Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Unprecedented “green” auction in Anjou, France — a grand success

Photo: Jean-Paul Gislard
by John A. Vardas

Smack in the midst of a world economic crisis
and an uncommitted 700 billion dollar bailout in the US, I found myself breathing the pure air and enjoying the crystal starry nights in the heart of Anjou, France. For the first time in history, a very unique auction was conducted of rare and collectible specimen trees and ornamental bushes — yes, live trees and bushes — including Japanese maples up to 35 feet tall, Camellias bushes 10-18 feet, topiary laurel obelisks 12-15 feet in height, large and old boxwoods, pruned like chest players, conical-shaped English Yew 17 feet plus in height and exquisitely trained, multi-trunked wisteria of 7-12 feet high.

As grand couturier Hubert de Givenchy said in the preface of the 140 page catalogue, “These plants, each more beautiful than the others, have become, over time, works of art.” This unprecedented sale was conducted by the bold and highly successful Paris auction house, Art Curial-Briest-Poulain-F. Tajan, on the nursery of Domaine des Rochettes in the Loire Valley. The auction of just 210 lots, came from an inventory of over 2800 plants. Prices realized from the auction reached as high as $30,000 for a magnificent Japanese maple 35 feet high.
Magnolia blossom. Ghislaine de Preaulx-Carlo.
Domaine des Rochettes, was founded 45 years ago by Ghislaine de Preaulx-Carlo, third daughter of a descendent of an old chivalric Norman family and British mother (née de Bourbon-Siciles et Bragance), on this land in Pouancé, in Maine et Loire, part of her original family legacy. An autodidact, Ghislaine Carlo spent years studying gardens and nurseries in Britain and on the continent. She traveled all over the world to augment the stock for the nursery such as magnolias from New Zealand and Australia, rhododendrons and azaleas from India, and aged Portuguese laurel, and boxwoods and yew from Europe and England.

Now, Mme Carlo’s “children” and she, have come of age in her unique paradise, considered by most, the “haute couture” of European nursuries. She has spent years growing, nurturing, and shaping an exceptional collection of white camellias, flowering and evergreen shrubs and trees which now grace many private gardens as well as many public parks and the surrounding landscapes of national monuments. Her “grands subjets” grace the Luxembourg and Elysée gardens, the Parc de Bagatelle, Parc de Versailles as well as public spaces in Bordeaux, Metz and even Munich. Huge trees have been transplanted from her nursery by helicopter to Switzerland.
Camelia Montironi. Ghislaine de Preaulx-Carlo.
Japanese Maple.
Rhododendrum Rouge. Prunus Lusitanica.
Dubbed “La Dame aux Camellias”, Mme Carlo, clippers in hand, has for all these years created an extraordinary paradise of horticultural perfection manifesting itself in magnificent trees and wonderful bushes in conical shapes as well as massive balls and squares, umbrellas, columns and diamonds.

Begun with support of her now deceased husband, Florian Carlo, Senior Financial Officer of Airbus during its entry into the aviation market, Ghislaine Carlo has with an utterly inexhaustible passion and dedication, created a one of a kind environment for the “breeding” of specimens which are rare and valued for their size, age, fragility and beauty. Her body of work was recognized in 2004 when, as the first woman, she was honoured with Commander of Merit for Agriculture by the French Government.
Wisteria Macrobotrys Bleue. Beautiful Ligustrum.
Pyramides, Carres, Boules — Prunus.
Perhaps it is in France where beauty, aesthetics and exquisite taste are found and appreciated throughout the country, would one find such an unusual “happening.” This heavenly paradise created by Ghislaine Carlo as her life’s work was something truly to enjoy in all it’s refinements of horticultural splendor.

That the auction was a “grand succès” at a time of economic upheaval is a testament to level of perfection she has achieved with her “children” and the fact that others wanted to share in this perfection by purchasing just a few of her “offspring,” to create a little heaven of their own.
Tree lots at Auction.
Acer Thunberg. Golden Acer Thunberg.
Taxus at Auction.
Photographs by Jean-Paul Gislard.
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