Explore the eastern Loire valley from Nevers in the south east up to Orleans in the centre. Many people come for the châteaux, but there are some glorious gardens in this part of France:
- Ainay-le-Vieil - Themed gardens around an old château
- Jardins de Drulon - Gardens of delight and art
- Apremont Floral Park - A water garden
- Notre-Dame d'Orsin - A former monastery makes a beautiful series of gardens
- Château de la Bussiere - A serious kitchen garden
- Parc Floral de La Source du Loiret - A family park where the Loiret river rises
- Jardins de Roquelin - A children's fairytale
Themed Gardens around an old Château
Walk through the towering gateway and you enter the main courtyard of a feudal château that has stood here since the 1300s. Remarkably it has remained in the same family since 1467. While you can go round the chateau and see the rooms and delightful objects accumulated over the centuries, it’s the gardens that are most remarkable.
Laid out to one side of the château, the garden offers a wonderful panorama of different themes. Long canals of still water, their banks planted with different colored flowers; a series of five ‘rooms’ called Les Chartreuses with a different feel to each one. You'll see a thoroughly English-inspired herbaceous borders, reminiscent of the gardens of Gertrude Jekyll; a garden designed for meditation with a delightful fresco of St. Francis of Assisi talking to the birds; rustic benches; ornate knot gardens with gracious wooden treallises taking your eye further; a garden where the scent of roses is almost overpowering, and a poet’s garden. It feels like a vast jewellery box as you walk through and new vistas and new ideas are revealed.
Rue du château
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 48 63 36 14
Ainay-le-Vieil is south west of Bourges at the most southern end of the Loire Valley region.
Open March 1 to 31, October 1 to November 15 Wednesday to Monday 10am-noon & 2-6pm
April 1 to September 30 Daily 10am-noon & 2-6pm
July 1 to August 31 Daily 10am-7pm
Closed December, January and February
Admission to both chateau and garden Adult 8.50 euros, child 5 to 15 years 4 euros
Garden only Nov 1 to April 30: Adult 5 euros, child 5 to 15 years 3 euros
Garden only May 1 to October 31: Adult 7 euros, child 5 to 15 years 3 euros
Jardins de Drulon
Gardens of Delight and Art
In the heart of the rolling, beautiful countryside of Berry, the château de Drulon was originally built in the 15th century with later, 17th-century additions. It’s a big estate which fell into disrepair and was rescued in 1998 by Piet and Nanou Hendriks. They have restored the castle and with the help of landscape architects, have produced a series of gardens that flower from spring to autumn and are full of contemporary installations and sculptures.
You enter down a path sheltered by ancient oak trees then walk through an orchard into the 17 hectares of gardens. The colors are vivid; perfumes fill the air; there are climbing plants covering walls, arches and pergolas, flower banks, fruit trees and a 17th-century gazebo. Roses fill one part; banks of azaleas and rhododendrons offer shade in another of the nine garden rooms; another is designed as a wild garden with the walk along an old Roman pathway taking you through the trees to a pond and view over the valley. Art works fit into the charming landscape, complementing the experience of this delightful place.
00 33 (0)2 48 56 65 96
Open April 17 to October 1 10am-7.30pm
Weekends in October
Admission 8.50 euros
Apremont Flora Park in the Cher Department of the Loire Valley
A Floral Park with Water Gardens
Apremont-sur-Allier is listed among the ‘most beautiful villages of France’, an official honor awarded to some of the stunning small villages that dot the countryside. Within the medieval village, the Apremont Floral Park is delightful, a series of small pools along with a waterfall and lake providing the settings for some fantasy structures. A small pagoda stands on a Chinese-style bridge, a pretty belvedere has scenes from around the world of Comedie Italienne puppets on a journey to places like India, China and Apremont itself.
There are lawns and pergolas heavy with wisteria and climbing plants, and a section inspired by Vita Sackville-West’s ‘White Garden’ at Sissinghurst in England. It’s a wonderful place with superb plantings from herbaceous borders to massed banks of flowers that bring color from Spring to Autumn. There’s also a carriage museum in the large former stables, an exhibition and the castle to visit as well.
00 33 (0)2 48 77 55 06
Open March 31 to September 30 Daily 10.30am-12.30pm & 2-6pm
Admission Adult 8.50 euros, child aged 7 to 12 years 5.50euros, under 5 years old free.
