By Kit Knotts & Chris Farmer
Reprinted from Pond & Garden 2:1
Click images to enlarge
It was apparent early on that one of the most difficult aspects of the PCL would be sorting out the names of early hybrids where the originators were no longer alive to ask questions. I was entirely dependent on the literature, much of which was not available to me directly. I had to rely on those who had that direct access and, in much of this, Chris Farmer of Latour-Marliac became my savior, researching old catalogues, clarifying French form and punctuation, and brainstorming.
> Tell me what the place is like! It must be gorgeous and just oozing with history.
To describe the place once you've been here every day for 5 years I find almost impossible. It changes every month, almost every week with the flowering seasons. Try to imagine a solid hectare (two and a half acres) of concrete pools obviously dating back to the first quarter of the last century. There are 80 of them and there is not more than four feet of dry land between them. They are almost all planted with lilies or lotus -- the colours of the landscape change continually.
To one side there is a more traditional garden which descends to a large artificial lake and then climbs up again to an English garden with lots of shrubs growing like mad. We rise once more on to a small artificial hill with a wooden gazebo which affords a view of the entire site.
Apart from the lilies the most imposing plants are the lotus of course, dotted around in barrels and containers and a whole string of pools given over to them. Water canna, which grow up to 7-8 feet in height, flower throughout the season and the traditional weeping willows are becoming almost uncontrolable. There are extensive and ancient plantations of medium size bamboo, Phylostachis bambusoides et al, acheiving 8-10 metres in height.
music and films. By the age of 20 I left home and was awaited at North London University to study for a degree in film studies.
I heard that Stapeley was looking for someone who spoke French to do a season at their newly aquired nursery in the South of France. I first worked here at Latour-Marliac in 1993 and have since forgotten all about universities and film studies. I learnt French at school (I wasn't that good but I didn't tell anyone that). The majority of the French I use now I learnt during the first one or two seasons here just listening and taking advantage of those people around who were patient enough to help.
I'm now fairly settled here and have picked up all I know "on the job". Of course I had one of the best mentors and motivators in Ray Davies, who threatened and cajoled me into being hard-working and caring a great deal about what I do.
I suppose in the end I always wanted to be good at something. I just didn't know what. Now I do. My mission in life is look after Latour-Marliac's name and reputation.
Chris and Karine decided to explore Europe while the time was right for them and are no longer at Latour-Marliac. Chris promised that his love for waterlilies and the lure of the lore would bring him back one way or another. We await the day when he shows up on our email screen as if he was never away.
May 2005 update: Chris hasn't yet shown up but Karine has!
Read her charming account here --