Chariots de fleurs
The main challenge each year is to have the entire gardening scheme picture-perfect for the start of the tournament. Extra staff are brought in to help the permanent team of four gardeners, operating from a subterranean lock-up with lawn mowers, mini tractors and a gazillion different sprinkler attachments.
Thousands of pots containing a variety of trees are installed to embellish the permanent landscape. Turf is laid, flower beds tended, detailed weeding and watering schemes adhered to. Annuals are planted, perennials nurtured; a huge variety of plant life is cultivated to flower and look its best for the duration of the tournament.
From his desk underneath Court Suzanne-Lenglen, Villalonga can monitor the automatic sprinkler system and water a particular flowerbed or terrasse parterre at the touch of a button.
Wheelbarrows at large
Weaving between wheelbarrow traffic – the court maintenance team are also out and about at this early hour, sprinkling extra terre battue over the court surfaces – we head towards Le Club de Loge, a VIP hospitality area which is approached via a chic walkway planted with white-blossoming plants such as Annabelle hydrangea and Siam tulips. “There is an emphasis on white because it is a synonym for elegance,” says Villalonga, as he surveys his domain with an expert eye.
The VIP and players’ facilities are notable for their “semi-interieur” designs that combine indoor/outdoor flow with a semi-sunken garden planted with palms, ferns, bamboo, hostas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas, trailing ivy and Siam tulips.