When Jean-Henri Fabre acquired the property in 1879, the estate had been abandoned and was a true earthly paradise for observing insects. Covering approximately 9,000 sq. m., the garden is laid out as it was in the 19th century: one part with flowering plants, another with large trees – some planted by Fabre himself –, a kitchen garden, pond, fountain and wash-house.
The ornamental garden
The ornamental garden contains some 500 plant species, including typically Mediterranean plants and shrubs planted by Fabre and his successors. As you follow the twists and turns of the pathways, you experience a trip around the world in miniature: Narbonne flax, honeysuckle from Russia, Japanese meadowsweet, Spanish broom, etc., but also an old variety of tulip that had been thought extinct. Included in Fabre’s herbarium, its bulb was discovered in the depths of the garden.
In the centre is a pond, complete with two fountains, restored to its former glory by the naturalist to attract aquatic wildlife such as dragonflies and midwife toads. The pond, fountains and wash-houses, restored in 2006, are supplied by their own well. The water is recycled for use in watering the garden.
All around you, marvel 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. Only the song of the cicadas disturbs the peace of this quiet haven.
Farther on, a clump of bamboo adds a touch of the exotic.
In 2018, the garden was awarded the “Jardin remarquable” (Remarkable Garden) label by the French Ministry for Culture.
The Harmas – its name in Provençal refers to a plot of uncultivated land – has returned to its original vocation. Amid the weeds, cistus, lavender, thistle and knapweed, you’ll imagine the naturalist as he placed his traps and, magnifying-glass in hand, pursued his favourite occupation: close encounters with insects.
Also take a turn around the arboretum and admire the evergreen and kermes oak trees, Aleppo pines and pistachio, fig, smoke 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.