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Secret Gardens of Normandy


By AndrewR


That was the name of the holiday I took last week. We were staying at a small village on the north coast of France between Dieppe and Le Havre and visited eight gardens in four days, some of which are not usually open to visitors.

First was La Vasterival, a fifteen acre woodland garden maintained by five gardeners. The most amazing part of this garden is the annual pruning of trees and shrubs to reduce their density, allowing views through them to plants behind. As this was a garden not normally open, we were requested not to take photos but I did buy a book there – this is the cover picture.

Then on to Bois des Moutier, an early Lutyens/Jekyll collaboration. Here we had a short look at the inside of the house before seeing the garden. Lutyens and Jekyll laid out the grounds near the house but further away, the woodland was planted by the owner of the house with some good tree and shrub combinations.

Jardin de Valerianes was my sort of garden, stuffed full of plants. Designed, built, planted and maintained by a married couple, they have now bought more land on the opposite side of the road and embarked on creating a new garden with more unusual plants.

Les Jardins d’Angelique was less to my taste – all roses and soft colours (what I call the “posh lady gardener“ syndrome). But then it is owned by a posh lady!

L’Etang de Launay is another garden not open to the public and maintained by just one man. I loved this garden – the prevailing colour was green and it had a very restful atmosphere. Any colour is subdued and there are some very subtle effects with foliage.

The Chateau de Miromesnil has a large walled garden with fruit, vegetables and flowers for cutting. The woman who owns the chateau maintains it with minimal help as well as running a B&B in the chateau.

Jardin Plume won an award last year as the best garden in France. It is easy to see why as it is very well maintained with some very innovative planting ideas. Lots of grasses are mixed with perennials while the orchard has squares of long grass and wild flowers between mown paths.

Finally we visited Chateau de Bosnolet. Here vegetables and annuals are grown in colour-themed areas but I was disappointed with this one as everything was just planted in long rows and the grass hadn’t been cut for two weeks.

There were lots of ideas to take away and some new plants to track down – definitely a good holiday for a plantaholic like me.

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Sounds like my sort of holiday too - what fabulous gardens. Really loved the look of La Vasterival - just the front cover photo looks amazing - and the Jardin de Valerianes with all those beautiful plantings. Thanks for sharing - enjoyed these photos.

23 Jun, 2009


What a shame they wouldn't allow photos in the first garden! I suppose they thought you might sell them for calendars or suchlike!

Yes, I like the Jardin de Valerianes, as well!

Sounds as though you had a good week, Andrew. Was the weather kind to you?

23 Jun, 2009


Looks and sounds fantastic what a great idea for a holiday!

23 Jun, 2009


Yes spritz - great weather, dry and not to hot. Quite windy at Jardin Plume but that just emphasised all the grasses they have there.
We were not allowed to take photos at La Vasterival as it is a private garden and the other wishes to keep it that way - very private. It also allows her to flog the books!!

23 Jun, 2009


Thank you for sharing your holiday with us. Beautiful gardens:)

23 Jun, 2009


wow these are fantastic

x x x

23 Jun, 2009


Looks and reads like a lovely break .

23 Jun, 2009


Lovely way to relax,thanks for sharing.....

23 Jun, 2009


Thanks Andrew for sharing your wonderful holiday with's looks like the dream holiday to me, would love to visit them....:o)

24 Jun, 2009


sounds like a great holiday, I love going around and looking at other gardens, sometimes you get great ideas

24 Jun, 2009


Just found this Andrew . . . thank you. I would love to find this tour if it is still being done. At a talk recently by John Massey (of Ashwood Nurseries), he mentioned La Vasterival, and I wasn't sure how to spell it in my notes - so now I know! I recently got a book on The Gardens of Normandy from Amazon for a friend, but haven't seen it yet. Hope some of these are in it.

10 Jun, 2011

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