French Gardens To Visit; Normandy & Picardy have some gems!

By Andy McIndoe

The first time I ever went on a garden tour was to Normandy. Friends were sceptical; they couldn’t believe that I would like to sit on a coach and be driven around with someone else doing the organisation. How wrong they were; I loved it. All I had to do was to enjoy the gardens, take photographs and enjoy a glass of wine when I felt like it. No worries about parking, finding the gardens, opening hours or how long it would take to get there. I also discovered that this part of Northern France has some really fine gardens which related to my growing conditions in the South of England. In fact their winters are colder, so what I saw I could grow. The garden style is often quite English but still very French. I visited in early summer and have been back there on garden tours many times over the years. Every time I return inspired, enthralled and in love with the Normandy and Picardy gardens.

Heritage Touring has a wonderful tour to the gardens of Normandy and Picardy in June. Run by Charlotte Strutt this tour is bound to be a real banquet of the best gardens served superbly. I have travelled with Charlotte to Normandy on many occasions and know that her organisation and attention to detail is second to none. She also knows the gardens and speaks the language not only of France but also of gardens. You visit when the gardens are at their very best.  See more here.. 

So what about the gardens?

I’ll start with my personal favourite. Jardin d’Angelique is a quintessentially English garden. It is charming, romantic and a profusion of roses, hydrangeas and hostas inspired by the love and memories of a lost daughter. This garden is just a profusion of everyone’s favourite plants in two main areas. One more informal with grass alleys winding through flower filled borders and under arches, the other formal, white and frothy against the backdrop of a lovely manor house. You will fall in love with this garden. I recommended it to a friend from Madeira who visited this summer on a wet day; she sent me a text confirming that it was a dream garden.

Le Jardin Plume, “the feather garden” is a truly stunning garden blending the French formal style with naturalistic planting. Formal clipped box contains ethereal grasses and jewel coloured flowers. Hot colours are softened by the veiling and movement of soft fronds. The planting combines the very conventional and recognisable with something quite dramatically modern.

Le Jardin Plume 2011 001

Le Jardin Plume 003

Le Jardin Plume 2011 009

Jardin de Sericourt is situated in a magnificent dell with a backdrop of wonderful mature trees. The garden is divided into a number of “compartiments” with different themes. Enjoy magnificent vistas and tumbling roses as you move from one are to another. The the garden tells a story and has symbols from a once war-torn landscape, but this does not make the garden sombre in any way. A June visit should see the Cathedral of roses in full bloom.


Les Jardins Agapanthe is a young garden created by a talented garden designer. Alexandre Thomas. This shuns the formal French style and will prove wonderfully surprising as you explore its many inspirational areas in such a small space. Mediterranean garden leads to exotic garden via English Path and Exuberant Descent to a sunken garden with a grid of lavender and of course eventually to the Agapanthus walk. Plants take centre stage and the design is never allowed to dominate. The owner has now created a further garden alongside the original


Agapanthe 2


The historic gardens at the 18th-century Cistercian Abbey de Valloires and two lovely French chateaux, Bosmelet and Miromesnil all have theirwalled kitchen gardens. Abbey de Valloires has wonderful gardens, designed by Gilles Clémente filled with roses and unusual shrubs.


Valerianes 1


Chateau Miromesnil is set in a wonderful park with magnificent trees, but the walled garden is intimate and romantic. Chateau Bosmelet features Le potager "Arc en Ciel", the rainbow vegetable garden, with numerous varieties of amazing vegetables that make any gardener green with envy. these combine with fruit trees, and annual flowers into a classic arrangement of coloured quadrants: sapphire blue, amber, garnet red, and ivory white. These two gardens really showcase just how beautiful vegetables can be.


Amazing cabbages

At Jardin de Valérianes the very talented owners have created a garden with wonderful herbaceous borders and some superb shrubs and trees. This garden has a wealth of plant material and features amazing use of colour.

If you thought that French gardens meant Monet, Giverney and nothing more, think again. This part of the world has so much to offer, and you can easily reach all these fine gardens from the historic city of Rouen. After a totally inspiring day enjoying the gardens plans for your own plot can become even more ambitious over a kir, a few glasses of wine and a delicious dinner in one of Rouen’s fantastic restaurants; believe me there are plenty to choose from. Wind your way back through the cobbled streets to the hotel and do it all again tomorrow. A great way to spend a few days.

Take a look at the Heritage Touring website; it’s your first step towards visiting some wonderful French or Italian Gardens. Don’t forget there are 1001 Gardens you must visit before you die so better get started!

Andy McIndoe

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