is characterised by hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Regions with these characteristics are located on the west coasts of continents, between around 30 – 45 degrees north and south of the equator.
Mediterranean biomes are characterised by a community of plant and animal species that is specific to them. All these biomes are forced to face the ecological constraints that are common to them – the great summer droughts, the regular passage of fire, a rainfall pattern that can be very irregular, soils that are often very poor and the pressures of intensive grazing, both natural and anthropogenic.

Gilles Clément

Gilles Clément, its designer, has extended this global journey by bringing in other landscapes. In addition to plants already growing here, his idea is to add landscapes with characteristics similar to the Mediterranean climate, but which differ primarily in terms of their rainfall patterns. Climates with summer storms such as subtropical America, subtropical Asia and New Zealand, and drier climates such as the arid zones of America.

The Jardin des Méditerranées (Mediterranean Gardens) has been designed according to Gilles Clément’s three major concepts :

  • The ”jardin planétaire” (planetary garden): There are 3 reasons to consider planet Earth as a garden:
    – Man treats all land as if it were his own back garden;
    – we are witnessing cross-fertilization on a planetary scale, akin to a garden that produces most of its crops from species that come from elsewhere;
    – the planet’s surface area is finite and its biological resources are not inexhaustible.
  • The ”jardin en mouvement” (garden in movement): inspired by wastelands, this entails supporting and guiding plants to grow feely, according to their natural behaviour. The gardener maintains an aesthetic and biological balance to achieve the greatest possible diversity. The flora constantly redesigns the garden. You know when a garden starts, but you don’t know when it ends, or even if it ever ends. The garden is constantly evolving.
  • The ”tiers-paysage” (third landscape): the sum of all the land lying fallow or in reserve, including countless undefined spaces, located at the margins in forgotten recesses where man and his machines never go. It is a heterogeneous area which provides a refuge for the diversity that has been driven out of everywhere else. It is a source of biodiversity for the gardener, a mutually beneficial arrangement.
  • L’”homme symbiotique” (symbiotic man): life is inventive in the self-contained space of the biosphere. Spatial and biological finitude leads us to consider another model for using space: seeking to exploit nature without destroying it. Replacing the energy we take from the environment becomes a whole way of life. The ideal political project of man-as-gardener answers the questions raised by spatial finitude: recycling, energy resources, demography and the art of living.

The Jardin des Méditerranées takes you on a journey through landscapes inspired by regions of the world that have Mediterranean climates. These regions are: southwestern and southern Australia, southwestern South Africa, central Chile, the coastal region of California and the Mediterranean Basin (from the Canary Islands to northern Iran). The biodiversity of Mediterranean regions is remarkable. Indeed, only 5% of the planet’s surface contains 50,000 vascular plants, i.e. around 20% of all known plants.

Land of nature & spirit

This landscape-based approach means that the plants are not labelled, so as to favour the natural environments of the regions represented. The nature of this project is what makes this site unique.
As such, these gardens, ‘lands of nature and spirit’, are not really a botanical garden but rather a succession of environmental gardens in which the landscapes of each different region make up one single mosaic. Each is directly inspired by natural landscapes, photographed by the Domaine’s first gardeners who set off on field reconnaissance missions.

Unlike the majority of gardens, which are created in order to achieve a planned (sketched) image, the gardens of the Domaine du Rayol are continuously evolving in a constant state of anticipation. As if research, as an active ingredient, should always take precedence over arrangement. As if the pedagogy that is inevitably associated with it should be take priority over mere decoration and leisurely strolls.’
- Gilles Clément, ‘Une école buissonnière’ (‘A forest education’)