Mr President, dear Jean-Pierre Bady, Representatives of local communities, Mr Director General of Heritage, Mr Philippe Belaval, Mr Director of the National Heritage Institute, Dear Eric Gross, Ladies and Gentlemen,

«The garden and its images»: your annual study day offers us to reflect on the representations of the gardens: figurative, graphic, photographic, cinematographic, literary, musical, poetic or imaginary. From the “extraordinary garden” of Trenet to the “English Garden” of Peter Greenaway, from the gardens of Este’s villa to Poliphile’s Dream, the real invention of the garden, in 1467, during the Renaissance, the garden fed images and was built in a mirror of the times and whirlpools of the century. Mirror of human passions, labyrinths of love, setting of a world of dreams and daydreams, it is a representation of the century as well as a source of inspiration and representation for those whose “eyes listen” (Paul Claudel).

After nine years of existence, the National Council of Parks and Gardens plays, I know, an active advisory role in the policy of the Ministry of Culture and Communication in favour of parks and gardens. As a sign of this connection, the 2005 Heritage Talks focused on the theme “From the Garden to the Landscape” and I know that many of the members of this Council actively participated. This National Council is also a reflection of the diversity of actors involved in parks and gardens: ministries, local authorities, associations for the preservation and enhancement of the landscape. I want to say hello to their representatives in the room. I am convinced of the importance of the Council to preserve but also to build and imagine the garden and landscape of the 21st century.
Dedicated to the walk and the discovery of the private hotels of the quadrilateral, the garden of the national archives whose development was entrusted to the landscaper Louis Benech, is a new green space within the Marais is destined to become an original meeting place between history and landscape. It is part of a policy of valorization of this heritage setting, at the heart of a safeguarded sector, whose future establishment of the Maison de l'histoire de France is one of the aspects.

As a result of urbanization and changes in the way of life in European metropolises, society’s view of the garden and landscape has changed profoundly in recent years. The environmental challenge, the new modes of consumption but also the success met by cultural initiatives such as the Festival international des jardins de Chaumont sur Loire explain the scope or the «Day of plants» of the Domaine de Courson testify to this, without forgetting the success of the botanical garden of Vauville, in the English Channel, whose owner I recently distinguished (Cleophea of Turkheim). I am convinced of the importance of gardens for tourism and for the economy of the territories. The label «Jardin remarquable» is exemplary in this respect. Today, more than 340 gardens, particularly well maintained and open to visitors, benefit from this quality label.
In addition, the Rendez-vous aux jardins are followed and relayed by the media and are among the initiatives most appreciated by a very wide and very diverse audience. In 2011, the theme of the Nurturing Garden was a real success with more than 2,100 participating gardens, 4,000 events and 1.8 million visitors. And I want to salute the public institutions and private owners involved in this operation that allows a large public to discover these books of open air time. I also want to salute the commitment of the gardeners who are the first players in the “Rendez-vous aux jardins” and who, every day, make our public institutions, our great castles, our national estates and our museums vibrate and shine. In 2012, I have no doubt that the Garden and its Images edition will be as successful during the first weekend of June, thanks in particular to the support of the financial partners of this national event: the Union nationale des entrepreneurs du paysage (UNEP) and Moët Hennessy.

I had announced in 2010 that a dialogue should be initiated with my European counterparts in order to propose a European Rendezvous of Parks and Gardens, like the European Heritage Days. I know that the Council has been looking at this European dimension of the man-made hortus, patinated by time and centuries, also nourished by external influences and borrowing. This would help shape an imaginary mapping of the European landscape.

France, by the quality and diversity of its landscapes, often appears to these visitors as a garden in itself and its gardens form a rare marquetry that contributes to the overall quality of our landscapes, to which, as you know, I pay particular attention. The Loire Valley is often referred to as the «garden of France», I deeply believe in the idea that our country is an open-air garden and that as such the quality of its landscapes, The European Community’s Structural Funds, our botanical and forestry environment, is a central element of our heritage policy.
A heritage place, the garden is also a privileged place of expression for the creation and know-how of landscapers. Dedicated to the walk and the discovery of the private mansions of the quadrilateral, the garden of the National Archives whose development was entrusted to the landscaper Louis Benech, was opened in June 2011. It is a new green space within the Marais is destined to become an original meeting place between history and landscape. It is part of a policy of valorization of this heritage setting, at the heart of a safeguarded sector, whose future establishment of the Maison de l'histoire de France is one of the aspects. In the same way, the landscape work at Fort Saint-Jean, in Marseille, as part of the major project of the Museum of European Civilizations and the Mediterranean (MUCEM) is part of the same ambition of a rethought and reinvented encounter between architecture, landscape and heritage.
 Some contemporary artists have invested this place with happiness, following the reflection of the arte povera. I am thinking of the sculptor Giuseppe Penone, author of an original and vibrant synthesis between nature and the fragments of the human body, which gives all its strength and visual poetry to his work. I am also thinking of the remarkable work done around Lake Vassivière in Limousin.

The quality of the Ecole Nationale du Paysage in Versailles, our higher education institutions in the field of architecture, must lead us to reflect on the place of landscape and gardens in education, especially horticultural. The archives of gardeners and landscapers are also a considerable subject, as they feed the know-how and skills in this field. I would also like to highlight the work undertaken in 2011 by the Archives of France to draw up an inventory of funds likely to concern parks and gardens and to identify in particular those that are threatened.  The promotion of landscape pedagogy – inseparable from heritage pedagogy – is inseparable from the preservation of a living memory, of a historical perspective.

The year 2013 will also be marked by the commemoration of the fourth centenary of André Le Nôtre (1613-1700), to which it will be given a special relief through the action of your Council, but also through the mobilization of the Directorate General of Heritage, of our Regional Directorates of Cultural Affairs around this figure of the French garden which, like Vauban, for the military heritage, allows to draw a map of the landscape and a France of the flowerbeds and of the green spaces that goes from Versailles to Ancy the Franc, from Chantilly to Balleroy without forgetting the perspectives and avenues drawn by the one who was a «nature architect».

As you can see, there is no shortage of shipyards and I wanted by my presence to show you the attention and personal interest I have in them.  To me, parks and gardens are more than a place to walk, more than a place to enjoy. They are part of a common heritage and memory that must be transmitted and valued. More than a conservatory of know-how inherited from the past, they are also laboratories open to creation, experimentation, research.
More generally, action to preserve and enhance parks and gardens is part of a broader policy in favour of large landscapes and our most remarkable sites. There is an emergency here, when landscapes and heritage sites are in danger; there is a need for a ministry that is perceived by our fellow citizens as the guarantor of landscapes and that does not always have the legal and normative means to do so. I spoke to the architects of buildings in France a few days ago.
I have full confidence in your competence, expertise and commitment to contribute to this ambition for our heritage. Thank you.