Gardens of the World – France
France is a country rich with history. Steeped in fine wines, sophisticated cuisine, exquisite art, and world-famous fashion, France carries an air of class and rich culture. Millions visit each year to see famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, and Lyons Roman Theatre. What is perhaps less well known, is that France is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
Nestled in Giverny, Normandy, this pretty pink house and its breath-taking gardens are open to the public from 25 March to 1 Novemebr each year. The house belonged to famous artist Claude Monet, who lived there until his death in December 1926. The gardens are not only a historic piece but are also an exquisite feast for the eyes, with overflowing flower beds, an archway of roses, and a Japanese bridge draped in wisteria – it’s not hard to see why this garden attracts around half a million visitors each year. Those in the know will instantly recognise scenes from Monet’s paintings and will feel as if they have stepped right into the heart of his work. If you plan on visiting, try stopping by in the early morning or late afternoon of the summer months to avoid the crowds.
Château de Villandry
Whilst the beauty of the chateau is indeed a draw card, the magnificent gardens of this piece of Renaissance history, are indeed, an even bigger attraction. Covering 9 hectares, the gardens are nothing short of a horticulturalists delight! Reconstructed by Joachim Carvallo, the gardens are divided into six distinct designs over three main levels:
The formal ornamental gardens (The Love Garden and garden of crosses).
The water gardens.
The sun garden.
The vegetable garden.
The herb garden.
Each of these is exquisitely unique and offers a feast for the eyes. The sun garden for instance is divided into three – a Cloud Chamber of peaceful blue and white blooms, a Sun Chamber with pathways radiating from a central fountain and enveloped in bright yellow flowers, and a Children’s Chamber housing a play and picnic area. The most famous section of these vast gardens is the ornamental kitchen garden. This garden houses nine large squares featuring 40 species of vegetables which are planted to create a magical wonderland of colours and patterns. Visiting hours change depending on the season, but this is definitely one to add to the bucket list.
The gardens of the Palace of Versailles are perhaps formal French-style gardening at its very best. The gardens were designed by a humble gardener, André Le Nôtre. He had no specialised training when he designed and conceived the most impressive formal garden in the world. Spanning 800 hectares the gardens include 300 hectares of forest, 372 statues, 55 water features, 600 fountains, and 35km of canals. It seems extravagant, but then the palace boasts 700 rooms, 67 staircases and 1250 chimneys! The garden is so expansive that it’s sheer vastness makes it appear to reach forever into the horizon. Le Nôtre’s clever use of optical illusions and talent for formal flowerbed composition has indeed created a garden which exudes nothing short of sheer splendour.
If France is on your bucket list, it might be well worth while adding these exquisite gardens to your plans. France may be famous for many things, but it’s the little-known beauty of their gardens that will really catch your breath.