Water in the Garden-Landscape-World

Clémence Mathieu

The garden is located along the conceptual line that relates landscapes and the world. Landscape architect Michel Corajoud describes this relationship of continuity, this vision of a cosmos-landscape, in Le paysage, c’est l’endroit où le ciel et la terre se touchent (landscape is the place where the sky and the earth touch): “Landscapes are inexhaustible, in the sense that they offer multiple indications of what they are, what they were and what they could be. In fact, all the scars of the past are inscribed and endure in the very flesh of what a landscape is. Landscapes are memories, and I can ask them questions,” (M. Corajoud, 2010).  Landscapes are located on multiple temporal scales that engage with ancestral forces and diverse pasts, and gardens form part of this complex relationship.

The castle-museum of La Roche Jagu in the Côtes d’Armor in Brittany is an active and powerful garden-landscape-world. I came across it whilst participating in an exhibition on medicinal plants for the castle-museum and the stories of deep relationships between humans and their environment that emerged from the exhibition seemed to fit perfectly within this place.

The castle of La Roche Jagu is situated at the top of a rocky outcrop overlooking the Trieux River, a meandering snake-like body of water mixing fresh and salty water. The garden spreads from the castle, to the cliff edge and all the way down the hillside to the river. The parts of the garden that are attached to the castle are inspired by medieval gardens, with smaller, simple and courteous gardens. We can consider these gardens small fragments, small stories from ancient times, with a strong human presence and a routine gardening practice.

The rest of the park tells another story: that of water, the water that shapes landscapes and is the starting point of all life on this planet. The water runs from higher to lower grounds. Along that trajectory, multispecies narratives between humans and non-humans merge into the larger watery narrative held by this body of water. Someone taking a walk along this river discovers an entire world, ranging from the open pasture prairies, and the very dark alluvial forest, to areas where the water pools, calling to mind ancient washing places. As we descend towards the Trieux, the water turns brackish, then salty, as it gets closer to the river’s mouth. The gardeners who take care of this park tread carefully and garden attentively, in order to allow the movement, fluctuations and relationships between different beings that constitute this place across the seasons and through time. 

And so, the garden tells the story of the landscape, which tells the story of the world and of these timeless relationships between the natural world and living beings.
Michel Corajoud (2010). Le paysage, c’est l’endroit où le ciel et la terre se touchent. Actes Sud Nature.