If you’re a lover of gorgeous gardens then you’ll be truly spoiled for choice in France. From the gardens of chateaux in the Loire Valley AKA “the garden of France”, to public parks, private gardens open to the public and even an entire village awarded “Remarkable Garden” status, you’re sure to find a garden to fall in love with wherever you go. We look at ten of the best gardens to visit in France.
Monet’s Garden Giverny, Normandy
Claude Monet’s garden in Normandy is amongst the top most beautiful gardens in the world (top photo). Like a living artwork, wandering the paths here is like being plunged into the heart of one of the artist’s paintings.
Dazzling scents fill the air, beds of colourful flowers like a palette of the most exquisite paint colours, plus the lily pond, crossed via the famous Japanese style bridge painted in a bright green are classic Monet. The gardens are open to the public from the end of March to the end of October. Go early in the morning, or late afternoon, to avoid crowds in the summer months.
Chateau de Chenonceau, Loire Valley
You’ll often spot Nicholas Tomlan, the American head gardener at the Chateau de Chenonceau, in the stunning gardens of Catherine de Medici and her rival Diane de Poitiers (mistress of Henri II, Catherine’s husband). Diane lived here until her lover’s death and was then told to leave by the wife. Both loved flowers and left their mark on the castle and its exquisite gardens.
The flowers grown in the garden are used to create huge bouquets in every room of the castle and you’ll also often see master florist Jean-Francois Bouchet checking out the blooms and vegetables to use in his displays.
Latour-Marliac, Lot et Garonne
Latour-Marliac is one of the most unique and special plant nurseries and gardens in France. It’s where the water lilies which inspired Claude Monet were grown and where to this day, this exotic plant is revered.
Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, Provence
Built in 1912 by the fabulously wealthy Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild, the Villa Ephrussi sits on a hill overlooking the Bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. There are nine gardens, all with dramatically different themes ranging from Provencal to Japanese but which seamlessly flow from one to the next. Flamboyant, colourful and absolutely gorgeous.
Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte
The great André Le Nôtre designed the gardens at the fabulous chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte in Ile de France, around an hour from central Paris by train. It’s the largest private residence in France. It was the blue print for Versailles, so exquisite that it drove Louis XIV mad with jealousy and earned its owner a prison cell instead of a castle. The King took everything from Vaux-le-Vicomte that wasn’t nailed down – including the orange and lemon trees in pots in the garden. Allow plenty of time to wander the grounds and enjoy the designs, sculptures and views.
Chateau du Rivau, Loire Valley
The once abandoned gardens at the stunning castle of Rivau in the Loire Valley have been lovingly restored with a fairy tale theme. You’ll spot Rapunzel’s Tower, giant boots and cups, white peacocks, a chapel of roses and the most romantic gardens. Unusually for a garden this size, the changes in planting are seasonal and constant.
Prieure d’Orsan, Berry Province, Loire Valley
The Priory d’Orsan in Berry Province, Loire, was created in 1107 by Robert Arbrissel, founder of the Abbey of Fontevraud. He died in 1116 and his heart was preserved as a relic and the gardens today are filled with heart shaped topiary designs and artworks in his honour. It is quite stunningly beautiful.
The hotel and gardens are the creation of a Parisian architect, Patrice Taravella. Starting from scratch, he and his small team of gardeners have spent the last two decades restoring the gardens and buildings and creating a Paradise regained. The designs are based on medieval monastic gardens dating back to the 12th Century. There are an impressive 7.5 miles of hornbeam hedge all of which are cut by hand.
Smell the roses in Chedigny, Loire Valley
Chedigny in the Loire Valley, is the only town in France to qualify for “Jardin Remarquable” status. In 1998 the Mayor encouraged villagers to plant rose bushes with a view to enhancing the Loire Valley’s reputation as the garden of France. The idea caught on and now the town is a rose town extraordinaire. In May the roses start to bloom and on the last weekend of the month the village holds a 2-day ‘Festival des Roses’. It draws thousands to its streets to enjoy the fragrant fete. There are workshops, artists and the chance to buy some of the beautiful rose bushes. And though it’s a whole village – it’s still one of the best gardens to visit in France!
Teased, trimmed and trained topiary at Marqueyssac, Dordogne
Topiary heaven in this gorgeous hill top garden at Marquessac in the Dordogne. Here, more than 150,000 boxwood plants grow and are fashioned into all sorts of shapes. It’s enchanting and seriously impressive. Visit in the summer when the gardens are lit by thousands of candles for real wow factor.