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.
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, 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.
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’)