The Garden Landscape Guide

Jardins de l'Imaginaire

The Gardens of the Imagination, designed by Kathryn Gustafson, overlook the Vézère valley. It is a modern interpretation of a classic form, the terrace garden, but with sculptured curves. Symbollically, there are 'fragments of the stories of gardens': a Sacred Wood (sacro bosco), a Vegetable Tunnel , A Garden of Elements, a Theatre of Greenery, an Axis of the Winds, a Water Garden and a Rose Garden. The Axis of Winds has 12 metre masts with wind vanes. The Rose garden is a 1000 m2 suspended steel structure (and 2,000 roses). The Water Gardens form a cross with jets of water fed by a cascade. The Sacred Wood has 50 bells suspended from oak trees. The greenhouse was designed by the British architect Ian Ritchie and won the Stephen Lawrence prize in 1999.

Place du Foirail, 24120, Terrasson Lavilledieu, France

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  • over 4 years by Jenny 1 / 5

    In April I visited the garden, but was terribly disappointed. Having to wait for a guided tour in French was not ideal (I have learnt French and Spanish, but listening to words outside my vocabulary for an hour is not great). The publicity is excellent, but I found the garden messy, with a wood here, a 'fake' lavender plot, a rose garden there. The rose garden had too many roses all crammed in, and one main path, and the roses could not be looked at easily. I had just spent a week walking through woods near Niort, so did not get excited about the wood. It would have been good to just wander though the plantings I was interested in. I live near a large public garden open year round to the public, and it is always filled with people and families wandering around and having picnics. This garden needs to be used, not just have guided tours where visitors have to listen to ideas.
  • over 4 years by Rita Erlich 4 / 5

    We were so lucky to get there for the last tour of the year. Be prepared: these gardens aren't conventional gardens at all. You can't go in on your own, you have to join a tour, and you must either read the crib in English, or understand French (which is not unreasonable in France). The various themes form a wonderful commentary on what gardens mean and have meant through history (from the sacred wood that recalls the Romans and even earlier times) to the rose garden and the Japanese tree garden. What was so striking about them for me is that the gardens were so much part of the traditions of people organising and reorganising plants. And they were so much part of their landscape, reflecting the river and the stone of the old part of Terrasson. You have to respond on both imaginative and emotional levels to these gardens, you don't get much from them if you expect conventional formal French or landscaped English gardens.
  • almost 5 years by Graham Harrison 3 / 5

    This is not a garden, it is a landscape. There is a minimalist number of plants, mainly woodland, but with spatterings of herbaceous perennials. The Rose garden has a modern twist with the use of what I can only describe as metal scaffolding which unfortunately simply took away the beauty of the actual roses. I liked the water features, of which there was plenty and did aim to link the garden together. I was confused by the white metal ribbon running through the trees at the start of the garden. Unfortunately, you can't just turn up, buy a ticket and enter the garden. Instead, you have to be taken around by a guide, who only spoke French and nothing at all in English. However, they were helpful to provide an English presentation of the tour on request which was provided in a plastic folder. It was not until the tour was over was there any chance just to find a place and stop, sit and take in the surroundings which ultimately meant just sitting looking across the local town, which from the garden offered impressive views of the rooftops and Abbey. It seems there is a missed opportunity here and I was disappointed at the lack of plants and flowers. Perhaps I had come too early in the season, although early June I would have expected more.
  • over 5 years by Michelle 4 / 5

    Stunning place. Remove all your concepts of what constitutes a 'garden' and appreciate it for what it is - modern gardening. The design takes into account the terrain and really makes the most of the expansive views over the town. The water features and canals are beautiful - the children loved them. A thoughtful and reflective place.
  • almost 7 years by Mary & Ross 3 / 5

    We visited the gardens this year and it seemed they had opened before really being ready for the public. Unfortunately it didn't meet the expectations promoted by their impressive colourful marketing.

    Although the staff were very friendly and helpful, these gardens could benefit from better focused management. The experience left me wondering what the designers set out to achieve because the whole site just seemed directionally confused although the plants themselves were wonderful. Perhaps with better focus and given another 2 years or so, this COULD be an excellent site to visit.
  • over 8 years by Adam Hodge 2 / 5

    Whether this place can be described as a garden or rather an expression in a large space with nature of multifareous philosophical musings is up to you the viewer - I'm stuck to know what to call it. A garden , for me definetly not ! But for the imaginative and very interesting water features I would have dismissed visiting the place as a total waste of time. The plantings were often minimalist, functional and thus dull and in many areas a poor choice for the situation, as in, they were growing poorly. Its redeeming feature [which sadly leaves me cold and indifferent] is mmmmm.. Nope ..I just didn't appreciate whatever it tried to was modern 3d art at its best and I just don't get it ! Lots of 'symbolic' stuff, like metal bands weaving through trees or peculiar whatsits fluttering in the breeze. Go see what you can make of it and explain to me what I don't understand !

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Jardins de l'Imaginaire, 2007 Photgraph © Alan Graham
Jardins de l'Imaginaire, 2007 Photgraph © Alan Graham
Jardin de l'Imaginaire, France Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge
Fountains at Jardin de l'Imaginaire Photograph © Oxford Botanica/Adam Hodge