Harmas de Fabre (Fabre Museum)
What does every naturalist dream of? Living in an open-air laboratory, as close as possible to what he is studying - plants and wildlife. Jean-Henri Fabre accomplished that dream in 1879, by buying the Harmas property which today bears his name. Why not pay a visit?
The estate covers one hectare and is situated in the village of Sérignan du Comtat, 30 km from Avignon. It still includes a house and fallow land - ‘harmas’ in Provencal. Among the hawthorns, wild currant bushes, rosemary and lavender, enjoy doing what the famous entomologist loved best - observing. Come and see the plot of land covered in wild grasses where he placed the contraptions he dreamt up to study or trap small animals.
At the bottom of the path
Enclosed by a wall over 2 m high, the property is laid out as it was in the 19th century. You come in through the so-called “postman’s” gate used every day by Jean-Henri Fabre when he went plant collecting in the surrounding countryside. After you have visited the house, go out into the garden. There, you’ll find around 500 flowering species, as well as different varieties of Mediterranean shrubs and plants chosen by Fabre and his successors. There is also a pond, complete with two fountains, restored to its former glory by the naturalist to attract aquatic wildlife, such as dragonflies and midwife toads! All around you, marvel at at the large Banks rose garden, the forsythias and photinias, French marigolds and lilies, and a collection of typically Mediterranean plants like asphodels and santolina. Further on, a clump of bamboo adds a touch of the exotic.
Small beds and large trunks
The orchard and vegetable garden, a faithful reconstruction of a Provencal kitchen garden in bygone days, is also worth a visit. Here you’ll find beds planted with herbs and medicinal plants, as well as heirloom vegetables. Also take a turn around the arboretum and admire the evergreen and kermes oak trees, Aleppo pines, pistachio trees, fig trees, smoke trees and sweet bay trees. There are also trees from distant shores, including the Atlas cedar and the pencil cactus, known for its dense wood and characteristic smell.
Fabre at home
The naturalist’s home, simple but beautifully made, reflects the entire life of the scientist. Visit the dining-room, where each object is still in its place - the table where he shared his meals with his wife and children, the glass-fronted bookcase, the piano and harmonium on which Fabre composed the music to his Provencal poems, and family photos and trinkets. Set apart from the living rooms, the study is just as touching. Here, the scientist carried out his research and writing. It’s easy to imagine him sitting at this desk, writing the thousands of pages of his work, including Souvenirs entomologiques published throughout the world.
His legacy of specimens
Before you leave, take a look at the 1,300 items in the collections here. Don’t miss the two letters Darwin wrote to Fabre, or the herbarium the entomologist began to build up from the age of 18! The Museum has produced an inventory and database of his 82 papers, including 14,000 specimens. The institution, which has been renovating the Harmas de Fabre since 2000, has also restored the 600 watercolour paintings of mushrooms painted by the property’s former owner. Budding naturalists, come and share the passion of a master!