In May this year I contacted my friend and colleague Catherine Stewart with a challenge: find me a garden to visit in the middle of France I said. Or, more precisely…
‘We are catching ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. Then drive to a rented house near St Malo. Then cross country heading for brother’s place in Monceaux-au-Perch. Via probably Domfront, Alençon that sort of direction.
It’s worth a good red!! I will owe you one’
True to her investigative journalist skills, she came back with three possibilities: La Petite Rochelle 50km east of Alençon, Jardin d’Elle between Cherbourg and St Malo and,
“Jardin Du Bois Du Puits looks nice. Opening: From May 1 to September 30, Friday / Saturday / Sunday and holidays from 13:30 to 18:30 Other days by appointment tel: 06.07.64.18.82.
And I’d like a shiraz”
Some weeks later the family and I found ourselves on a lovely drive through the French countryside, heading down a country lane looking for this garden. As we got closer the more excited I became, as I realised this was an exception – without tourists, long queues, a steep entry fee and formalised to a ‘buxus T’.
We soon arrived to a beautiful entrance way, clearly a big part of the French countryside, in the middle of fields and daily farming activities. Soon we were greeted by a lovely Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Jacob who is the retired nurseryman behind this new 4.5 hectare garden (opened 2014) which focusses on botanical biodiversity.
Our sheer passion for plants and horticulture enabled us to communicate and appreciate the gardens despite my lack of French language skills. What followed was a fabulous garden laid out on acreage in countryside property, boasting water management, sustainable practices and even a harvesting toilet in the centre of the gardens.
There are also many sculptural elements, well-tended herbaceous borders, vistas, focal points and shady avenues.
My new found friend, presented me a wonderful manual detailing each plant in the garden, clearly labelled in both Latin (perfect for a travelling horticulturist) and local names for the enjoyment of all.
There are areas of special plant collections, such as magnolia, hydrangea, liquidambar, oak and beech as well as separate gardens like the Zen Garden, Mirror garden, Mediterranean garden, Roman garden, ‘Wind and Stars’ and the intriguingly named ‘Jardin Coquin’ or the Naughty Garden.
It was a super hot and sunny day when we visited and the large shade trees provided welcome relief from the heat. It’s well worth getting ‘lost’ in the Normandy countryside just to find this serene place.
There’s even a yurt where you can stay and be completely at home in nature to your heart’s content.
And yes, Catherine got her bottle of shiraz…and this blog post!
[Le Bois du Puits, 61130 Sérigny, France is in Lower Normandy just east of the village if Sérigny. It’s about 1km down along a country road that’s a right turn off the D955. The road doesn’t seem to have a name, just a small sign that says ‘Grand Fontaine/Petit Fontaine/La Vignerie’. The turn-off is about 300m past the roundabout intersection with the D920 (which has a Peugeot dealer on the corner), and 1km east of the village of Sérigny. Sérigny is about 8km east of Alencon.]