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Favorite comments selected from various writers over the years:

…la taille [des oliviers], si importante puisque l’arbre ne porte ses fruits que sur le bois neuf, prédispose à la rêverie et satisfait à peu de frais le besoin de créer…

Ajoutez qu’un arbre bien taillé donne un beau galon sur la manche, qu’il est au bord du chemin ou dans les collines ou tout le monde se promène ; qu’on le voit, et, s’il est très bien taillé, qu’on va le voir comme un spectacle.

Dans certains endroits… les vergers d’oliviers sont assis sur de petites terrasses soutenues par des murs de pierres sèches, blanc comme de l’os. Ce sont de petits oliviers gris, guère plus hauts qu’on homme, deux mètres cinquante au plus, plantés depuis mille ans à quatre ou cinq mètres l’un de l’autre. La terre qui les porte est très colorée, parfois d’un pourpre presque pur, communément d’une ocre légère, quelquefois sous l’ardent soleil blanche comme de la neige. Sur ces terrasses, la vie est non seulement aisée mais belle. … qu’on vienne à ces terrasses pour bêcher autour des arbres ou pour flâner, c’est un délice. Dans l’arrière saison, le soleil s’y attarde ; le feuillage de l’olivier ne fait pas d’ombre, à peine comme une mousseline ; on a tout le bon de la journée.

Dans certains villages, les hommes le dimanche matin vont à l’olivette comme les femmes vont à la messe.

Jean Giono, Arcadie, Arcadie. Textes des années 1950. Gallimard, Folio 1973

What can be learned from a large, somewhat tatterdemalion Renaissance villa garden somewhere outside Rome? Look about and take in the picture: massive old trees, bulky overblown hedges, rough grass, tall columnar cypresses, crumbling stone balustrades, stairs, basins, statuary, urns, large empty terracotta pots, dripping fountains, pools, a mossy grotto, runnels, rivulets and brilliant sunshine.

What impressions do these create? Overall the cool, dark shadows, varied greens and the bulky mass of the growth contrast vividly with the harsh light, and the garden as a place of refuge from the heat and from the workaday world emerges as the moving force at work on the senses here. The garden has a powerful, still strength that has the capacity to invigorate fatigued bodies and minds.

Trevor Nottle, Australian writer, Gardens of the Sun, 1996

The wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and there the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom---lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves where just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour, piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers—the periwinkles looked exactly as if they were being poured down each side of the steps—and flowers that grow only in borders in England, proud flowers keeping themselves to themselves over there, such as the great blue irsis and the lavender, were being jostled by small, shining common things like dandelions and daisies and the white bells of the wild onion, and only seemed the better and more exuberant for it.
They stood looking at this crowd of loveliness, this happy jumble, in silence.

Elisabeth von Arnim, An Enchanted April

A secret system of caves and conduits; hear the springs
That spurt out everywhere with a chuckle,
Each filling a private pool for its fish and carving
Its own little ravine whose cliffs entertain
The butterfly and the lizard; examine this region
Of short distances and definite places
From weathered outcrop
To hill-top temple, from appearing waters to
Conspicuous fountains, from a wild to a formal vineyard,
Are ingenious but short steps

W. H. Auden. In Praise of Limestone, 1948

Monsieur Pierre [a beekeeper] regarded me with a look of amused contentment. he is proud of his banskia roses; he adores flowers and birds, and has gained the reputation of a miser because, although he has many sous in his stocking, he does not spend them on gaieties of the town, but finds happiness pottering among his flowers, his fruit-trees, his few vegetables, his bees, and his birds. he showed me a little rustic seat whereon he sits when eating his simple déjeuner, and told me proudly that a nightingale sang to him while he ate (they sing day and night ain Provence), and had actually made her nest only three feet away."

I love Monsieur Pierre's philosophy of life. He stands before me clad in a grubby cotton shirt open at the throat, baggy cotton trousers secured over a vast and comfortable tumpkn by a worn leather belt, and a tiny black "boater" straw hat perched ridiculously above his kind moon face. He sweeps a brawny arm out towards the majesty of mountains rising above a sea of grey-green olive foliage, and asks me why people spend their lives striving to make money when le bon Dieu gives them all this beauty for nothing?

Hilaire [the gardener] despises him because all his terraces offer "only a carpet of wild flowers" …"Oh, the wild flowers of Provence; My first spring here as like a dream come true. In the autumn we had laboriously planted thousands of bulbs iported, expensively, from Hollad. These e planted under the scornful eye of Hilaire, who refused to be interested in them--we wondered why. When spring burst upon us one perfect morning -(nothing comes gradually in Provence), I found the grassy terraces under the olive-trees one sheet of tiny blue Roman hyacinths, miniature scarlet tulips, mauve and scarlet anemones, and yellow jonquils. When I exclaimed in delight to Hilaire that our predecessor here had planted lavishly and beautifully, he at first looked blank, and then, when I pointed rapturously to the jewelled grass on the terraces below, he gave i one contemtuous glance and said, "Ah ca!--sont sauvages, Madame."

Winnifred Fortescue, Perfumes from Provence, 1950

In the commonplace world, pansies were love tokens and fancies. From at least the Middle Ages, they enchanted people, stirred up romantic imaginings. In this they are one more piece of evidence against the conventional wisdom that country people were too busy or too stupid to have anything other than a doggedly practical interest in wild plants...

Richard Mabey, Weeds, 2010.

