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Interview with Baptiste Pierre, head gardener of the Extraordinary Vegetable Garden

Interview with Baptiste Pierre, head gardener of the Extraordinary Vegetable Garden

It is one of those unusual places where scarcity becomes the norm. This is the case of the Potager Extraordinaire, located near Nantes, where Baptiste Pierre works every day to cultivate the unexpected. This 2 hectare botanical garden brings together extraordinary living plants from around the world labeled as thematic collections. Each year, a new scenography completely redraws the plots of flowers, fruits and vegetables to the delight of visitors! Meet Baptiste Pierre, a gardener chef who is as passionate as he is fascinating.

Tell us the story of this funny vegetable garden…

Le Potager Extraordinaire was created in 1994 by Michel Rialland, a farmer from the Nantes region who wanted to diversify. Having received several hundred varieties of cucurbit seeds from the Jardin des Plantes in the city of Nantes, Michel Rialland started the adventure by specializing in pumpkin and its derivatives. After a lot of work and a first exhibition open to the general public, the garden began to grow and to make itself known beyond the region. It was in 1998 that the Extraordinary Vegetable Garden became the working support for a job placement for gardeners' helpers, thereby integrating a new dimension into the project. Subsequently, many gardeners succeed one another to direct the crops, all as passionate as each other. The Extraordinary Vegetable Garden has gradually changed its face to become what it is today: an ornamental garden associated with an extraordinary vegetable garden.

In terms of cultures, what can we discover there?

We are working to show the public plants that are different from what they already know, whether by their shapes, color, taste, fragrance or mores. With us, blue tomatoes really exist! Le Potager Extraordinaire is a veritable laboratory in which we experiment with all forms of cultivation (upside down, on straw bales, square, etc.). Among the 1500 plants presented, we also have a large collection of gourds; the Extraordinary Garden is classified National Conservatory (CCVS) and we make sure to classify, sort and preserve these precious seeds. Thanks to numerous exchanges with other foreign botanical gardens, we manage to obtain new varieties from around the world every year!

What events are planned for this year?

As every year since its creation, we make sure to fulfill 4 main objectives: conservation, collection with all our cucurbits and our tomatoes, education with animations and guided tours and tourism with the welcome of more 20,000 visitors per year. Each year, we choose a theme that we stage in different ways. For 2015, it is humor in the garden that will be honored through several expressions illustrated by plants and drawing: we will therefore find "Must not grow tall in nettles", "Big as an asparagus" or again "Red like a tomato" presented in our own way! In addition, we organize a giant fruit and vegetable contest in the fall, more spectacular from year to year. The seeds are already available to amateurs, and we are meeting all gardeners on the first Sunday in October to find out if the records have been broken!
The Extraordinary Vegetable Garden Les Mares, 85150 La Mothe-Achard Tel. 02 51 46 67 83 //www.potagerextraordinaire.com/

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