The Castles and Gardens of Périgord

Bérangère sends us the following delights from the Dordogne:

There are so many ways to be amazed in Périgord; it is a province set with so many natural and architectural marvels, and sometimes we can contemplate them both.

Travel through time in the Valley of Vezère (a site classified Patrimoine de l’Humanité by UNESCO) from prehistory to  history.  We can discover 1500 castles; many  have  gardens, but the ones presented are exceptional.  Their maintenance costs a fortune; the Eyrignac gardens and the Marqueyssac hanging gardens are classified among the most beautiful in France.

Chateau de Hautefort at the top of the hill is surrounded by a great garden.  The most extraordinary part is the jardin à la Française on the south  terrace, where we embrace the panorama, and walk through the vegetal domes…

(click on photos to enlarge)

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View from the chateau de Hautefort

Traditionally, Jardin à la Française are comprised only of green sculpted vegetation; the flowers below at Hautefort are a modern evolution (blasphemy for the purists).

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Gardeners tending the Hautefort gardens
The chateau de Hauteforte
The chateau de Hautefort

The Eyrignac Manor House gardens were designed in the 18th century by the Marquis de Calprenede.  Here is found topiary art at its best; the experience for every visitor is marvelous – what a joy to see the apple trees of a true Garden of Eden!

Jardin d'Eyrignac with a little folie: white flowers in the center
Jardin d'Eyrignac with a little folie: white flowers in the center

It was very moving to see one of the gardeners cutting bushes with scissors.  The image was symbolic to me; such vast labors to attempt perfection, as in life.

The gardens of Eyrignac (with gardener)
The gardens of Eyrignac (with gardener)

Castelnaud’s garden, dating from the middle ages, is designed in the shape of a cross like a monastery garden.

The chateau and garden of Castenaud
The chateau and garden of Castenaud

It is protected by a fence lined by roses, the aromatic plants at upper left, the utilitarian ones upper right; vegetables, lower right, and medicinal herbs lower left; in the center there is an almond tree and vines.

Castenaud's monastic garden
Castenaud's monastic garden detail

The Jardin de Marqueyssac is 22 hectares big, with 150,000 boxes… What a belvedere in the valley of Dordogne!!!  The castle in the distant hills on the left is Castelnaud.

The Jardin de Marqueyssac
The Jardin de Marqueyssac

With panoramic views of the Dordogne, the little marvel of Marqueyssac was built just  before the revolution. The castle roof was made with lauzes (traditional stones cut for roofs ) and weighs nearly 500 tonnes.

The chateau of Marqueyssac
The chateau of Marqueyssac

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