France had great medieval and renaissance gardens, few of which survive. In the seventeenth century France took the lead in making Baroque gardens. The power of these gardens was so great that their shadow lasted for over two centuries. In the last years of the twentieth century, France began making great public parks and highly original small gardens. It has always been a country of great horticultural skills.
A number of British and American operators run tours to French gardens and they are very convenient. Northern France is much better served than Southern or Western France. In the Paris region there is an excellent public transport system. Elsewhere in France the train system is good but many of the great gardens are in rural areas with no trains and infrequent bus services. Fortunately, car hire is easy and the roads are good.
Escorted Garden Tours in France
Monet’s Garden and the Orangerie Museum, departing 2nd and 16th May, 13th June, 18th July and 5th September 2014
Claude Monet gave French Impressionism its name and France its best-loved garden: Giverney. The tour includes Monet's Garden
(pictured left), the Orangerie Museum, Clos du Coudray
and Le Bois des Moutiers
, which is the best Gertrude Jekyll garden in France.
Photograph by Selena N. B. H.
Gardens of the Loire with Chaumont, departing 15th May and 4th September 2014
The Loire Valley is the Garden of France, the Cradle of the French Language and place where the France's aristocracy chose to build their most celebrated chateaux. The River Loire is majestic; the chateaux are noble. The tour includes Petit-Bordeaux, Chateau d'Angers
, Parc du Maulevrier, Chateau de Villandry
, Abbaye Royale de Fontevraud
and the International Garden Festival
Photograph by Alan Graham
‘The Private Gardens of Provence’; An exclusive COUNTRY LIFE tour, 24th to 29th April 2014
Rustic refinement amidst aroma of pines and sweet nightingale song defines the inimitable gardens of Provence in spring. 'Enchanted April' sees the Mediterranean landscape coloured by irises and cascades of Rosa banksiae, scented with bee-foraged tresses of wisteria. This superlative tour, in the engaging company of Louisa Jones - the expert on gardens of the region - includes unparalleled grandeur and comforts of La Mirande, an elegant eighteenth-century mansion at the foot of the Palais des Papes, a timeless refuge offering a dreamy, relaxing and authentic experience of the heart of Avignon.
‘Gardens of the Côte d’Azure’; Hosted by David Wheeler, 9th to 14th May 2014
The allure of the French Riviera has long been acknowledged by garden enthusiasts worldwide, British travellers in particular spell-bound by the exotic perfumes and colours, many settling here to create gardens of distinction. We visit some of these remarkable gardens as well as some exciting contemporary masterpieces. Our two carefully chosen hotels are the Hotel Napoléon in Menton, and Chateau Saint-Martin with fine gardens and panoramic views of the French Riviera, including reservations at the 2 Michelin star, La Mirazur as well as invitations to relaxing lunches with garden owners.
‘Gardens of Haute-Normandie’; La Seine-Maritime, 22nd to 26th June 2014
A ‘daisy chain’ of remarkable gardens thread their way from sea to River Seine: all country gardens set amidst old cider orchards lush rolling pastures, and mixed woodland, mostly owned by passionate gardeners with fine plant collections that excel from April to October and peak in June. Numbers are limited on this very special tour as we are taking over the small hotel, Le Moulin de Connelles. This four-star Arts and Crafts hôtel de charme is a former water mill that straddles the Seine, linking its own island to the mainland.