Some pieces hang around a bit long (sorry everyone) – this arrived in summer and it’s now after Christmas. So – a time trip back to summer, in a less soggy place than Wales…
(Bridget is away at the moment – I hope she will respond to your comments on her return)
Anne Wareham, editor
Well actually, let’s get more specific. These are gardens in the Perigord, which real traditionalists might argue ought to be English – Aquitaine, 13th century, remember your history. Regardless of that, France is a large country so gardens should vary.
Except that both of the gardens I saw today were distinctly French. Neither had any flowers to speak of, and at the very least that is not English. Both also were big on topiary, allees, and prospects. Garden rooms were not in evidence but vistas were. I can’t think of any reasonable comparators in our sceptred isle, but you might care to.
Anyway, the first garden is the Marqueyssac. (picture above and below) The garden sits on top of a rock – a very large rock – overlooking the Dordogne river. It is a garden of hedges, trees, and clipped box. I hope with all my heart that box blight never touches it. I bought the book on the way out (always hated guide books and especially audio guides which mean you share space with spaced out zombies) but as a result missed a couple of things so I will have to go back. Yes, it’s that good.
The combination of stark views over the river and flowing abstract box shapes is wonderful. Further along the shapes become more geometric, like boxes set on end, but it’s hard to judge where one starts and the other ends. And then you can set off down an allee which will lead you to a belvedere hanging out over the river and a small hut built of stone with a stone roof as the poet’s retreat.
Between there are lawns edged with hedges at surprising angles.
And there are woods with surprising contents.
It is high season, the car park is pretty full. But the garden can cope and feels like it needs the people to keep it lively and activated.
The other garden I went to see is both equally interesting but much more precious about itself. The Manoir d’Eyrignac sits on top of a slope. Getting there makes you realise that the population density in France is about half that in the UK.
Like Marqueyssac, this is a garden about clipping and greenery. It has the most impressive set of clipped hornbeam I have ever seen. Apparently they have to be clipped monthly in season and it is all done by hand. (I read the blurb seen in the picture).
But there is something missing here. My first garden had a sense of joy, of showing off. This one has lots and lots of signs telling you not to step on the grass. (See the picture above.) And lots of chains preventing you from taking a peek round a corner. It is a private garden and I would love to be taking a drink in the evening with this view.
But in the end I resented the ticket price. I believe in private enterprise and individual vision. So I am really not sure what went wrong for me here. The clipped allees are fantastic and well worth the visit. The formal gardens were beautifully clipped and interestingly aligned.
So long as you can be sure you haven’t stepped on the wrong people’s toes?