Yesterday I was treated to a day out by some lovely facebook friends. How lovely to have a jolie, a visit to the Botanic gardens of Bretagne, at le Chatellier not far from Fougeres.
Our first impression, to be honest, was not that favourable. We approached down rather pot hole ridden roads, past what looked like an animal food factory, hoping we were following the right signs, as nothing said botanic gardens, or Chatellier gardens, but some rather faded white road signs with peeled black paint pointed us towards 'Parc Floral'. So we pressed on and hoped for the best. Eventually we spotted a somewhat hidden sign saying Jardin entree. An overgrown gravel car park beckoned.
We duly parked up and decamped. carrying our picnic basket.
Around the corner and fighting through some large and slightly vicious zebra grasses, we found a 'picnic area' of sorts, an open fronted shed with plastic garden furniture. Courtesy of Erica's tablecloth and a spread of baguette, beurre, tomates, fromage et olives we prettied it up and had an agreeable lunch washed down with a glass of something pink!
We were watched over by a rather lovely Buddha looking serene among the undergrowth.
Having divest ourselves of the picnic remains, we pressed on with our visit. Down a hydrangea lined driveway, we came upon the entrance, with a delightful shop, a cafe with an interesting and well priced lunch menu, and a pepiniere or plant sales area.
The entrance fee was 8 euros 90 each, and it varies according to season. The usual discounts are available. We hoped for the best that the gardens would be more impressive than the entrance area. Fortunately we were far from disappointed when we wandered through the huge stone gates and around little woodland paths into the estate gardens proper. This was the vista that opened up.
It looks rather English doesn't it! The parkland was expansive, with lovely lawns and wonderful huge trees casting shade and giving shelter from the small showers we encountered. The views were rather good too, but the garden was designed in such a way that you could not see everything at once. This was 'garden rooms' on a very grand scale. A map of the estate guides you to numbered themed gardens given rather romantic names such as 'night of the stars', and there are numerous sculptures, statues and quirky tableau such as some huge teddy bears in the branches of an old oak above a bee hive!
Our main reason for choosing this garden for our visit was the plethora of hydrangeas which it is famed for. As mentioned, at the entrance there is a driveway flanked by the large and shrubby pinky green pyramid flowered forms, I'm not sure of the proper name, perhaps someone can enlighten me! And my personal favourite amongst the many varieties were the vivid blue lace caps.
Erica cunningly had secreted about her person a plastic bag, so I was able to surreptitiously snip some cuttings from these. Unfortunately Erica then disappeared in the direction of the Japanese gardens and I lost her, so I was left with a highly visible bag of swag. This led to some ducking and diving, to avoid the driver of a tractor mower, who was probably somewhat bemused by the mad English visitor popping up her head above a bush to say bonjour whilst hiding her body from view, perhaps he though I was taking a pee!
I thoroughly enjoyed dallying about in the Japanese gardens, a shady woodland secton filled with Rhododendrons which must be spectacular in flower, prompting us to consider a revisit next May. There were bamboos, wonderfully scented jasmines, topiary and statuary, set around a meandering series of streams and dry pebble stream beds, with quaint bridges over and carp swimming in them, with a sighting of the occasional scattering moorhen. I got delightfully lost, but safe in the knowledge that just above me on the side of the valley was the rest of the estate calling to be explored.
Other delights awaited me, including a fabulous rose garden, and a water garden with wonderful dolphin statue, although the water was rather a toxic shade of lime green. There are just four gardeners working on the estate, and sadly in areas the lack of manpower was showing, with many weeds, unpruned bushes and crumbling landscaping. Overall though, if one looks past these issues, it was really a marvelous day out. I didn't get to a lot of the gardens, as I was enjoying my slow amble around the areas I found at random.
We rounded off our visit with a trip to the tearoom housed in the chateau itself. This is open in the mornings and again from 3 in the afternoon, lunch is available at the cafe at the entrance. The tearoom is well done, with Louis XV style furniture, a little bell to ring for service, and a charming young hostess who takes your order and brings your refreshments to you. We chose to sit outside under a large gazebo, this time the furniture was a little more in keeping with vintage metal chairs and large wooden tables. The menu was good and varied, with English tea, mint tea and other varieties, cafe of course and hot chocolate for me! We didn't partake of the puds, as we had pastries awaiting our return to the car.
Our drinks were served in pretty and elegant china (the tea) and large handmade studio pottery cups with mismatched saucers (coffee and chocolate) which was all very chateau chic. Macaroons accompanied the beverages. It was a suitably lovely way to round off the day. I'd definitely recommend this trip to others. An ideal place to take visiting family or to suggest to paying guests.