Garden closed for the months of November and December
Serre de la Madone, the plantsman’s dream
From 1924 onwards, Lawrence Johnston, an American born in Paris, began to create a winter garden in Menton, a place which would be both stylish and spectacular. There were to be double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio, orangeries for tender exotic plants...
In 1907 he had already begun an outstanding garden in Gloucestershire, England - Hidcote Manor.
His French garden - Serre de la Madone - was designed to lay siege to the house, through doors, windows and arcades; the house being originally a sizeable farmhouse to which Johnston added to large wings.
With this quiet house and luxuriant vegetation, we could be miles from anywhere, perhaps in India. Parrots screech in the aviaries - Australia maybe? Those palms swaying againt the sky are certainly from the Canaries... But no, we are in one of the valleys of Menton, one step from the Mediterranean, two steps from Italy.
Johnston travelled the world over a thirty-year period always seeking plants that he could acclimatise. Here at Serre de la Madone with its twelve gardeners working its seven hectares of terraces, he planted his prizes among the ancient olives. So in pursuit of an extravagant dream he ended up cloaking this age-old land with a fantastical structure and exotica from far-flung lands. He died in 1958 without having commited to paper his grand design.
He left it up to the plants, the springs and to time to finish his garden. We have become the inheritors of his dream, now a tropical forest, a place of living architecture, of fresh green mirrored in reflecting pools. We owe it to the world to continue his work and to give it a contemporary significance.
In Menton, a town known for its outstanding gardens, Serre de la Madone was bought in 1999 by the Conservatoire du Littoral, with contributions from the town of Menton, the Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes, the Conseil Régional (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) and the fondation Electricité de France.
Serre de la Madone will now become, with its "palazzo" and its garden restored, an international center for enthusiasts for rare plants. They will be able to come and to familiarise themselves with trees, climbers, shrubs and flowers new to them, to make out their Latin names, to dream in the garden’s green rooms and loggias, to study in the library, to linger on the Boulingrin, to hear evening concerts, to meet botanists, to take part in seminars and courses... and of course, to revive themselves in the "salon de thé".
Jardin Serre de la Madone
74, Route de Gorbio
Tél : 04 93 57 73 90
Fax : 04 93 28 55 42