Created in 1991, the Garden of Eden is celebrating its 30 years. Located at the Hermitage, this ecological Mecca offers tourists and Reunion Islanders an immersion in unspoiled nature, representative of our island and its evolution. Born from the will of a passionate, Philippe Kaufmant, the garden developed in a wetland where only bamboo and coconut trees were present, was built up little by little, demonstrating that nature can work miracles when it is respected.
Bubbling imagination, young Philippe is curious about everything, lover of ideal and adventure, poet in his spare time, and with all the ardor of his youth, he wants to give himself the means to make his dreams come true. He studied agricultural engineering in Rennes and then specialized in tropical agronomy. A 24 years, he is ready to discover the world !
It is towards Africa that he feels drawn and his professional life begins truly- lying in Chad, within the framework of the Cooperation where he accomplishes his military service as VAT. Combining work in the cotton plantations and often adventurous discoveries in the region, the happiness of living in the tropics will never leave him.
He will ensure during 10 in charge of the Madagascar-Réunion-Mauritius zone for the Swiss firm Ciba-Geigy, leveraging agronomic skills to improve crop yields.
In the meeting, he discovers a summary of the flora admired here and there during his tropical journeys. He is also seduced by the ethnic diversity that populates this small island in harmony..
This is where he decides to put his luggage definitively. In 1977, installed at the Grand Tampon, he selects the varieties of strawberries best suited to the region and cultivates them on a large scale. Then, always for the sake of creativity and diversification, it produces asparagus, melons, oyster mushrooms, all cultures that have made its reputation in Réunion.
However, he still has a dream to realize, the one that has been close to his heart for years, the most imaginative, the most poetic. He will make it happen in the Garden of Eden, enchanting place that he will bequeath to his two children and to all nature lovers.
He created his own nursery at the end of the years 1980 from species collected from friends and 1990 he strives to shape the space. The Garden of Eden will be inaugurated in 1991 and enlarges (aquatic garden and surroundings) in 1992 to reach its current size.
The Garden of Eden was born from a sandy and rocky plain, where only a few coconut palms and bamboos stood. It took a good dose of anticipation to imagine the future landscape scenes that welcome you today !
Philippe KAUFMANT, for his part, wanted to make the Garden of Eden a garden both intimate and bushy : the visitor can discover the scenes one after the other (the freshness of bamboo, the infinite bridge over the rushes, the eternity of a lotus flower…), and can easily isolate (the benches are hidden from view, under the ylang-ylang or the Mysore creeper, in the path hidden behind the pond). These are the principles of English gardens (as opposed to French gardens, whose perspective and geometries can be seen at a glance)
Through the Garden of Eden, Philippe Kaufmant also wants to give an overview of the botanical richness of the island by making a selection of plants and trees for their rarity, for their beauty but also so that the botanical heritage bequeathed by the different population flows of this small country is not forgotten. For him it will be an ethnobotanical landscaped garden, which talks about the relationship of man to plants : you will find sacred plants there, evil, aphrodisiacs and anaphrodisiacs, medicinal plants, plants to eat, to smell, to weave or to dye, paper plants, in baskets, with frames, canoes, and hedges…
In 1689, the Marquis de Quesne published in Amsterdam a collection of "some memoirs serving as instruction for the establishment in the Isle of Eden" where he praised the Ile Bourbon by calling it "the Garden of Eden". Of the, the name of this Garden.
After a last farewell to Africa where he climbs Kilimanjaro in the company of botanist friends, Philippe will leave this world on 19 February 1992, carrying for eternity the spectacle of his last dream come true. The song of birds and the scent of flowers will continue to speak of him for a long time to come..
Photos Pierre Marchal