Jardins de Berchigranges9th July 2015 • Stephanie's Blog • Stephanie Donaldson
When you travel hundreds of miles to see a garden there is always the slight worry that it might be a disappointment – Berchigranges was as far from disappointing as it gets. Set on steeply sloping land amongst the forests of the Vosges Mountains in eastern France it is a series of gardens ranging from the hornbeam-enclosed Chambre des Dames planted with fragrant flowers and with wooden parquet (!) paths, to the Bohemian Garden which is a cross between an alpine meadow and a prairie garden.
There is water everywhere rising from the several springs on the property, some channelled into ponds and some flowing in small streams weaving through the gardens.
When Thierry Dronet arrived here in 1978 there was no garden and he was no gardener. He wanted to live close to nature and bought the land which consisted of an abandoned granite quarry planted with a conifer plantation. He taught himself the skills of a woodsman to clear the land and became a skilled carpenter in the process. He built the house around a near-ruin and later the many characterful buildings around the garden. He began collecting flowers from the wild and became more interested in making a garden which led him to visit a nursery in nearby St.Die where he met the owner Monique. He persuaded her to come and see Berchigranges and she promptly fell in love with both the man and the garden.
With her plant expertise and his design skills they have created a place that is subtle, beautiful and enticing and full of surprises. It is a real garden of the senses where sound and smell is as important as sight and you feel you could linger a lifetime. Not that Thierry and Monique do much lingering – the upper half of the garden consists of a number of immaculately maintained gardens with enviably perfect (and organic) lawns and grass paths – the lower half, with the Bohemian Garden is less demanding but requires intelligent management to look so naturalistic.
The plants are vibrantly healthy and the plant combinations are superb. I saw some wonderful plants that are new to me including Hydrangea Invincibelle (ordered this morning from crocus.co.uk) and Thalictrum delaveyi ‘Splendide’ one of which I brought back from France.
There is so much to say about this garden that I have followed up with another post and more photos that can be seen here : Berchigranges Part 2.