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Discover the Remarkable gardens of Poitou-Charentes

Discover the Remarkable gardens of Poitou-Charentes

Our beautiful region counts 13 gardens boasting the coveted 'Jardin Remarquable' quality label, an award earned by gardens that have that something special to distinguish them from the wealth of other heavenly gardens open to the public. Stéphanie Bérusseau, garden correspondent for the Rendez-Vous Aux Jardins event within the Poitou-Charentes Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles (DRAC), tells us what's special about each one...


Parc-et-jardin-de-lAbregement

Sometimes when visiting a garden you're struck by an emotion that makes you stand back, stunned, as an impressed "Wow!" escapes you. If this is the case, the chances are that you're standing in one of France's 'Jardins Remarquables'. It could be a picture-perfect viewpoint or a historical monument beautifully set off by nature; it could be the educational quality of the visit or an exceptional botanical collection. Whatever causes the wow-factor, you can be sure that when you visit a Jardin Remarquable you'll find that little extra something that makes the garden exceptionally memorable.

The Jardins Remarquables Award

Every December a committee made up of garden specialists, botanists, architects, environmentalists, elected representatives and tourist agents meets to decide which of the gardens they have visited during the year merit the Jardin Remarquable award. This quality label is nationwide and awarded to those gardens that not only meet strict criteria concerning the composition of the site, its botanical and historical interest, the maintenance, respect of the environment and the educational quality – but that also contains an element making it unquestionably remarkable.

Launched in 2004, the award is valid for five years, during which the garden has to be open to the public for national events such as Rendez-Vous aux Jardins and the International Heritage Days, and must show a continual development over time. There are currently 13 remarkable gardens in Poitou-Charentes – although with the annual committee meeting taking place this month, there may be some additions for 2011, so it's worth checking out the DRAC website around Christmas for the latest news.

Stéphanie Bérusseau, garden correspondent for the national garden events in Poitou-Charentes, has visited 75% of the 160 gardens open to the public in the region. "Sometimes when I look at a garden's description, I don't think it's going to appeal to me. But I'm often pleasantly surprised by the reality, so it's always worth making the effort to visit a garden."

The best time to visit most gardens is spring, in particular the month of May, although several gardens are worth returning to right through to the end of autumn, as they change according to the season. Please note that most gardens aren't open all year long, so it's best to phone to make an appointment to visit.

Here, Stéphanie gives us an insight into what is special about each of the Jardins Remarquables, and points out that although other Poitou-Charentes gardens may not qualify for the quality label, many are nonetheless as striking as those listed below.

 

Charente

 

Parc et jardin de l'Abrègement (6 hectares)

This garden is extraordinary for its outdoor exhibition of Land Art made from the trees that were uprooted during the 1999 gale. You can walk around the park and admire the huge sculptures by worldwide reputed artists, such as Andy Goldsworthy, Antony Gormley, Christian Lapie and Joël Shapiro. It's also noteworthy for the walled vegetable garden, in which all the flowers and vegetables are yellow or orange coloured – and includes an arbour dedicated to gourds and marrows of the same colour, which is worth visiting in the autumn. With gravel paths and a waterway running through the garden, it's a well-organised luxury vegetable plot. Botanists come to visit the collection of 170 varieties of oak.

16700 Bioussac. +33 (0)5 45 31 84 73


Les jardins du logis de Forge (5 hectares)

If you like water, you'll love this garden. On a sunny day, the beautiful 16th and 18th century 'logis' and paper mill are reflected in the lake, as are the wooded hills surrounding the property. The garden, which has been entirely created by the owners and is inspired by their trips to Japan, is green and full of wild flowers, with bridges taking you over water features from one perspective to another. It is both wild and controlled, and while you mustn't expect to see rare collections of flowers, you'll be charmed by the setting on a clear day with a blue sky.

Forge, 16440 Mouthiers-sur-Boëme. +33 (0)5 45 67 84 22

 

Les-jardins-du-logis-de-Forge


Les jardins du Chaigne (3 hectares)

Surrounded by rolling vineyards, this garden embodies elegance, gentleness and refinement. You can spend an enjoyable hour or so wandering around in peace, admiring the clean lines and minimalism that are at the heart of the garden design, and following the zig-zag of a stone water channel that takes you to a fountain. Dominated by whites and greens, with roses planted between small trees, it fits perfectly into the landscape of vines.

See more about Les Jardins du Chaigne here

Le Chaigne, 16120 Touzac. +33 (0)5 45 21 25 51


Jardin monastique medieval (1000 square metres)

A fine example of a medieval monastery garden containing medicinal plants, herb garden, an aroma garden, vegetable plot and orchard, this site is noteworthy for its educational value and the discreet system of labelling. You feel as if you've had a complete lesson once you finish the visit in the company of the expert guides from the association Club Marpen, who organise a multitude of workshops and events.

Maison du Patrimoine, Le Bourg, 16140 Tusson. +33 (0)5 45 31 17 32

 

Charente-Maritime

 

Jardins du phare de Chassiron

It's unusual to have a bird's-eye view of a garden, and this is one of the factors that makes the Chassiron lighthouse garden remarkable. Designed around the points of a compass centred on the lighthouse, there is a contemporary ornamental garden and a traditional garden containing a vegetable plot, vines and rose beds. As it is subjected to the force of the ocean, the fact it continues to flourish shows how much skill has been used in the choice of plants and layout. The educational audio-guides are an added bonus, and while visiting the gardens, make sure you pop into the lighthouse museum, which is cleverly designed and gives you the impression of being in the middle of the ocean. The gardens are accessible to the disabled.

