La Basse Cour: B&B near Alencon, Normandy

Normandy B & B : Gardens to Visit

Gardens in Normandy, Gardens in Pays de la Loire

Garden Tours in Lower Normandy & Pays de Loire

Garden visits : these are some of the best gardens in Normandy and Pays de la Loire - we have visited these gardens in person and any that we didn't enjoy either don't get mentioned, or we tell you here.

All these gardens are recommended but our favourite gardens are marked

1. Jardins de la Mansonière, Saint-Céneri-le-Gerei, Normandy (Orne)

In the Alpes Mancelles on the northern outskirts of St-Céneri-le-Gérei, one of the "Most Beautiful Villages of France", are the equally beautiful Gardens of la Mansonière. In mid-April each year the wonderful gardens of the Mansonière at St Céneri reopen for the season - we try to visit this garden several times each year as the owners (Michèle and Philippe Manson) are constantly adding new features to it - be it a new sculpture, additions to the plants and shrubs, a redesign of the beds, etc.

  1. The Rose Garden
  2. The Moon Garden
  3. The Tranquil Garden
  4. The Perfumed Garden
  5. The Patio
  6. The Courtyard
  7. The Garden of Contrasts
  8. The Nuttery
  9. The Gothic Garden
  10. The Promenade and Clearing
  11. The Green Room

At the entrance/exit there is a small gift shop and a tea room with terrace garden for refreshments.

There are seats and tables scattered in quiet corners all around the gardens for the visitor to take a rest and breathe in the scents and the atmosphere of the garden.

The gardens are one of the first places we recommend guests to visit in summer - they are so close it would be silly to miss out on such a gem!

The gardens also have special "Nocturnes" several times a year, evenings when the pathways are lit by candles, music is played along the walkway, and the evening ends with a concert of classical or music, giving a truly magical atmosphere and a memorable night out.

An added bonus for us is that we're only 20 minutes away from St Céneri, so we can visit the gardens whenever we have a free morning or afternoon (alas, somewhat rarer than we would like in the summer due to our B&B commitments!).

Opening Hours

The Gardens of the Mansonière at St Céneri are open every afternoon (14h30 to 18h30) except Monday and Tuesday from June to end of August, and on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from mid-April to end of May and first two weeks of September. Entry is 6 euros for adults and children over 12, 3 euros for 6-12 year old children, under 6 yo free.

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2. Ballon, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire - Gardens du Donjon de Ballon (30km, 30 mins)

Ballon is at a strategic point in the Sarthe, between Mamers and Le Mans. An ancient outpost guarding the entry to the Maine, the Donjon de Ballon has a spectacular setting on a rocky outcrop looking northwards over Normandy with superb panoramic views of the surrounding countryside from the garden ramparts. It has been classed as a national monument for almost a hundred years. Nearest parking is in the small square at the top of the hill near Ballon Mairie. The château and gardens of Ballon are down a narrow street from this square. There is more parking further on into Ballon in the main square near a hotel/restaurant.

The château Donjon of Ballon is surrounded by medieval and renaissance gardens which display topiary, fruit trees, old-fashioned roses, clematis, paeonies and viburnums.

May and June, gardens only open every Saturday and Sunday from 14.30h to 18.30h.

1 July to mid August (19th-ish) every afternoon except Thursday the gardens open from 14.30h to 18.30h for visits and guided tours of the keep interior. Also mid-September for the "European Heritage Weekend".

For more info see

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3. St-Biez-en-Belin, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire - Jardin d'Atmosphère "Garden of Atmosphere" Petit Bordeaux (80km, 50mns)

One of our favourite gardens in all of France, awarded first prize in the 2007 'Top des Parcs' competition judged by garden experts and journalists. The owners created the garden from scratch, starting in 1987. Designated 'Garden of Note' by the Ministry of Culture.

A veritable maze of a garden covering 4 acres, packed with plants both common and unusual (huge variety of day-lilies) with water gardens, trees, shrubs, perennials, ornamental grasses and old rose varieties.
We rarely leave without buying something from the plant nursery.

1 April to 15 November, every day except Tuesday, 10.00h to 12.30h and 14.00h to 19.00h

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16. La Pellerine Gardens, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire - Jardin de la Pellerine (80km, 1hr 30min)

Another "very favourite" garden!

We are particularly taken by some of the specimen trees and shrubs dotted throughout the grounds, and some of the biggest plants of gunnera manicata we have ever seen.

The garden is divided into sections linked by narrow paths and terraces: these are variously identified as the terrace garden, the English garden, the water lily garden, the 4 seasons walk, etc.

The gardens of the Pellerine were extended a couple of years ago and now stretch well beyond the formal plan provided to visitors. We estimate that the gardens now cover approximately 6 acres, but they may be even larger - in any case, make sure you don't miss the new water gardens which lie to the east, beyond the "plan d'eau et le grand bassin" (#3 at the bottom of the plan).