Notre-Dame d'Orsan in the Loire Valley
A Garden Created in a Former Monastery
Once a monastery, now a truly beautiful garden and a very chic seven-bedroom hotel, the Prieuré Notre-Dame d’Orsan is a major attraction. The gardens spread out from behind the warm stone buildings with passages of wooden arches, stone paths and clipped hedges giving the feeling of an old cloister around a central vineyard. Beyond this the gardens open up with a meadow grown for hay, a splendid kitchen garden with borders of sweet-smelling herb, a rose garden, a berry path where soft fruits grow, and an orchard with more than 20 varieties of apple trees.
The Maze Garden epitomizes what this garden is about. It harks back to both antiquity and the later Christian version of the difficult path to Paradise in concept, but there's also a thoroughly modern approach to mixing plantings and recycling.
If you want the full experience, then you should stay and eat here as well.
00 33 (0)2 48 56 27 50
Gardens open April 27 to September 29 daily 10am-7pm
Groups all year by appointment
Admission Adult 10 euros, child less than 1m10 high 5 euros
Chateau de La Bussiere Gardens
A Serious Kitchen Garden
Apart from being a beautiful castle in a stunning location, this is the place for fishermen and vegetable growers. Inside the château, originally an important castle separating Ile de France from Burgundy, the art works are all associated with fish and fishing.
Outside, the 70-hectare park and lake were designed by the great French landscape architect and gardener, Le Notre, during the reign of Louis XIV. It’s a wonderful place to wander around. But only if you can tear yourself away from the fascinating potager, or kitchen garden. Constructed in the 18th century, it’s a vast walled garden of fruit trees, flowers and historic vegetables, many of which are making a 21st-century comeback. It’s a serious venture with 65 varities of pear trees, and 42 different apple trees, espaliated into wonderful shapes according to historic rules. They’re grown without chemicals, using natural compost and yes, you can buy them. In the summer months, they operate a pick-your-own soft fruit policy so you can stock up with juicy, perfectly ripe berries.
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 35 93 35
Open First weekend in April to October 31 Wednesday to Monday 10am-noon & 2-6pm
July and August daily 10am-6pm
Admission adult 8 euros, child 5 euros
Parc Floral de La Source du Loiret in Orleans
A Perfect Family Park
Open March 31 to September 30 10am-7pm
October 1 to November 7 10am-6pm
November 8 to mid-March 2-5pm
Closed December 25 and January 1
Admission Adult 6 euros, child 6 to 16 years 4 euros, under 6 years free.
Also see Gardens of the Western Loire Valley
Jardins de Roquelin
From a Child's Fairytale Book
The garden feels as if it should be the setting for a children’s story. It’s quite small, but with an English rose garden, pergolas, a kitchen garden and small vistas made out of hedges pruned into gateways. It’s the sort of place that makes you want to rush home to try out a few of their ideas in your own patch. And there’s a very good garden shop full of tempting pots, cloches, statues and candlesticks.
00 33 (0)6 70 95 37 70
Open April 27 to October 13 Wednesday to Monday 10am-6pm
Admission 5 euros
Also see Gardens of the Western Loire Valley
Where to Stay in the Eastern Loire Valley
Plenty of choice of hotels and upmarket bed and breakfast places means you can move from one to another, or stay in one place to explore the Loire Valley gardens.
- Les Vieux Guays
rte des Hauteraults
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 36 03 76
Five charming guest rooms in this secluded and peaceful chambres d'hote (bed and breakfast), originally a hunting lodge in the Sologne. Have breakfast on the terrace looking out at the park. Excellent set menu at 30 euros per person. Double room is 85 euros per night.
The location is ideal for the Ch&acurc;teau de la Bussieres gardens.
- Domaine de Montizeau
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 45 34 74
Pretty bed and breakfast in a 17th-century hunting lodge surrounded by lawns and gardens. Bedrooms are decorated in comfortable, traditional style and antiques fill the rooms.
It’s just a few minute drive from Beaugency and near Meung-sur-Loire and the Jardins de Roquelin.
Rooms 1 person 75 euros, 2 people 85 euros including home-made breakfast. Set dinner is 30 euros per person.
- Le Grand Hotel de l'Abbaye
2 quai de l'Abbaye
Tel.: 00 33 (0)2 38 45 10 10
Sleep in a former monk's cell, now transformed into delightful rooms, at this 12th-century abbey. Great views from some of the bedrooms, terraces and garden.
Rooms from 119 euros per night.