Meeting with Gilles Guillot, chief gardener at the Notre Dame d'Orsan Priory

Meeting with Gilles Guillot, chief gardener at the Notre Dame d'Orsan Priory

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Gilles Guillot is an endless passion for his art. Creator of the gardens of the Prieuré d'Orsan - of which he knows each plot by heart - the chief gardener has laid out a surprisingly monastic medieval plant collection. Twenty-one years after the first spade, it continues to develop its plants season after season to the delight of visitors! We looked at his work and the constraints of such a garden, where the symbolism is omnipresent and the aesthetics so singular. Itinerary of a nature lover.

Tell us about your background…

G. Guillot "I started working very young, with a training in green spaces in my pocket. After several years spent gardening for communities and individuals - classic gardener's course - I was entrusted with the creation of the Priory gardens Orsan. The 13 hectares of land were abandoned and had just been bought by Patrice Taravella, to be attached to the building now restored in Relais & Châteaux. I was 30 years old and I was tired of the classic maintenance work on green spaces, so I embarked on this great adventure without hesitation! Since its creation in 1993, I build this garden on the theme of the medieval garden of monastic inspiration.

What are the peculiarities of such a garden?

Unlike a classical ornamental garden, the medieval monastic garden first aims to care for and nourish the body and the mind. The Orsan Gardens are therefore built according to two ideals: utility and symbolism. There are many medicinal plants, a vegetable patch, wheat, an orchard, but also some flowers which all refer to the Bible. Like a traditional religious architecture, the monastic garden revolves around a central square symbolizing the cloister. Different well defined areas are located around, each of them systematically referring to the Christian religion: a plot of wheat, an enclosed garden dedicated to the Virgin Mary, an olive grove, an orchard that represents the end of life ... Here the visitor appeals to all your senses and walks on a well-ordered course.

Is it more restrictive to maintain than a traditional garden?

In my opinion, the biggest constraint lies ... in people! You have to succeed in organizing the daily life of the four people who garden beside me and make sure that the work progresses harmoniously. For the rest, I let nature do it! If it rains too much today, we postpone this task for the next day, it's that simple. Regarding maintenance proper, I refrain from using synthetic molecules on edible plants: I make my own compost and I get manure from farmers in the region. The most important thing for me is to keep the plants healthy so that I don't have to intervene afterwards! Even if the mechanization of tasks is essential, we continue to carry out a certain number of works by hand, using a wheelbarrow and traditional tools: a real work of ant which allows me at the same time to build myself ...

A quick word to end this interview…

I work in a sometimes hostile environment, however I have a real love relationship with my garden - which no longer looks the same today as it did when it started! To please visitors, we offer harvested products transformed into jams, fruit juices and delicacies. Come and discover without delay…
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