The Little Land of Tears by

2024 Other / France / Built in 2021 /

The little Prince, a book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, teaches us: “Only with the heart one can truly see. The essential is invisible to the eye”. It’s this attitude that is necessary to discover natures clever solutions, the ability to marvel. That deeper layer of seeing that doesn’t just accept that things happen as they happen, but opens our eyes to the fascinating, the special, the almost magical experience of nature’s solutions. Biomimicry, nature as main inspiration, can come to designs that are more effective, more elegant and more resilient to the conditions in which we live. In both urban settings and natural environments, the escalating issue of climate change, characterized by its disruptive impacts on water supply, poses a significant challenge. Addressing this challenge necessitates a comprehensive exploration of not only our understanding of nature but also our capacity to derive valuable insights from it. This garden reflects nature’s clever solution, the great possibilities of water usage by plants, and the way we can mimic them.

Welcome to ‘Le Petit Pays des Larmes’ (the Little Land of Tears). A temporary garden for the International Garden Festival of Chaumont-Sur-Loire 2021 – Biomimicry in the garden. We invite you to open your heart in this garden, not only for the flowers with their beauty and fragrance, but for the whole plant – the magic of the leaves and stem. We dived into the world of plants and their ability to coop with water scarcity- and abundance.

The garden is designed as a route, encouraging visitors to take their time. The route is guided by copper pipes that rise and gracefully bend over the visitor. Together with the curvature of the path, this creates a seclusion and intimacy that brings the visitor peace and tranquility. It allows one to open oneself, perceiving everything that’s there, consciously and unconsciously.

Upon entering, the gravel path leads the visitor to the left past a group of compact Cotinus. At the right time of day, water droplets can be seen glistening on the beautiful foliage of these shrubs. When the weather is too dry, these water droplets are created by nebulizers to the various plant groups. The droplets on the leaf are strongly convex because the leaves are hydrophobic. Hydrophobia happens when dirt particles are picked up by water droplets due to the micro-and nanoscopic architecture on the surface, which minimizes the droplets adhesion to the surface. The repellency of a water droplet on a leaf surface is a functional trait that allows the plant to shed water from leaf surfaces to enhance photosynthesis, to decrease disease and to prevent leaf damage from pollution.

In this part of the garden, another phenomena occurs: guttation. This is visible in the early morning on the Fragaria, Sanguisorba and Alchemilla. When water is secreted from the tips of the leaves of plants guttation happens. At night, when the soil is very moist and roots absorb water, root pressure causes water to squeeze out of the plant and onto the tips of the leaves.

Along the route upright perennials, such as the Dipsacus, Cynara and Cenolophium, can be found that can reach eye level and have their own specific way of water management. Some leaves form a kind of continuous cup, which holds water when it rains. In the case of the Dipsacus, this prevents insects from climbing up the stem, and drowns a good number of those who try. There is some evidence that the insects that are thus left rotting are absorbed by the plant, in a form of partial carnivory – plants that have such ‘food’ seem to have a larger seed set than those who don’t.

The path bends at the back of the garden. Planting becomes more transparent and lower. At the core of the garden a hydrophobic feature reveals itself. The path, encircles this piece, giving the visitor the opportunity to study it thoroughly. Above the water feature a web is spun of thin threads with water droplets beaded along, like dew on a spider web. Just as the threads, the water comes from the copper pipes. The web sags towards the pond and at the deepest point the drops decide to leave the web one by one, falling upon the hydropobhic ‘leaves’ of the artwork. The path continues with coble stones to move more cautiously through the next planting zone. This part is specifically designed with drought-tolerant grey leaved plants.

While the garden might seem like just a temporary festival garden, its real value lies in the details and the lessons it teaches about nature. Only with the heart one can truly see. The essential is invisible to the eye. Within its unassuming facade lies both magic and practical solutions, waiting to be discovered.

Other landscape architecture offices involved in the design of landscape:

Carolien Barkman, garden designer, Eva Willemsen and Frits van Loon, landscape architect and Ellert Haitjema, visual artist

International Garden Festival 2021, Chaumont-sur-Loire, France

Design year: 2020 – 2021

Year Completed: 2021


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