Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Glorious Normandy gardens - Chateau de Boutemont - a 16th century jewel in the heart of Calvados country

Chateau de Boutemont is a wonderfully romantic castle with gardens in Normandy
If you're in Normandy soon, make sure to visit Chateau de Boutemont in Northern France - a moated, fairy tale castle in the middle of the countryside near Lisieux. It's been home to many different families since its construction in the 16th century, but is now owned by Monsieur and Madame Sarfati, who are committed to restoring the property to its former glory and have recently employed French landscape architect, Georges Hayat to help them. But even before further work begins in this garden, this is a wonderfully romantic property to visit, with its ancient buildings, immaculately-clipped topiary and rolling landscape.
Everywhere you look, there are timber-framed houses, plants thriving in pots and fine topiary
You park in a field near the chateau just before the huge entry gates and if the side gate is closed, ring the main doorbell, because the opening times are clear - Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 10.00-12.00 and 14.00-18.00 from April to November. When we arrived at 10.15 on a Wednesday morning in June, we were greeted by closed gates and hurriedly checking the literature we'd been given by the local tourist office, were lurking at the entrance when a stony-faced lady emerged and asked what we wanted. 
The 16th century chateau takes centre stage in this immaculately-kept garden
Undeterred by her approach (and extremely grateful to my travelling companion, who speaks fluent French and explained that we had driven specially to see the gardens), we were directed to a side gate, which madame unlocked. We paid our entrance fee and entered the magical world of Chateau le Boutemont. We felt like lords of the manor for a couple of hours, because, as the only visitors, we were able to meander through the four hectares of gardens undisturbed, with no other company except head gardener Monsieur Liabeuf, who was busy at work.
The chateau overlooks an Italian-style pool - the water lilies start blooming in June
The chateau and its 12 acres of formal gardens and grounds are approached down a winding lane from the nearby village of Ouilly-le-Vicomte and once inside the gates, you realise this property is really special. There are numerous timber-framed buildings in the grounds, ranging in size from garden huts to garage blocks, and the sloping hillside garden gives magnificent views over the honey-coloured chateau at its heart. The view from outside is very different to within, because it is the four circular corner turrets that catch your eye (top and bottom), while the interior walls of the chateau (below) look like the timber-framed houses that you find throughout this part of Normandy.
The central courtyard at Chateau de Boutemont - surrounded by timber-framed buildings
Start by wandering all the way round the chateau to admire the different buildings and get the lay of the land and then cross the ancient drawbridge to enjoy the courtyard within, and then look out over the reflecting pond below, which begins to fill with water lilies in June. In days gone by, the moat around the castle was filled with water, but today it is dry and the only indication that this was once a fortified home is the ancient drawbridge at the entrance to the property.
Immaculately-clipped yews and ancient pots entice you along gravel pathways at the rear of the chateau
The garden around the chateau is quite small, but is one of the most romantic I've seen yet and on a par with Cothay Manor in England for antiquity and ambience. There is a tiny Neo-Gothic chapel in the grounds, built in 1880, complete with gilded altar and approached by moss-covered steps. Elsewhere there is the huge glasshouse, filled with seedlings and nursery plants waiting to be planted out in the grounds. Gravel pathways have been laid down to the north of the chateau to provide straight walkways alongside the immaculately clipped topiary
The Neo-Gothic chapel, built in 1880, sits near the entrance to Le Boutemont
The heart of the former edible garden lies adjacent to the glasshouse, and it was here that all fruit and vegetables would have been grown for castle residents in years gone by. There are the remains of an orange grove, and a kitchen garden area that would have once provided all that the chateau needed to survive. It is this area the new owners are concentrating on and they have plans to make a new feature here, inspired by Italian Renaissance style, complete with sculptures representing the nine Muses.
The former kitchen garden and glass house, where the gardener grows seedlings and nursery plants
The position of Chateau Le Boutemont makes it an ideal garden to combine with others in Normandy that I'll be reviewing in the next few weeks, including the Jardins du Pays d'Auge, an eye-catching series of themed garden rooms created around a 17th century farm. All are easily accessible from the Channel ports of Dieppe and Caen. For other French garden ideas, see Le Bois de Moutiers and Les Jardins Agapanthe.
For more gardens to visit in France and England, click here

2 comments:

  1. What a wonderful garden, and great pictures too. You were lucky to be able to get in without any people there, you get to feel the experience alot more.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is beautiful Charlotte! I am particular to the pool and the chapel and its surroundings. -- Bom / Plantchaser

    ReplyDelete