Mountains come first… The Mediterranean is ‘above all, a sea ringed round by mountains.This outstanding fact and its many consequences have received too little attention in the past from historian…In the lowlands, the invader had come face to face with an exceptionally stable and well-ordered civilization, unused to movement, or at any rate to the massive migration and wild flights of the mountain region, a closely knit rural civilization, patiently constructed by hacking out terraced gardens, orchards, vineyards, and fields where the hillside was not too steep. A series of urbanized villages and small towns with narrow streets and tall, closely packed houses was installed in the hollows… Like anywhere else in the Mediterranean, only a modest living could be made. It was maintained by battling with nature…and struggle against the sea. All this required coordinated activity, of people who were free to behave as they pleased.

Fernand Braudel. The Mediterranean and the Med World in the Age of Philip II.

It helps to remember that, in times past, the various elements that shaped such a garden nearly always emerged from necessity, often from the constraints that life around the Mediterranean Basin imposed on people… No wonder that food is ever present in Med life. Such limitations and restrictions challenged the imagination of the Mediterranean peoples, who responded with great inenguity and style.

Heidi Gildemeister Gardening the Mediterranean Way: Practical Solutions for Summer-dry Climates Thames and Hudson 2006

Two contrasting theories or paradigms exist concerning the relationships between humans and ecosystems in the Mediterranean Basin (Blondel 2006). The ‘Ruined Landscape’ or ‘Lost Eden’ theory, first advocated by historians in the 16th and 17th centuries and later by a large number of ecologists, foresters, and land-managers, assumes than human-caused deforestation and over-grazing resulted in the cumulative degradation and desertification of many or most Mediterranean landscapes, including a multitude of formerly magnificent forests. For example, Marsh (1874), Naveh and Dan (1973), Thirgood (1981), Quézel (1985), Attenborough (1987), and McNeil (1992) all assert that unsustainable use and resource depletion best describe the interactions between humans and Mediterranean ecosystems over the millennia and, especially, in recent centuries. A second school of thought challenges this view of wholesale detrimental effects of humans. For example, Grove and Rackham (2001) argue that it is not so simple; an imaginary past, they say, has been idealized by nostalgic artists and scientists, who do not fully appreciate or acknowledge human contributions to the maintenance, diversity, and even embellishment of Mediterranean landscapes since the last glacial period. Grove and Rackham stress that savanna-like or woodland landscapes, as well as largely treeless steppes, occur naturally and are fairly characteristic of the Mediterranean Basin. They also note that a mosaic of woodlands, shrublands, and grasslands can frequently be found at the landscape scale, resulting from non-human, as well as human determinants. They emphasize that many Mediterranean shrubs and trees grow right back when cut (see Chapter 8), and that in many parts of the region, especially in southern Europe, woodlands and forests are now growing back spontaneously, thanks to inherent resilience, in a context agricultural abandonment and rural exodus…

Blondel, J., Aronson, J., Boeuf, G. & Bouliou, J.-.L. Mediterranean Biodiversity in Space and Time. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2010

My dream…to restore the old Soubeyran orchard as it used to be in my father’s time…A thousand trees, and between the lines there will be rows of muscat grapes on wire; you’ll walk between the walls of bunches, you’ll see the sun through the grapes—and that, Galinette, will be a monument! It will be as beautiful as a church, and a true peasant won’t enter it without making the sign of the cross!

Marcel Pagnol, Jean de Florette, 1963

What fine old walls gilded with lichens shore up these terraces with their patterns and lines of artichokes, their stylish blankets of broad beans beds or the blond mattress stuffing of chick peas and lentils ; but from the balcony where we look down on them, these colours lose their interest as food to take on the dignity of pure pictorial values, and it is thanks to the gardener’s spade that we enter the joyful world of art.

Jean Giono, 1961

The old Italian garden: free circulation of sunlight and air about the house, abundance of water; easy access to dense shade; sheltered walks with different points of view; variety of effect produced by the skilful use of different levels; and , finally, breadth and simplicity of composition…

Each quarter of the garden was placed where convenience required, and was made accessible from all the others by the most direct and rational means; and from this intelligent method of planning the most varying effects of unexpectedness and beauty were obtained.

It is, for instance, typical of the old Tuscan villa that the farm, or podere, should come up to the edge of the terrace on which the house stands; but in most cases where old villas have been bought by foreigners, the vineyards and olive orchards near the house have been turned into lawns dotted with plantations of exotic trees.

Though it is an exaggeration to say that there are no flowers in Italian gardens, yet to enjoy and appreciate the Italian garden-craft one must always bear in mind that it is independent of floriculture. The Italian garden does not exist for its flowers; its flowers exist for it: they are a late and infrequent adjunct to its beauties, a parenthetical grace counting only as one more touch in the general effect of enchantment. This is no doubt partly explained by the difficulty of cultivating any but spring flowers in so hot and dry a climate, and the result has been a wonderful development of the more permanent effects to be obtained from the other three factors in garden-composition—marble, water and perennial verdure—and the achievement, by their skilful blending, of a charm independent of the seasons.

It is hard to explain to the modern garden-lover, whose conception of the charm of garden s is formed of successive pictures of flower-loveliness, how this effect of enchantment can be produced by anything so dull and monotonous as a mere combination of clipped green and stone-work.

Edith Wharton, Italian Villa Gardens, 1903

Although there is no doubt that large-scale destruction has taken place and that much of the shrublands in the Mediterranean are modified or derived––not to say degraded––forms of former forests and woodlands, it is indisputable that the exceptional diversity and dynamic structure of Mediterranean ecosystems and communities result in part from human influence (see Chapter 10). Intertwined processes of human and non-human factors have affected Mediterranean ecosystems and their biodiversity yielding systems not only endowed with stunning biodiversity, but also with exceptional resilience and resistance to disturbance.

Blondel, J., Aronson, J., Boeuf, G. & Bouliou, J.-.L. Mediterranean Biodiversity in Space and Time. Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford UK. 2010