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
The Genius of Monet, departing 6th and 20th May, 3rd June, 15th July and 9th September 2016
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, Chateau de Chantilly
and the market town of Senlis.
Photograph by Selena N. B. H.
Gardens of the Loire with Chaumont, departing 14th June, 15th July and 4th October 2016
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
Gardens of Alsace & Rhineland, 11th to 15th June 2016
Hosted by Dr Noël Kingsbury, gardening writer & journalist
The fertile Rhine river valley cuts between the Vosges Mountains and the Black Forest forming a natural border between France, Switzerland and the warm, vine-growing south-west ‘Tuscany of Germany’. We travel southwards weaving between France and Germany, an area home to surprisingly rich selection of gardens. The five-day tour will include a heady mix of gardens including: Landhaus Ettenbühl
, renowned for roses; the regional alpine flowers of Haut Chitelet; Berchigranges, a garden strongly linked to its stunning mountain surroundings; and the fascinating experimental planting design at Hermannshof
Gardens of the Loire Valley, 16th to 21st September 2016
Hosted by Helen Yemm, Telegraph Gardens Correspondent
At this, the season of mellow fruitfulness, we take you to abundantly productive gardens displaying rich harvests of tomatoes, dahlias, vines and pumpkins as well as contrasting formal gardens surrounding stately châteaux, including Villandry
and the Prieuré d'Orsan
where intricate living decoration is taken to the highest standard. Since medieval times the Loire Valley has been known as the garden of France, playing key roles both in the history of the nation and in the development of garden style. September brings a last fling of vibrant colours and abundant produce to these gardens.