Luxury, tranquility and bliss
Push open the gate to the Val Rahmeh garden and take a deep breath… There, in the shady avenues and dense foliage, with its cool fountains and ponds, is a 1.5 hectare haven of tranquility, which owes its original layout to its gradual creation over time. Little by little, new species and varieties have been introduced so that now there are 1,500 taxa in place. Yet the order needed in a botanical garden, where plants are rigorously identified, has been maintained. Elegant organised chaos, which the garden’s successive owners have not rejected and which gives this place a little extra soul.
Summer ahead of time
The plants in the Val Rahmeh garden hail from tropical and subtropical countries, including Greece, Africa, the Canaries, China, Mexico, New Caledonia and New Zealand. Meaning that these plants, which are notoriously sensitive to the cold, love the unique microclimate between the mountains and the sea which the garden enjoys! However, they are far from having the same needs and for this reason, they are divided into several areas. On entering, both the dry (agave plants and cactus, etc.) and wet (bamboo, tree ferns, etc.) tropical environment takes pride of place. Further on, you can see plants from Mediterranean climes, with olive trees taking centre stage. Finally, at the far end of the garden, lotus and giant water lilies blossom in a pool, not far from Australian plants.
Plants and men
Plants are essential to us. You will be convinced of this after you have visited the Jardin botanique exotique de Menton. Why? Because of the many species used for food, medicine and even magic which populate the garden’s avenues. Avocado trees, papaya trees, guavas, banana trees, palm trees, passionflowers, citrus-bearing trees and a kitchen garden all unveil their delicious treasures. And in two special areas, there are American food plants on the one hand and a selection of spices, condiments and herbs on the other to discover. A mouthwatering proposition!
It’s hard to talk about the gardens without mentioning their successive owners. Sir Percy Radcliffe moved here in 1904 with his wife, Rahmeh, who the garden was named after. He added buildings to the original house, bought the adjoining farmland and gave the entrance a superb avenue of palm trees. In 1957, the property was acquired by Miss Maybud Campbell, a rich, eccentric Englishwoman. She increased the size of the park and installed a tennis court, replaced by the pond which is now home to lotus and giant water lilies. She adored flowers and brought some superb ornamental plants to the garden. In the late 1960s, management of the property was handed over to the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle which turned it into a botanical garden and created a research centre there. Today, Val Rahmeh plays an important role in the acclimatisation of exotic plants as well as in the preservation of endangered species, like the Sophora toromiro, a tree which has disappeared from Easter Island. So, do you feel like setting off on a trip?