The gardens of Manoir d’Eyrignac and Marqueyssac France, by Bridget Rosewell.

January 9, 2013

in Articles, Garden Reviews, General Interest, Reviews

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

Marquessac, French Gardens Bridget Rosewell for thinkingardens, editor Anne Wareham, Veddw

Bridget Rosewell:

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.

 Marquessac, French Gardens Bridget Rosewell, for thinkingardens

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.

412 French Gardens Bridget Rosewell

Between there are lawns edged with hedges at surprising angles.

French Garden thinkingardens Bridget Rosewell

And there are woods with surprising contents.

Marquessac French Garden thinkingardens Bridget Rosewell, editor Anne Wareham Veddw

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).

Manoir d’Eyrignac copyright Bridget Rosewell for thinkingardens

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.

Manoir d’Eyrignac copyright Bridget Rosewell for thinkingardens

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.

Manoir d’Eyrignac

So long as you can be sure you haven’t stepped on the wrong people’s toes?

Bridget Rosewell

website and company website

Bridget Rosewell for thinkingardens copyright Anne Wareham

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Adam Hodge August 3, 2015 at 6:47 pm

Any chance we can have the spelling sorted out for Marqueyssac ?! Lanscapelover is spot on !

annewareham August 3, 2015 at 11:03 pm

As you wish. Xx

Shaun February 18, 2013 at 1:03 am

Exactly how much time did it require you to write “The gardens of Manoir
d’Eyrignac and Marquessac, France by Bridget Rosewell.
| thinkinGardens”? It carries a bunch of excellent information.
Thanks -Albertina

landscapelover February 7, 2013 at 5:01 pm

Let me be a dissenting voice here. I visited both these gardens in a single day a couple of years ago. I found Marqueyssac overly focused on its visitors, with that big set piece sculpted parterre as you come in, lots of group activities, and a rather frustrating candle-lit evening, which is hyped as the ‘Versailles of the south’ but in truth is a dark, tourist-packed, expensive, rather meaningless experience.
Eyrignac is by contrast a family-owned home with some very interesting, contemporary-style topiary and for me a quieter, more thoughtful charm.

Bridget February 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

How interesting! When I went to Marquessac, it wasn’t too busy and I didn’t experience the candles – to which I might well have reacted as you did. But on Eyrignac, I definitely don’t agree that it has a quieter, more thoughtful charm. For example, I found the white garden completely over the top and rather blowsy. Although the topiary is good, for me it was spoiled by the keep away signs.

And the Eyrignac car park was just as large, and the visitor centre/cafe equally large.

It is interesting to speculate how far our reactions are governed by the particular day/season in which we visited – and who else was there at the time. I suppose properly to appreciate a garden one should visit on several occasions. But who can? So a review, just like a play, gets judged by each on that day’s performance.

landscapelover February 20, 2013 at 9:50 am


Thanks for the response. it’s rather nice that we had such differing experiences of these two gardens. I sometimes worry that we all read so much about well-known gardens and know how we are meant to respond that, as Don Delillo says, we surrender our own perspective and “see only what the others see.”

Fiona Stephenson January 10, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Curiously, we visited these gardens together in June this year. Marquessac we found original, inventive and fun in it’s stepping out of the usual French formality – an overwhelming number and variety of clipped shapes at jaunty angles …cheeky and presented cheek by jowl. For me the over-scaling worked as a foreground to the impressive views. Looking out I felt a little like Alice having drunk from the bottle that made her shrink. Well, also taking place is an accomplished and skilful restoration of the Chateau. Whoever chose the colours has surpassed themselves, sandy roughly rendered walls combined with dusky mauve shutters, slightly ‘distress’ painted, tones perfectly with the partly replaced stone tiles of the roof. We loved the ‘trompe l’oeil’ windows and shutters painted on the exterior walls, seemingly to create balance. All in all a majestic place exuding charm and tastefully eclectic.

