On the languorous south bank of the river, away from the hustle and bustle of busy Meung-sur-Loire nestles a charming, rose-clad farmstead. Its encircling gardens are engulfed in a tangle of scented ancient roses, the interior is similarly aged to perfection. Husband and wife Stephane and Aline Chassine swapped their hectic city lives for down to earth country living for their family, but not without toil and dedication. Together they have renovated the tumbledown 16th century farmhouse and brought it back to life.
Come with us as we tour the magnificent rose garden that is the Jardins de Roquelin.
Aline, a regional councillor, is passionate about vintage French decoration and has scoured brocantes and markets to furnish and decorate the now restored dwelling; creating an eclectic, unique home which transcends centuries and oozes taste and charm. Aline has a great eye, and has decorated the house sparingly and simply.
“It’s painted French grey throughout which allows the vintage items to speak volumes,” Aline shares. Over the years she has gathered treasured finds from right across France, which now have come to home to roost at Roquelin. Aline doesn’t restrict her passion to interior items, she innovatively dresses indoors with more typically outdoor objects: zinc-topped garden tables, zinc roof finials, slatted wooden chairs, and ancient glass garden cloches. These fragments of old France clothe the house’s rustic stone and oak-beamed rooms. Inevitably inside spills outdoors too, especially in summertime when the garden is strewn with charming, weathered-metal bistro tables and chairs, moss-clad flower-filled pots, lichened urns together with an array of garden tools for practical or decorative use. Large zinc wash tubs float with perfumed roses from Stephane’s glorious garden and giant, paint-peeled watering cans douse thirsty plants in high summer.
Stephane is a talented garden designer and horticulturalist, with a healthy obsession for old roses, ‘roses anciennes’. The move to Roquelin was partly determined by Stephane’s desire to create a rose garden and nursery, specialising in ancient rose cultivars. The surrounding neglected fields and farm buildings were tackled first, Stephane was keen to make the small holding productive and planted a willow-edged potager with a profusion of fruit, herbs, salad crops and vegetables – tempting treats for his free-range egg-laying chickens and geese! However, his piece de la resistance is rose conserve, made from the fragrant petals of Rosa ‘Gertrude Jekyll’. He makes sufficient quantities to stock the Brocante Barn shop which is full of Aline’s cherry-picked vintage goods. Adjacent is Roquelin’s rose nursery which offers many beautiful, often difficult-to-find, rose specimens.
From June onwards Roquelin is garlanded in beautiful, fulsome roses, their perfume pervades indoors and out. The farmstead is suffused with fragrant and floriferous rose blooms, each specimen carefully selected and placed, by Stephane to decorate and delight. Soft and gentle, satin swirls of cream, pink and pistachio Rosa ‘Pierre de Ronsard,’ smother the farmhouse entrance, its length engulfed in myriad blooms, culminates with prickly French crimson shrub rose ‘Roseraie de l’Hay’ (1906). The garden ‘proper’ is a sensory wonderland, an entire perfumed and picturesque acre devoted to over 450 different roses whose provenance spans continents and delves back decades.
The garden was created in 2002 and opened to the applauding public in 2005.Shortly after which the French Ministry of Culture, awarded Stephane’s rose garden the prestigious title of ‘Jardin Remarquable’, reserved only for France’s most beautiful, often historic or artistic, gardens. Sprung from a flat, grassy field, the now billowing rose garden has architecture of its own. Rose-clad trees, huge rose bushes and shrubs create alleyways and avenues of their own or clothe chestnut-wood pavilions, arbours and tunnelled walkways, fences and gateways which Stephane has hand crafted himself. He has also fashioned rustic garden furniture, benches and seats, from hewn chestnut wood.
Stephane’s fascination is for older cultivars, ‘roses anciennes’, pre-1930 cultivars, many of which were salvaged and revitalised by the late, legendary French rose-breeder Andre Eve, Stephane’s former employer. “I adore their femininity and froufrou petals laden with perfume,” confides Stephane. “These are qualities I value more than the ability to repeat flower, which few possess,” which is actually of little consequence in a garden of such abundance.
Among his favorites; musk-scented, apricot, rambler Rosa ‘Ghislaine de Feligonde’ 1876 which does repeat; heavily perfumed, soft pink ‘Duchesse de Montebello,’1829; and double, powder-pink, sweet-scented Rosa ‘Cuisse de Nymphe’; pre 1400, magenta-red Rosa ‘Charles de Mills’ 1790; and dark fuchsia Rosa ‘Henri Martin’ 1863. Interwoven are more contemporary rose cultivars like Rosa, ‘Constance Spry,’1961 and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’ 1986, bred by David Austin. These so-called ‘English’ roses capture the spirit of old roses but repeat-flower.
Herbaceous perennials cushion and complement the roses; irises, geraniums, delphiniums and scented herbs, sage, rosemary and lavender. Hops and clematis chase ramblers and climbers. June brings masses of tempting blooms. Aline sparingly gathers cherished windfalls, sprays and single stems to reverently display in equally-aged, tarnished silverware. Stephane meanwhile floats myriad rose-heads, eluding to the wealth and diversity encapsulated in the extraordinary rose garden he has created at Roquelin.
Les Jardins de Roquelin, 45130 Meung-sur-Loire
The garden is open from April to October, daily (except Tuesdays) 10.00 a.m – 6.00 p.m.
+33 (0) 6 70 95 37 70
This article was originally published in the May/June 2019 edition of My French Country Home.
Text by Jacky Hobbs – Photography by Clive Nichols