The Jardins de l’Abbaye de Valloires in the Pas-de-Calais website doesn’t give much away. However when you visit, you’ll be given a guide to the garden which tells you that the gardens have a collection of 5000 species of plant in a historical location – the Abbaye de Valloires. We didn’t go into the Abbey itself, we would have but you can only go on a guided tour at certain times as the Abbey is still used as a children’s home. Friends have told us it is worth the effort to go in, apparently the baroque style inside is remarkable but if you do go it’s worth checking their website first to make sure the tour is available as it shuts for marriages, heritage days etc. [Their website is www.abbaye-valloires.com].
The gardens were lovely and it was great to see an updated but still formal example of French parterre gardening. Parterre is a formal style of gardening, very symmetrical, lots of low hedges and quite often doesn’t include flowers or much colour. At Les Jardins at Valloires they do use flowers and more unusually they use herbs and vegetables as well to really good effect. There were purple cabbages, poppies, huge sage plants (I’ve never seen them with trunks before like that!) and roses of every kind and on the day we went (May) it looked stunning.
There are some really impressive rose plants here and if you’re an enthusiast of roses you’ll probably love it. There are grape vines on the walls, a reflective water garden, English style garden, sensory garden and other styles which we really enjoyed and I think kids would appreciate some of the more interactive aspects encouraged here. A good place for a picnic too, plenty of seating areas and there’s a café which serves the most amazing cakes. It’s expensive but the little lemon tarts with real flower decorations are a work of art in themselves.
The husband chose a plant from the big poly tunnel shop attached to the gardens. It was labelled Penstemon and on the wall behind the tray holding these plants was a picture of a beautiful blue flower. I did think at the time that although it was only a fledgling plant it didn’t really look how I imagined a penstemon to look but I’m a novice – what do I know?! You can imagine how pleased I was when having planted it in the front garden for all to see, it turned into Mare’s Tail. For those that don’t know this is a weed of extraordinary capacity. Fast growing and not attractive, getting rid of it is a nightmare. I’m amazed that it’s sold as a plant to covet here but there you go, another difference between the French and the English gardener! Thankfully the chickens seem to enjoy eating mares tail plants so most of the evidence of our faux pas has gone though I suspect its actually lurking underground waiting to take over when the weather’s warmer!
If roses are your thing, the poly tunnel shop has a huge choice of rose plants for sale. Some are quite rare apparently.
Its a very pretty garden, good for a picnic and a reasonable wander.