At an altitude of almost 1000 metres, in a part of St Denis known as Le Brûlé, you can find La Vallée Heureuse, a beautiful 6500m2 19th-century garden inscribed as a French Monument Historique (National Heritage Site).
|entrance, La Vallée Heureuse|
The owner, Pascale Boyer-Vidal, inherited the garden from her grandfather, and she organises visits twice a month.
La Vallée Heureuse literally means the 'Happy Valley'.
Pascale is passionate about the garden in particular and nature in general and this really shines through during the visit.
|grapefruit tree leaves, note the two parts (small then large)|
The garden consists of three different parts: a semicircular 'pleasure' garden with azaleas, camellias, hydrangeas and tea bushes; a 'practical' garden with bamboo, fruit trees and other useful plants; and an endemic garden with indigenous and endemic vegetation typical of that found in a mid-altitude forest.
|footbridge in the pleasure garden|
|pond in the pleasure garden|
|path, pleasure garden|
Throughout the visit emphasis is placed on nature, including the observation of birds and endemic insects. Pascale explains how she fights erosion and tries to restore the environment, and how she obtains endemic species to replant.
|this species of yellow bamboo looks as if |
someone threw a pot of green paint at it!
|Pascale standing next to some (aptly-named) giant bamboo|
|toadstools growing at the foot of the giant bamboo|
|toadstool growing on a tree|
The garden also has several Ginkgo bilobas, a tree that my husband and I got used to seeing when we lived in Seoul. Ginkgos are a very unusual genus of non-flowering plants that first appeared on earth 250 million years ago; Ginkgo bilobas are the only species of the genus left and are considered living fossils. They adapt well to urban environments, as they tolerate pollution and confined soil spaces. They rarely suffer disease problems, even in urban conditions, and are attacked by few insects. For all these reasons, as well as for their general beauty, they are excellent urban and shade trees, and are widely planted along many streets in Asia.
|gingko tree leaves|
|unusually on this species of plant the flower grows directly from the stem|
Jambrosades originated in South-East Asia but are commonly found in Reunion, having been introduced as fruit and ornamental trees. They are also known as 'rose apple', 'water apple' or 'plum rose' in English. As a non-native species they are currently present in the garden to provide shade, and will be chopped down once the endemic plants they are shading reach adulthood.
If you read or understand French take a look at the Vallée Heureuse Facebook Page which has beautiful photos and also contains some practical information about visits. Pascale also makes some handicrafts, which you can see here.