In the French paradise of Japanese roses

IN PICTURES – Saturday and Sunday, between Arras and Le Touquet, the gardens of Séricourt open their doors to lovers of this wonderful flower.

They had never left the Archipelago before. The roses from the Keiji farm, named after a famous Japanese breeder based near Kyoto, found a setting worthy of their reputation in the gardens of Séricourt (Pas-de-Calais). And this weekend, these beautiful foreigners will be the stars of the 1er International Rose Festival, organized by Guillaume and Laure Gosse de Gorre, owners of this splendid wooded estate of 4.5 hectares, located between Arras and Le Touquet, classified as a “remarkable garden” by the Ministry of Culture.

“The presence here of these exceptional flowers in subtle pastel colors which blend very well together, some deliciously fragrant, is the result of a happy meeting, during a trip to Japan, with Keiji Kunieda and his son Ken, explains Guillaume, designer and landscaper graduated from the National Landscape School of Versailles. The objective is to make them known to the French public while experimenting with their ability to become garden roses because, in Japan, they are cultivated only for the production of cut flowers intended for making bouquets or ikebana floral art. .”

The “Keiji rose enclosure”

For the moment, the test is conclusive: robust and ever-growing, with a “bush” shape, the first fifty rose bushes, arrived from Japan by plane during the winter of 2018, look great and the 250 feet which have just joined them in the “Clos des Roses Keiji”, at the end of the park, are full of promise. We are seduced by the old pink petals of ‘Aoi-Fuga’, covered in buds, the shades of roses of ‘Ioli’, the very “English rose” look of ‘Yuzen’, the drape of the countless petals of ‘Aoi’, to name just a few of the 22 varieties present in this wabi sabi-inspired garden, which means “the beauty of emptiness”. “I didn’t want to create yet another Zen garden because that’s not all there is in Japan, just like the art of the garden in France is not limited to Versailles or Villandry,” confides Guillaume.

After entering a spiral garden, planted with “local” species (epimediums, hostas, lady’s mantle, yew, iris, etc.), surrounded by traditional cob walls, the visitor discovers at the threshold of a hidden door a vast open space planted with yellowing sheep’s fescue, reminiscent of a rice field, and dotted with mounds where Keiji rose bushes rub shoulders with ornamental grasses, sagebrush, ‘Rotundifolia’ boxwood, yews and euphorbias; a very sober plant range, with contrasting shades, which highlights them remarkably.

A “cathedral of roses”

The Séricourt Festival will also be an opportunity to discover the thirty other landscape compositions imagined and created continuously since the beginning of the 1980s by Guillaume and his father, Yves, a landscaper like him, where roses are omnipresent. This is particularly the case of the monumental “cathedral of roses” whose “nave” extends over a hundred meters with its choir and transept. The whole is extended, beyond the apse, by a double row of ‘Rush’ and ‘Smarties’ roses which lead to an elegant vegetal cross in lime. “Until now the festival was spread over the entire second half of June, but this year we wanted to concentrate it on a weekend so that people could really enjoy the explosion, the fireworks of flowers which occurs every year at the same time,” he explains, pointing to the immense clusters of buds ready to bloom.

There are remarkable varieties like ‘Seagull’, ‘Toby Tristam’ and ‘La Fraîcheur’ from André Eve, ‘Albertine’ (Guillot) or ‘American Pillar’ (Van Fleet): sarmentose rose bushes with disproportionately long stems have taken over the arches of the structure which they share with clematis, maples and American oaks cut into lianas. “A garden can’t just be flowers, it’s also foliage with their shades of green, the play of shadows and light,” argues Guillaume.

Rigor of forms and plant exuberance

Shades of color, but also scents of perfume and soothing sounds (waterfalls, birdsong, etc.), the gardens of Séricourt offer them at the bend of each path. Whether in the “warrior garden” with its yews trained in the “square head” cut or these “warrior masks” cut from large thuja bushes, in homage to this land of Hauts-de-France bruised by both major global conflicts of the past century. There is also the “yellow room” with its cords of golden charcoal which replaced the boxwood, its aucuba-leaved ash, its Virginia tulip tree, its golden catalpa and holly, the “topiary living room” with its sofa, its armchairs and table (including the glasses and bottle) carved from yew trees, without forgetting the “geometric garden”, both very structured and wild, where rigor of forms and plant exuberance mingle.

During the festival, local exhibitors will be scattered throughout the route such as the Val des Roses nursery or the florist La Ferme Fleurie, who will offer bouquets of Japanese roses. Guided tours will also be offered on Saturday and Sunday (11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m.), at the usual admission price, on the theme of roses.

• June 22-23: International Rose Festival, Séricourt gardens (Pas-de-Calais).

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