Manoir d’Eyrignac on the other hand, we found rigid (as you say) in it’s formality. And, it was not as ‘open’ as one might have imagined with afore mentioned chains to close off parts. However, we loved the rose garden, finding a soothing simplicity in the sumptuous use of white, expert use of roses to give the longest season of flower, which, I understand, are also clipped daily to prolong the season. One wonders how many pairs of secateurs and shears are worn out here each year.

We experienced both gardens as exceptional, an afternoon we won’t forget until demential sets in. Interesting to muse upon the contrasts and both impressed us in different ways.

Bridget January 15, 2013 at 7:31 am

I’m glad you had the same reactions as I did. I agree they stick in the mind, but I want only to revisit one!

Diana of Elephant's Eye January 9, 2013 at 8:06 pm

strange. The final picture reminds me of the Hugenot Memorial in Franschhoek. There is a suggestion of the tall stone arches of the memorial.

Bridget January 15, 2013 at 7:35 am

I too have been to Franschhoek and seen the memorial. It didn’t spring to mind when I saw the garden and I think this resemblance may be a trick of the camera angles. My recollection of the memorial is of something larger and bleaker. I have looked for a photograph of it without luck, so of course this memory could be playing me false.
There have been previous discussions on how true to a garden a photograph can be. Perhaps this adds to the debate.

James Golden January 9, 2013 at 1:43 pm

It is difficult, impossible really, to know what a garden is like looking at it through a few small photos, but this article certainly does a good job of expressing a clear contrast of feelings experienced in the two gardens. More detail about the gardens’ component parts, their size and general layout, changes of view as you more through them, simply more specifics would help me better understand what they are about. Perhaps by giving us just this tantalizing glimpse Bridget Boswell has lured us into making a visit to find out for ourselves.

Bridget January 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

This comment also develops the ‘what can photographs tell you’ theme. Particularly when they are taken by an amateur and on the move. So if it is tantalising, perhaps this is as good as it can get, without the full monty of garden plans and so on.
However, I can also remember visiting gardens about which whole books have been written and still feeling I had not understood until I got there. Perhaps there is no alternative to being there – since a garden is such a 4D object, moving through both time and space.

Adam Hodge January 9, 2013 at 12:19 pm

Bridget has offered a fascinating juxtaposition of two different styles of design and the impressions they both leave on one’s soul. Having visited both myself I can hear exactly what she is saying especially re the Manoir. I wonder if one might feel less resentful of the Manoir if one wasn’t herded about in such a controlled manner…everything about the visit is so tightly controlled it makes for a strictured and uncomfortably disciplined experience. Perhaps if one should err from the straight and narrow the clipping shears will be applied to one’s own person !!

Faisal Grant January 9, 2013 at 11:43 am

I would agree that the second garden is static – a museum. It looks like a magazine spread, so perfect, yet so unlived in.
The first, though, encapsulates so much of the finest of French and Italian gardening, relying on greenness and shape, not on flora, on highlights.
There are a thousand ways to apprehend gardens.
I personally don’t like something that looks like alot of work, though it may well have called for unbelievable work. I like it to fit where it is. I don’t like chocolate box gardens. I like a dream.

The Enduring Gardener January 9, 2013 at 9:36 am

This reminds me of the gardens at Chateau de Brecy where the hornbeam columns and pleaching are equally impressive. Thanks for the inspiration Bridget – I’ll put this on my list of gardens to visit. Have you been to Chateau de Brecy ? If not here’s some of my photos from a previous trip – – hope you like them.

Bridget January 15, 2013 at 7:40 am

Looking at your pictures, this would seem to be on a grander scale – but I will add it to my list! Thankyou

Sharon Moncur January 9, 2013 at 9:25 am

Perhaps it is a spirit of generosity, which appeared to be lacking in the second garden, which is the essential component of a good garden?

Bridget January 15, 2013 at 7:43 am

I’m not sure that generosity is an essential component, at least if I interpret it as giving away. And if we interpret is generous planting – lots of white roses – it has this. A good garden needs discipline certainly.
Maybe this one is a bit tight-lipped?

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