Travelling is, for me, about new understandings and so the main stop on Day 1 in France was at the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne, a wonderful, magical garden of 85 hectares in the north of Normandy. The Parc was laid out in 1847 and has 24 different garden areas.
‘..The botanical park is made up of 24 gardens and three parts : the Arcadia’ gardens that refer to classical antiquity and recall the youth, the romantic gardens represent maturity and plenitude, the twilight’ gardens offer a timeless composition which represents the old age…’, says Wikipedia. Well, all this is true, but where do I find the words to describe this wonderful, astounding, breathtaking, magical, exciting garden to which I could easily return time and time again?
The Alley of White Pearls is the Romantic name for the path to the entrance, lined with Hydrangea Paniculata and Cornus Variegata. I visited at a slightly awkward time – after the height of summer and before the autumn colours had really started – I could only imagine how beautiful it looked a few weeks before.
The first set of gardens represent Arcadia and refer to the Ancient World: an evocation of the Alhambra, the Antique City, the City of Knossos (a camellia maze which didn’t photograph), the forest of bamboos with a lotus pond, the secret garden, alley of ancient roses, gardens of Olympus and Dionysus, a maze and a prehistoric garden.
The Garden of a Thousand and one Nights reminded me of the Alhambra. The sound of the water was restful, the planting was exuberantly generous, and although it was a narrow garden it seemed much bigger than it actually was.
The Garden of the Antique City was a large walled garden, divided into different compartments – just like a formal English walled garden – and with herbaceous borders. And in one compartment – a small Greek theatre. I remembered the small, atmospheric theatre I had seen at Akrai in Sicily.
The Walled Garden reminded me of Houghton Hall’s Walled Garden. And in the borders of the Walled Garden –
The Forest of Bamboos was – a forest! With a beautiful Lotus Flower Pond.
The Secret Garden was sunken, simple, elegant, quiet, peaceful: Hydrangea Paniculata, Box, and Pachysandra Terminalis as the ground cover. At the far end of the garden the pond apparently has Lotus Flowers, but on this visit it was covered in a pond growth.
I couldn’t see the roses in The Avenue of Ancient Roses, I missed the Garden of Dionysus, but found the Garden of Olympus.