Horticultural engineer and landscaper, Yves-Marie Allain has a great career which allows him today to offer a book that lists no less than 90 keys to understanding the garden. The author and expert comes back to us on "Does the garden follow fashions?" From Quæ editions.
Tell us about your background.
I have a classic background with a diploma in horticultural engineering in Versailles and then in landscaping DPLG. I was responsible for community gardens in Lorient and Orléans. In 1993, I was in charge of the Jardin des Plantes in Paris and the Arboretum of Chèvreloup. In 2004, I returned to the general inspection of the environment.
Why this work which presents 90 keys for the garden?
I wanted to offer the basic elements which allow us to provide an initial explanation of the behavior of plants. For example, I wanted everyone to be able to understand why there is a beautiful flowering in some years and not others by clarifying the role of winter cold. Everything is explained physiologically and I offer reading keys and not scientific demonstrations. The book is aimed at all those who lack the basics of the garden and those who want to understand the rules of plants.
For you, what is a garden?
We are lucky that the vocabulary has a meaning, so it is not my definition but that of the word garden. A garden is a closed place in which man intervenes more or less. Nature can develop there but not completely freely even if man must also comply with certain rules. It is a kind of symbiosis. You can be very directive, as in a vegetable patch for example, provided you follow certain rules (temperatures, humidity, length of day ...) or on the contrary, you give more freedom to the cultivated and spontaneous vegetation.
How many garden styles are there?
The art of gardens does not exist in all civilizations. If gardens including symbolic or religious exist, there has not really been garden art, as we understand it in the West, in the civilizations of certain continents like America, Africa, l 'Australia. The great cradles of the "pleasure garden" are the Far East with China and Japan, the second focus is in the Middle East to the Mediterranean basin and the third is Western art born mainly in Italy at the time of the Renaissance and disseminated worldwide. We can then decline the inspirations of these three cradles in many shades.
What do you mainly need to know to create your garden?
The first question to ask is "what do I expect from this garden?", "What do I want to do with it?". You have several types of garden: that of representation and that which allows a relation to the sensitive and direct nature. The garden in essence, is a place where it is possible to do everything including the opposite of what is outside the walls of the latter. It is also both the great freedom and the great drama of the garden! But if you want to succeed in getting what you want, there are a number of rules you need to understand. In any case, the garden must remain a place in which we express our perception. If some people find garden gnomes ridiculous, for others, it is a way of expressing their imagination and this mode of expression should not be despised.
The title of your book raises the question of garden fashions. Can we really talk about fashion?
Yes there are fashions! Today we are moving towards more and more natural gardens with better adapted plants and we also look at weeds differently. Shared gardens are very trendy and positive, but they are also the symbol of a society which is losing its bearings and which no longer has other places of conviviality. The garden is a way of returning to an earthly notion but also to a certain notion of time. Things will grow at their own pace and it will be possible to watch the passage of time.
You give a long list of gardens to visit, but what if you only had to name one?
I have no response ! Basically, it depends on the state of mind in which you find yourself! All the same, I have a certain tenderness for people who restore old vegetable gardens. Today we magnify great traditions to make something beautiful out of it. The cultural and the cultural are not incompatible.