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New Victor Hugo Garden celebrates writer’s life and legacy in Guernsey

Designed by famous nurseryman and Guernsey resident Raymond Evison OBE VMH, in collaboration with VisitGuernsey and The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society, the new Victor Hugo Garden in Candie Gardens, St Peter Port, celebrates the life of French writer and author of Les Misérables, Victor Hugo.

24 April 2021

Harnessing the community spirit in Guernsey, the Victor Hugo Garden has been a positive project for many during the pandemic. A group of enthusiastic volunteers, observing social distancing measures, worked hard to produce this tangible testament to Victor Hugo’s life.

Set to open on Saturday 24th April, plants and accessories for the Garden have been funded by VisitGuernsey.

Victor Hugo spent fifteen years in Guernsey while in exile from France from 1855. Declaring Guernsey “the rock of hospitality and freedom” in Toilers of the Sea, many consider his time in the Islands to be his most productive writing period.

In addition to one of Guernsey’s most iconic and most photographed landmarks, the Victor Hugo statue, the garden will form part of a Victor Hugo trail which will allow visitors to follow in his footsteps around the island in Guernsey.

Carefully-selected quotes from Victor Hugo’s works and private correspondence can also be seen around the Garden, reminding visitors about Victor Hugo’s memorable time spent on the Island.

The concept and design of the Victor Hugo Garden

The concept of the Victor Hugo Garden is based on the plants that Hugo would have known and grown in his gardens during his life in Guernsey and in France. Many of the plants have been sourced from France and relate to characters in his works, his family and friends such as Fuchsia ‘Belle Jeanne‘, for his beloved granddaughter and Alstroemeria ‘Charles‘ for his son. The Victor Hugo rose, Rosa ‘Victor Hugo’® (Meivestal) is prominent throughout the Garden and also grows within 9 specially commissioned planters made by the Guernsey Prison Service.

The Garden complements Hugo’s own garden, at Hauteville House.

The main border areas contain roses, lilies, hollyhocks, white daisies, wallflowers and the borders represent a “Cottage Garden” with a collection of beautiful plants. There is also a neglected garden area, ‘The Wild Garden’, including large terracotta pots with ivy and honeysuckle, with elm logs which will attract all kinds of insects and beetles.

Hugo pleaded for nature to be gently treated and was an advocate for recycling, reuse and conservation, a philosophy much shared by the Garden’s designer, plantsman and conservationist Raymond Evison.

Raymond has lived in Guernsey for many years and runs his very successful nursery business from the island, sending clematis and other plants around the world.

Victor Hugo’s fictional gardens

The centre of the Victor Hugo Garden is the willow-bounded evocation of the garden of Déruchette, from his Guernsey novel, The Toilers of the Sea.

Victor Hugo was a dramatist and the walls, gates and plants of a garden provide a natural stage and scenery for dramatic episodes in his novels and poetry.

The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society

The Victor Hugo Garden is an ongoing project, and its trees, plants and flowers will grow, thrive and change over time.

Dinah Bott, Chair of The Victor Hugo in Guernsey Society: “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 with further information about the plants in the garden and their links to Victor Hugo which can be found here or alternatively accessed through QR codes on the plant labels.

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