Sainte Monique’s herbal garden—le jardin des herbes de Sainte Monique—is an experimental garden based on aromatic plants specifically chosen to soothe the senses. The garden, partly medicinal and nourishing, is organized around three distinct poles, from the most intimate to the most open, facilitating the cultivation, harvesting and transformation of the herbs and plants that make it up, and, at the same time, the necessary rest, confidence, encounter or the common and collective activity of those who maintain it.
If the herbs of Saint Joseph allow us to heal the cuts and bruises inherent to the carpenter’s trade, it is up to us to invent the virtues of those of Saint Monique. Saint Monique’s Herbal Garden is an invitation to care, to look after, to maintain and to express concern about the historical spaces of the hospital of La Grave. Anchored in the courtyards of the La Grave Hospital, the garden creates a link between the different inhabitants of the place, all the living people, whether they are passing through or permanent, around the daily practice of caring for the plants. For a long time, the garden has been recognized for its therapeutic virtues. Plants, sometimes qualified medicinal, can help treat certain ailments for those who master their virtues. However, there are other virtues in the care given to plants, contained not in the product of the culture but in the caring practice. “We must cultivate our garden” said Candide to Pangloss, and according to him, the fruit of the garden is the capacity in each one to do, to learn, to exercise their talent. The essential repetition of simple gestures in favor of the living engages the sensitivity of each person—patients, caregivers and the public—in a relationship with the tangible world. Giving meaning by activating the senses. Recognizing the roots of those who grow there, today.
Developed between February and July 2023, Saint Monique’s Herbal Garden takes time as an asset. The long term developing project constitutes an opportunity to develop and solidify a common discourse around the disputed spaces of the hospital. Constituting one of the main architectural landmarks in Toulouse, the hospital still hosts many care services destined to the most precarious communities, assuming since centuries its function as open and public refuge. Today, with the apparent lack of maintenance of the buildings and amenities, the question of relocation of the medical services arose and some have already operated their move. Nevertheless, at the same time, new voices intend to get louder and claim their roots within the walls of the neglected yet beautiful building. What if plants could speak ? Would we listen to their voices ?
The project is developed in the frame of the festival Le Nouveau Printemps and in collaboration with the students of the architecture school of Toulouse.