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The house and gardens, examples of Louisiana colonial architecture and landscaping, are physical reminders of the area’s early settlers’ distinctly French cultural background modified by local climate, materials and terrain. The house itself was located originally on land which is near the present town of New Roads. In 1975 it was purchased by Dr. and Mrs. Jack Holden from Olivier Major and moved eleven miles to its present site on the Chenal (a channel). Both sites are on the banks of an old bed of the Mississippi River known as False River near the Pointe Coupee (cut point) in the Mississippi. The house sets back from the old levee among live oaks, red cedars, and mulberry trees, favorites of Louisiana colonists, in a pasture fenced with horizontal planks of split cypress (pieux). It is more closely surrounded by a vertical pieux fence which establishes the perimeters of the parterre garden, a geometrically patterned, French- style garden whose beds are divided by walkways. The design, created to be viewed from above, is the dominant feature of the parterre garden in which the plantings are arranged to enhance the pattern. This style garden was favored by both rural and urban Louisiana setters in the 18th century and continued in favor long into the 19th century.
Maison Chenal’s gardens, their design and plant materials are based on information culled from books, drawings and letters written or drawn in the 18th and 19th centuries and now available as basic reference sources in libraries and museums. For example, information on the wax myrtle, mulberry and cypress trees with their related products is discussed in Le Page du Pratz’s 1758 account The History of Louisiana. Elongated, rectangular garden beds appear clearly on Dumont de Montigny’s 1730’s sketch of his house and grounds in New Orleans. Similar garden bed forms can be found in J. L. Boqueta de Woiseri’s 1803 painting and subsequent
print, “A View of New Orleans from the Plantation of Marigny”. Denis Diderot’s mid-18th Century French Encyclopedia gives information on specialty gardens showing the use of glass bell-shaped jars (cloches) similar to ones found in Louisiana. De Montigny’s 1730’s sketch, mentioned previously, also shows a vertical pieux fence and arbor of vines. Le Page du Pratz mentions an “inhabitant of New Orleans having planted in his garden a few twigs of this muscadine vine, with a view of making an arbour of them”. “In New Orleans 1801: An Account by John Pintard” from the Louisiana Historical Quarterly, Mr Pintard describes a garden in Louisiana as, “disposed in the old, still Formal style-the borders and circles kept up with strips of board”. Later in the 19th century in Joseph Holt Ingraham’s The South West by a Yankee, 1835, the author tells us that Louisiana houses “were graced by parterres”. The houses, he continues, were “surrounded by the rich foliage of gardens, whose fences were bursting with the luxuriance which they could scarcely confine”. He mentions golden jasmine as it festoons the columns of a house, Arabian jasmine with its perfume, and the fragrance of the rose geranium. He notes the presence of graveled walks and graveled avenues. Drawings from the New Orleans Notarial Archives of the 19th century also provide extensive information on garden plans and individual plant names. The late 19th century novel, Zulma, a story set in pre-civil war era in the Pointe Coupee area, written by Mary Francis Seibert, a native of this local, describes gardens, flowers and trees found in this vicinity.
The gardens of Maison Chenal change in color, aroma, density and texture as the seasons change. Gardens of this nature were an integral part of Louisiana life in the 18th and 19th centuries and continue to exist and enhance life in Louisiana today.

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