Everything should be made with the heart, with passion, with love - is an unusual sentiment from the head of one of the largest makers of fine jewellery and watches in Switzerland, but Yves Piaget is nothing if not surprising.
Combining a passion for roses, and a Cartesian approach to business, has allowed him to find a fine balance in life.
His love affair with roses began over the eglantines in the hedgerows of his childhood in the Jura, and continued through chairing the International Rose Competition in Geneva for 30 years. The Piaget connection to the competition continues with the Rose D’Or award, the prestigious and very beautiful golden rose made by Piaget every year, and awarded to the best new rose. Yves Piaget’s connection with the rose, the “queen of flowers and the flower of queens” as he says, continues with the stunning Meilland rose “Yves Piaget”, winner of the Rose D’Or in 1982, and his recent lifelong achievement award from the World Federation of Roses.
Now partially retired, Yves Piaget has been able to pursue his dream of creating his own rose garden – and supporting three new gardens, all open to the public.
The first of these belonged to the Empress Joséphine, beloved wife of Napoléon. Her collection of roses at Château de Malmaison, near Paris, was world famous. Sadly, after her death, the rose garden fell into disrepair. However, as part of the bicentennial celebrations of the death of the Empress, the entire garden, as well as the roseraie, was completely renovated. Now reopened, it is a new vision of a traditional rose garden, with 750 ancient varieties interplanted with perennials and shrubs to create interest year round. The Piaget involvement extends beyond funding and support to their designs for the Rose Passion collection, inspired by Joséphine’s own jewellery and her love of nature.
The Princess Grace Garden is a truly modern rose garden in the heart of Monaco. Featuring more than 12,000 roses, there are traditional plant labels and QR codes for every one! As a Monagésque himself, Piaget suggested the renovation to the Royal family, and the Piaget Company’s contribution helped to promptly reopen this unique beauty.
However, the garden that truly captures my heart is the small, but perfectly-formed roseraie in Bex, at the Diable Vert garden. The owners, Dominique and Magali Mottet are long-time friends of Yves Piaget and had already created a remarkable garden of “rooms”, including a dry-garden chessboard, a softly sensual grasses garden, and a homage to Giverny, complete with bridge and water lilies. The connection with Piaget allowed the creation of a remarkable new “garden room” and together with some rose friends - notably Alain Meilland, rose breederextraordinaire, and Gerald Meylan, “Mr Rose” of Switzerland and World Federation of Roses past President – he chose and sourced all the blooms in a few short months. The garden is based on a spiral, and the proportions provide not only a beautiful balance but a “ballet of roses” for all the senses! The garden is also managed entirely biologically and I can’t think of a better way to honour the heritage of Yves Piaget than a living, breathing gem of a rose garden.
Hester Macdonald is a British-qualified, award-winning garden designer with her own practice in the Lake Geneva region. She founded the Swiss Gardening School in 2012 to provide gardening courses in English for amateurs, by professionals.