A new garden celebrating the life of French author Victor Hugo, who wrote Les Miserables, has been unveiled in Guernsey. Inspired by characters in his novels and poetry, it also features flowers and plants that he would have grown at his house on the island and in his homeland.
From 1855 the writer spent 15 years living at Hauteville House, while in exile from France. Declaring Guernsey “the rock of hospitality and freedom” in his novel Toilers of the Sea, many consider his time in the Channel Islands to be his most productive writing period and it is where he also wrote the book that was adapted into the world-famous musical.
The Victor Hugo Garden, situated in Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, has been designed by renowned nurseryman and Guernsey resident Raymond Evison, in collaboration with VisitGuernsey and The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society. A group of volunteers also helped to create the new horticultural attraction.
In addition to featuring one of Guernsey’s landmarks, the Victor Hugo statue, the garden will form part of a trail which will allow visitors to follow in his footsteps around the island. Quotes from his works and private correspondence are also featured in the garden as a reminder of the time he spent there.
The concept of the garden is based on plants that Hugo would have known and grown in his gardens during his life in Guernsey and France. Many of the plants have been sourced from France and relate to characters in his works, his family and friends, including the fuchsia Belle Jeanne in reference to his granddaughter and alstroemeria Charles, for his son. The Victor Hugo rose is also prominent throughout the garden and grows in eight specially commissioned planters made by the Guernsey Prison Service.
The main borders contain roses, lilies, hollyhocks, white daisies, wallflowers and represent a cottage garden, and the wild garden represents Hugo’s love of untamed nature.
Hugo was an early advocate for recycling, reuse and conservation, a philosophy shared by Raymond Evison, who has lived in Guernsey for many years and runs a nursery sending clematis and other plants around the world.
The centre of the Victor Hugo Garden, which is an ongoing project, is an evocation of the garden of Deruchette, featured in Toilers of the Sea.
Dinah Bott, Chair of The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society, said: “Our members will be maintaining the Victor Hugo Garden from now on for the benefit of locals and visitors alike, with the help of some of Guernsey’s many dedicated plantspeople. Other parts of Candie Gardens have recently been renovated and replanted.
“We are delighted that the Victor Hugo Garden will bring yet more interest and colour to a prominent part of a much-loved island park, just as Victor Hugo himself brought so much to Guernsey over 150 years ago.”
The VHiG Society has also created a website: www.victorhugoinguernsey.gg with further information about the plants in the garden and their links to the author.
For more information on Guernsey, please visit: www.visitguernsey.com
Known as the ‘River Cruise Queen’, Jeannine Williamson is an award-winning travel writer, cruise expert and our cruise correspondent, who has clocked up thousands of nautical miles.
Photographs courtesy of VisitGuernsey