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The main gate and ornamental garden of Maison Célières

Maison Célières : The main gate and ornamental garden of Maison Célières

Paul Joseph Célières, the first owner of the mansion, and his wife Marie Ohlen used to welcome their visitors at the gate, the boundary between the public street and their private domain. The Célières family called the wrought iron gate “le Baro”. This Creole word for a gate comes from Reunion Island, where Mr. Célières was born. The house contains a number of items reminiscent of the island.

The garden behind the enclosing wall served as a privacy buffer between street and house and was planted with ornamental plants.

When the Célières lived here, this garden was designed to impress visitors with its lavishness. Convict labourers were employed to plant the majestic trees which adorn it. Unlike the kitchen garden at the rear of the house, used to grow herbs and vegetables, this ornamental garden was created for purely aesthetic purposes.

While no comprehensive inventory of the species planted in this garden exists, some of these species can fortunately be identified from photographs taken before the owner’s death in 1940. Magnificent royal palm trees once framed the entrance. The only palm still surviving is the latan palm, native to islands in the Indian Ocean, planted in the late 19th century. Beds of roses and lilies bordered each side of the walks leading up to the house; the edges of the beds were marked by upturned champagne bottles or burgos, a type of pearly seashell. The New Caledonia Directory of 1906 informs us that the Widow Célières, residing in Faubourg Blanchot, sells bouquets of flowers, gathered perhaps from this very garden.

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Texts and illustrations: Association Témoignage d’un Passé © 2016