Le Jardin de la Daille is situated on the Causse, just below the summit of a round-topped limestone hill on the border of the Dordogne and the Lot departments. The garden is in the Dordogne overlooking meadows and woods which are in the Lot, and it has been created around a group of farm buildings which date from 1805.
Built in local stone by a stone mason for himself and his Family, and consisting of a house with pigeon tower topped with an unusual roof of lauzes, (large stone slabs), some of which protrude and may have been perches for the pigeons or footholds for the stone masons as the roof was being built. There is a large barn dated 1835, and stables for the pigs and chickens, alongside which is an ancient vine covered arbour which provided shade for the chicken run, with access for the birds by a tiny door in the wall of the chicken shed. Across a natural stone terrace, which used to serve as a threshing floor, is a bread-oven house dated 1839, the whole forming a harmonious group of buildings. An extension on the rear of the house was built in 1895 for a son of the Family who was a priest. This opens on to a walled garden in the style of a Jardin de Curé. The ensemble of the buildings is in a style typical of the Quercy.
Unfortunately the roof of the house was raised in the 1940s and replaced with ‘tuiles canals’ and a shallower pitch, in order to have more space for hanging tobacco, which was an important crop in this area until recently. A little round stone hut with lauze roof just behind the dry stone wall which edges the escarpment, housed the ‘commodities’ (outside toilet). Across the meadow in the Lot is a ‘fontaine’ from which water was drawn for household use, until 1975, and a ruin of a chicken house. The landscape is scattered with huge piles of stones (cayrous) collected from the land, and some have little huts incorporated into them, for the labourers to store their tools or to shelter from storms. Before the phylloxera epidemic arrived in this area the land was planted with vines in terraces. When the phylloxera bug arrived, the vines were abandoned, the walls and terrassing dismantled, or left to crumble. A small vineyard still existed near the ‘fontaine’ until about the year 2000, when it had to be abandoned as the tenant of our land retired and no-one was interested in taking it over. This was the fate of most of the small vineyards which added character to the views in this area, although some were incorporated into the ‘Vin de Domme’, a co-operative that was set up to re-establish what had been a renowned wine.
Derek and Barbara Brown purchased this property in 1975 with its surrounding 10 hectares of land. They set up a Chambres d’Hôtes , building three rooms overlooking what was to become the garden. Between the farmhouse and its outbuildings, and Pechembert, the nearest hamlet, lays an arid area of land scattered with cayrous and bories (stone huts). This 8 hectares was purchased in 1986/1996.
In 1975, apart from the ‘Jardin Clos’, there was not a garden. Even the Jardin Clos was ‘en friche’ since the house had been unoccupied for a time. The ancient box tree over the stone bench was there but one side of it had perished, the old lilac was there and also an invasive rose which many of our visitors recognise but no-one can name. The sorrel plants were also there but the rest was overgrown with weeds. These few plants still exist in the garden.
In the lower garden, the area stretching from the oven-house to the third walnut tree had been cultivated for tobacco or other crops. There were walnut trees planted in the meadows, many of which have since died of old age. The fig tree opposite the lower end of the barn, still produces superb figs even though it was cut to the ground by the Winter of 1985, when temperatures reached as low as -20 C.
Near the kiosque is a large hole which was built as an ‘attrape-eau’, since at times of great storms water pours down the hill and had, on occasion, swept away the freshly cut hay. In 1977 a violent storm filled the hole rapidly, roared down through the field and swept away the recently planted tobacco plants in the next field. During these last few years it has been rare to see any water in the hole.
The cultivation of the mixed borders started with a few easily grown annuals at the end near the bread-oven house and some vegetables. After some time it was decided to move the vegetable garden further down where the soil is a bit deeper and the temperature a little cooler. From 1984 onwards, we started to add flowering trees and shrubs to the borders where we could find a sufficient depth of soil.
Unfortunately the vegetables became victim to the deer that roam the fields, as have the roses. So we have turned the vegetable beds into a ‘wild-flower garden’.
The Chambres d’Hôtes, the Restaurant and the Salon de Thé are now closed after more than 30 years of activity receiving visitors during the Summer months, but the Garden is open for visits on the days and hours set out on the Practical Information page.