The Lost Garden of Jersey

Posted on July 19th, 2012 by stephenha

The garden of Chateau la Chaire is destined to remain lost since the failure to kick start the renaissance of this once sublime sub-tropical plants mans paradise at Rozel Bay, on the Sunshine Island of Jersey. The garden is now on the site of Chateau La Chaire hotel and restaurant.
The site of the garden was carefully and laboriously chosen by a former Kew director Samuel Curtis in 1841, who realised this frost free site, had the perfect soil for tropical plants.

The garden received non hardy plants from the 19th Century plant hunters via Kew, and had the most important collection of sub-tropical plants in Europe.
The gardens heyday was in the 19th century but by the early 20th Century was in decline. The end came when the garden was closed after the German invasion of Jersey in 1941. Only one caretaker gardener remained in post by the time the Germans landed.

The Germans had the remaining collection which included many rare trees and shrubs lifted and shipped back to the Fatherland, destined for botanical gardens in Berlin and other cities. There are two stories here, one is that they were not lifted well, and never thrived in their new homes. The other which I believe is most likely the case, judging by the gardeners diary, he wrote; ‘’the last of the plants were lifted and crated to be sent to Germany. I gave them their final water………..with weed killer!

Even though the Jersey tourist board supported the restoration of this once great garden, the project failed. The initial survey cost £60.000 pounds and the restoration would have cost at least 3 million. The plans to open the garden as Heligan did during the actual restoration, and the full completion of the garden have never happened and I doubt the garden will ever open in its past form again. The decline in the Jersey Tourist industry and the almost impossible problems that would have arisen in accessing this site along with raising the funds were insurmountable.
If you are visiting Jersey anytime, enjoy a cream tea at Chateau la Chaire and then walk round the skeleton of the garden, you can see the old terraces and a few plants that escaped the Germans, and the years of neglect. There are also a few gun emplacements built to repel Napoleons army on the site.
Enjoy Jerseys lost garden for what it is and for what it once was.

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