Pointe de Chassiron, 17650 Saint-Denis-d'Oléron. +33 (0)5 46 75 18 62

Jardins-du-phare-de-Chassiron

Les Fontaines Bleues du Château de Beaulon (13 hectares)

It's the colour of the water coming from these springs that stuns visitors to this garden: profoundly blue-green-turquoise, the colour comes from red algae present in the spring. This garden begins with formal French, regular gardens around the 15th century castle, and spreads to a 'Jardin Bleu' containing waves of blue plants such as lavendar and rosemary. Beyond the Blue Garden on the edge of the woods lie the mysterious Blue Fountains, and the transition through the blues to the highlight of the fountains makes this visit particularly memorable – in autumn as well as spring.

25 rue St.Vincent, 17240 Saint-Dizant-du-Gua. +33 (0)5 46 49 96 13


Les jardins de la Boirie (2500 square metres)

Most of the remarkable gardens feature some kind of building, yet La Boirie is an exception. Small and walled, the garden is a succession of luxuriant green spaces that are particularly well maintained. Botanists will love the variety of plants here – which include rarities and an astonishing collection of 150 species of sage. The plants are cleverly displayed, providing picture-postcard moments of discovery, and there is also a nursery.

10 rue Centrale, La Boirie, 17310 Saint-Pierre-d'Oléron. +33 (0)5 46 76 45 63


Jardin du Château de la Roche Courbon (3 hectares)

As an emblem of Charente Maritme, this château and its gardens are one of the department's must-visits. The 15th century fortress, transformed into accommodation in the 17th century, was saved from abandon by the action of famous writer Pierre Loti. It has been owned by the same family ever since, and they have made enormous efforts to avoid the fragile gardens sinking into the marshes on which they are built. The gardens, dotted with statues, are listed, with the most remarkable feature being the view from the top of the water staircase looking down towards the façade of the château.

Domaine de la Roche Courbon, 17250 Saint-Porchaire. +33 (0)5 46 95 60 10

Saint-Porchaire-Jardins-du-château-de-la-Roche-Courbon-Cliché---Philippe-Sébert

 

Deux-Sèvres

 

Jardin de la Guyonnière (1 hectare)

The originality of this garden lies in the drawbridges that lead into the castle courtyard and then out onto an island that is surrounded by a moat, and on which the medieval garden is planted. Composed of different themed, closed areas, the garden has a gentle atmosphere with its rose arbours and beds of aromatic and medicinal plants. You'll find the garden of bees, the fruit garden and the flower garden among others, all of which were designed by famous landscape gardener Alain Richert, who researched and taught at the Versailles landscape gardening school and who still follows the development of this garden.

Château de la Guyonnière, 79420 Beaulieu-sous-Parthenay. +33 (0)5 49 64 22 99.

Jardin-de-la-Guyonnière


Arboretum du Chemin de la Découverte (7km)

This arboretum is special because of the glimpses of Melle's historical buildings you get as you walk around, for the passion of the guides and also for its rare collections of trees. It's great to visit all year round, especially in the autumn, is free and can be visited in several goes.

For more information on the Arboretum, see here.

79500 Melle. +33 (0)5 49 29 15 10

 

Vienne

 

Jardin du Prieuré de Laverré (2 hectares)

This garden is a true gem because of the warmth of the owner, who is as generous as the luxuriant vegetation in her grounds. Her garden is her baby, it being a work of love rather than a botanical experience, and you need to set aside a good three hours to do justice to the property and exchanges with her. Made up of traditional plants growing in exuberance in lots of little enclosures, with waterways and arbours separating them, the owner lets plants come as they wish and and flourish where they will. As a result, you have to see the wild poppies in spring as well as her thistle collection and her 'crazy' garden. Each year the themed colours change, adding to the charm of this magical place.

Aslonnes-Laverré, 86340 Aslonnes. +33 (0)5 49 42 59 40


Jardins du Château de Touffou (5 hectares)

Just seeing the castle when you arrive at Touffou is enough to amaze you, let alone visiting the gardens! These are made up of three different parts, all in harmony with the architecture and its breathtaking position overhanging the river Vienne. The first garden is a delight of glorious mixed borders featuring perennials and roses, while the two others are sober, beautiful geometric enclosures of trimmed box hedges that set off the castle tastefully. These latter two were created by designer Paolo Pejroné, and the decors change every year, giving something new to appreciate with each visit to this superb spot.

86300 Bonnes. +33 (0)5 49 56 40 08


Jardins du Château de la Motte (3.5 hectares)

This garden displays the extremely good taste of its owners – both architects – and is characterised more by visual beauty than by any particular collections of plants. Sober in ambience and inspired by medieval gardens, the property lies beside a river and rests in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings. You'll find woods, meadows, fishponds, an orchard and a vegetable plot, all contributing to the elegance that marks the ambience here.

Château de la Motte, 86190 Chalandray. +33 (0)5 49 39 26 13

 

Originally published in Living Poitou-Charentes magazine

WORDS: Teresa Hardy

PHOTOS: Courtesy of each 'Jardin Remarquable', Philippe Sébert, Stéphanie Bérusseau, Dominique Abit and Gérard Truffandier

 

DRAC (Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles) Poitou-Charentes: 102 Grand'Rue, BP 553, Poitiers cedex. Contact Stéphanie Bérusseau: +33 (0)5 49 36 21 52,

www.culture.gouv.fr/poitou-charentes

 

Rendez-Vous Aux Jardins: this is held during the first weekend of June. Each year a different them is chosen. 

A booklet is normally published in May by the DRAC listing all the gardens taking part in this national event.