High on a moutainside in France, le JARDIN DE BERCHIGRANGES defies its extreme position with a somptuous  display of colour.  Kirsty Fergusson explores.
.Creating a fine flower-filled garden on a granite moutainside at an altitude of 700m might be considered sheer folly by even the most intrepide and capable of gardeners.That judgement is probably reinforced when you journet up the narrow moutain road that climbs from  Vologne valley in the Vosges region of north-east France, throught dense pine forest, where deep snow may linger late into April and where the first frosts bite hard in September.

But as the road turns a final hairoin bend and dlivers a breath-taking view of the area enjoyed by a tiny hamlet of scattered houses clining to the east-facing slopes of the moutain, there is no mistaking that you have arrived.  Here, in a meconopsis-blue wooden chalet, live  Thierry and Monique Dronet, and beyond its neat hornbeam hedge yuo get a glimpse of an extraordinary colour-fillet garden, covering nearly four acres of undulating granite slope.

Spring comes late  to the Vosges, whith snowdrops and crocuses often still flowering in March. Rainfall is exceptionally high and summers brief and intense. "But that" explains Thierry, is exactely what gives our garden extraordinary spring and summer brilliance. The flowering season is held back by the climate, to the point where, when the warmer weather finally arrives, it almost explodes. colour is condensed into a much shorter period than in a lowland garden.

Blues and purples (Monique's favorite colour) have a strong presence, but they are not allowed to dominate the planting. Instead  they act as a  fil conducteur  or guiding thread. Meconopsis, which thrive by upland running water, are abundant in May, giving way almost immediately to deep-blus spires of delphinium ansd nepeta.  Irises, campanulas, gentians and all kinds of hardy geraniums burst into flowers as summer arrives. Between these intense blue moments there are dazzling displays of  orange, red and amber, provided by gold and scarlet achilleas, euphorbias, geums helianthus, inulas and eremurus. One area of the garden-a serpentine ribbon of perenials called the  feu-follet  ('will-o'-the wisp') garden- attemps to echo the incandescent.

One of the most astonishing and pleasing aspects of the garden is the constant play between light and shade, wet and dry plantings, music and silence, height and depth, mineral and vegetable, movement and stillness. "Listen"  says Thierry, pausing beside a still pound in the new 'dream garden' - a series of giant dunes planted with prairie perennials and bisected by running water an pools -" can you see where the music of the water is coming from?"  It's a wonderfull, subversive trick- the sound of trickling water greets you just where you least expect to hear it, then as you progress along a stony path, between one step and the next, the shoulder of the dune intervenes to block the noise completely. Then, at the next step, a cascade of ivies tumbles down  a slope, ducks beneath a horbeam hedge and re-emerge in the guise of a gravelly dried-up stream-bed, where morinas, along with  Eryngium yuccifolium and E. agavifolium, create a convincing illusion of succulence triumphing in aridity.

The path we follow leads throught discrete and distinct gardens within a garden: a neat box-edged potager framed by roses gives way to an old quarry, magically transformed into a naturalistic rockery whith trickling streams and alive ferns and primulas, foxgloves and geraniums. Then there's a vast yew-hedged octagon (the 'Ladies chamber') filled with scents both sweet and spicy, where mint, aniseed and chocolate odours tease the senses too.

  Moving towards higher ground, a low dry-stone wall, inspired by the Giant's Causeway in Northen Ireland, brings us to perhaps the most intriguing part of the garden. The path narrows and we enter the mount, constructed of rot-resistant acacia boughs, up-ended to a circular stockade, back-filled with soil and planted from groud to head height with a gorgeous diversity of flowering perennials that may thus be approached from below -or above- by means of a wooden bridge that arches over this small moutain of flowers. "The aim is get people rigth in amoung the plants," says Monique, "Here you can look right into the heart of a the plants or study the delicate underside of petals and leaves in a way you never normally see them."

Thierry grins: "It's wonderful to look at well know things in new ways, with other senses," he says, and, with a grand gesture towards the slopes immediately below the blue chalet, he talks of his latest project - a 'rain garden'. This is designed to show off the beauty of foliage and flowers - to the ears as well as the eyes- in the summer rain that is never long coming to this magical place, halfway up a mountain in a remote corner of north-east France

" You have to be un peu fou to make a garden here," laughs Monique, " Thierry has that quality and i'm fanatical about plantes, which explains how we have been able to create this garden: it's the marriage of a crazy man and a plantswoman. " They are an engaging couple. Thierry is full of creative energy and enthralled by his bit of the moutainside, where for 23 years he has sculpted and planted, hauled in over 2,000 tonnes of topsoil, diverted streams, cleared and rearranged rock, felled acres of old pine plantation and built walls, path and bridges. Monique, who met Thierry 11 years ago when she was running a nursery specialising in unusual perennials, is a passionate colourist, whose design talents extend beyond the garden. "During the winter," she says, "when the garden is buried under snow, we find other outlets for our creative energies. Thierry works with wood and metal, forging his own ironwork chairs, plant supports and tree guards,and i work indoors with fabrics and paints."