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7.6.04

William Christie's Secret Garden

While France remembered the 60th anniversary of what they call the Débarquement and we call D-Day at the beaches of Normandy, this past weekend (June 4 to 6) was also the Rendez-vous aux jardins (Date with a garden), a new annual event (inaugurated in 2003) that opens up the private gardens of both government-owned buildings and private residences to the public. One of the latter this year was the home garden of William Christie, the director of the Baroque ensemble Les Arts Florissants (see my review of their most recent performance in Washington, in February.) He has given an interview with Emmanuel de Roux, Trois jours pour entrer dans le secret des jardins (Three days to penetrate the secret gardens, June 5), in Le Monde:William Christie, Les Jardins du Batîment, 2004

William Christie . . . keeps a secret garden, a garden in the strictest sense of the term, created around his residence in Thiré, in the Vendée. The garden's secret will be revealed, since it will be open to the public, for the "Rendez-vous aux jardins," an event organized by the Ministry of Culture on June 4 to 6 across France, but also during the first ten days of July and the whole month of September. . . . To know a garden, says William Christie, "is to recognize its architectural, botanical, aesthetic, historic value; gardening is a fragile, ephemeral art that defies time, like music."

How did you end up creating this garden in the Vendée?

Twenty years ago, I started searching for a place to settle down in France. I wanted to find a place in the country, an old house, a pretty fixer-upper, but most importantly without any established garden. I already knew the Vendée, a region I liked for its people and landscape. I happened to find the little 17th-century property, without any garden, with nothing at all except two trees near the house. I imagined and designed, by myself, the garden that you see today. It's surely the realization of some childhood dream: I spent my earliest years in the countryside of New York State, and my parents must have passed on to me this profound love that they shared.
Christie has listed his garden in the official programme as the Jardins du Batîment, with the photo shown here.

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