Meeting with Olivier Tranchard, creator of the Jardin du Naturaliste, in Oise
For more than 20 years, Olivier Tranchard has been fulfilling his passion for nature and cultivating the spontaneous flora of his region, using gentle methods that respect the environment. This specialist in the "bad seed" develops his plants far from the standards of nurseries to create an experimental garden, mixing rarities with the most familiar species. A unique park, to the chagrin of its owner ...
Tell us about your background…
I have always been interested in nature. When I was younger, with my parents, we had a large dove garden that I liked to work on, shape ... But already, I was wondering about the destructive aspect that man could have on wild life, of the order of artifice, intensive maintenance, even operation. What I denounce is the ignorance that some have of nature, sometimes even professionals! I am against selection, and in particular overly exotic landscaping, as opposed to a regional ecosystem. Today, I am 51 years old and I am trying to change mentalities. I think that we should not confuse garden and nature but that these two entities are reconcilable. That's why my business is called the naturalist's garden. Inspired by botanist Paul Jovet, I try, in a way, to find the balance between the interventionism of the gardener and the liberality of the naturalist who lets things go and observes. I became a gardener a bit because I didn't like the garden - that's what I used to say provocatively.
How did your garden come about?
When I started, I was taken for a joke, a nice dreamy eco-friend. After a diploma as a technician in green spaces, I performed a civil service in the intervention fund for raptors, worked at WWF, then for landscape study firms. It was then that I was able to develop new techniques with some of my colleagues. I found a house, a bit in ruins, but with a large plot, overgrown with nettles, dogs and bindweed - to name the worst! And since then, I maintain it, arrange it in my own way ... Now, those who once decried me come to get my plants and my advice. For a few years now, we have been coming back to this spirit of wild culture, it's fashionable. But unfortunately, I see too often that the aesthetics evolves but not the methods. We are still too much inclined to want to control everything, to want everything, right away, and sometimes anything. Bad habits persist and it's a shame!
But then, what are yours? Where do your methods come from?
The main feature of my work is the use of local flora, a sorting in the spontaneous, associated with complements of species which must naturalize, that is to say reintroduce certain native plants, not necessarily rarities but simple, non-standardized species, which we see less and less. All of this, combined with the most extensive interview possible. For me, a garden is never finished! And indeed, limiting disturbances is one of the ways to respect the soil and avoid an explosion of common plants, those that we see everywhere, which resist everything ... We must therefore weed the good plants, have excellent knowledge of the varieties that we want to limit. Because beyond my patent, I have read a lot. I was particularly interested in the management of natural reserves - that is to say, to be inspired by old methods - and finally in other countries, sometimes more ahead than us. I learned phytosociology, a botanical discipline which consists in studying plant communities, their different associations and their dynamics. And afterwards, I experience it myself. I made my garden and I made others. And since I couldn't find the plants I needed, I produced them myself, in seeds or in plants.
You have also developed a boutique and advice space, is it a desire to transmit, to raise awareness?
Above all, I dream of competition! I would like, as in Germany or the Netherlands for example, the supply of plants, seeds, to be much more diversified. The transmission of my values is one thing, changing habits in depth is another. To do this, it would be necessary to start with the training of gardeners, then invest in equipment that is more respectful of nature or even develop eco-pasture. My general advice is not to overly modify the existing one. Know how to highlight what he already has and know how to make the most of it. For me, gardening is accelerating, concentrating and diversifying, but obviously avoiding upsetting everything. The idea of my garden is to recreate an ecosystem faithful to the original, demonstrate the beauty of the plants of our regions and thus relearn nature to people. The Naturalist's Garden 36 bis rue Dufour Lebrun, 60590 Talmontiers 03 44 84 92 96 www.olivier-tranchard.fr