Plan of La Pellerine Jardins

Opening Hours

First Sunday of May to second Sunday of October, the gardens are open Thursday to Sunday and Public Holidays.

Thursday and Friday 10h00 to 18h30 Saturday, Sunday and holidays 14h00 to 18h30

You can access the gardens via the village of la Pellerine or turn directly off the N12 down a rather rough track.

Tel. +33 (0)2 43 05 93 31

We recommend you combine the visit to la Pellerine gardens with a visit to another Pays de la Loire garden a short distance to the north, Jardin des Renaudies at Colombiers-du-Plessis. Les Renaudies is totally different style of garden.

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21. Athis de l'Orne, Normandy - Garden "Intérieure à Ciel Ouvert"

"Intérieure à Ciel Ouvert" translates roughly as "A Room Open to the Sky". Benoît and Dominique Delomez have created this garden from scratch since 2000 and they only opened it to the public in 2011. The two artists have created a superb contemporary garden in a very short time.

The garden is in the town of Athis de l'Orne in Normandy; it covers 3000m2 and is packed with features, more than you would think possible in the space - it feels much bigger than it really is and we spent well over an hour exploring it. Water is used to good effect in a variety of features, ponds and rills.

We visited in late September 2012, and everything still looked fresh and well looked after. It is more than worth the journey, especially as it could be combined with a visit to Chateau de Carrouges or Chateau de Sassy, both of which are directly on the route.

Even the drive to the garden was a delight, taking the D2 from Alençon to Carrouges, then the D909 as far as Fromentel then the D924/D20 to Athis de l'Orne. This is not the fastest route, but it takes in some truly beautiful Normandy countryside and forests. It took us a little over an hour.

Open May to September from 2pm to 7pm.

May, June and September Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays only; July and August every day except Monday.

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22. Acquigny, Normandy - Gardens of Château d'Acquigny


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17. St-Christophe-en-Champagne, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire - Jardin La Massonnière (70km, 45mns)

PLEASE NOTE The old gardener retired in 2011 - our visit in August 2012 showed that either standards have slipped or the garden is in recovery/under reconstruction following a period of neglect. We will revisit eventually in the hope that the gardens are recovering!

We first visited in June 2010 and were delighted to find a superb garden, deservedly awarded garden prizes in recent years. Designated 'Garden of Note' by the Ministry of Culture and on the supplementary list of Historic Monuments of France.

The manor house of La Massonnière dates from the 15th century, with additions in the 17th and 18th centuries, but the present day gardens were laid out in 1949 among the existing orchards, fields and woodlands bordering the property. It was designed to incorporate the manor's ancient fortified walls and arches. In 1988 the artist Joel Moulin made further developments and opened the gardens to the public - hence its soubriquet "un jardin d'artistes". His direct family continue to care for the garden.

The garden at La Massonnière incorporates a formal French gardens with topiary, a walled vegetable garden, mixed borders, an "English landscape" garden and a woodland garden with a shady pond.

Open June to September, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 13.00h to 19.00h

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20. Essay near Alençon, Orne, Normandy - Gardens of Manoir de La Bonnerie (20km, 25mns)

This garden closed at the end of 2014 due to change of owners. At present it seems unlikely it will reopen.

A garden that first visited in 2009, and a favourite which we have re-visited several times each year. The garden has not been in existence for long but the owner, Sabine Dunais, has made enormous strides in a short space of time and is aiming to win the label "Jardin Remarquable" eventually. The garden is in the grounds of a beautifully restored manor house and it occupies a slope looking over the town of Essay - it is a lovely location and the town itself is well worth a wander, too. Special events, gardening courses, craft fairs etc. are held on occasion from spring to autumn in the gardens.

Open last weekend of May to end of August, Saturday and Sunday afternoons from 14h30 to 18h30. Normally you're free to wander but on some Sundays there are guided visits by the owner at 15h30.

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19. Rémelard, Orne, Normandy - Garden of La Petite Rochelle (55km, 50mns)

A garden first visited in August 2010, and an instant favourite. Winner of the "Parc des Parcs" prize in 2006 and from the variety of planting we could see it would be a great garden to visit at any time of year - if only the opening days weren't so restricted (see below).

The entrance to la Petite Rochelle (22 rue du Prieuré, Rémelard) is totally unprepossessing - so much so you might miss it - but once inside a magical garden unfolds before the visitor. Count on about 1 to 1.5 hours to explore it properly; it is not enormous in surface (about a hectare) but it has many nooks, crannies and interesting features to explore, and it is liberally peppered with seats that invite you to take a pause at every turn. Take advantage of them and take your time - we went around the garden twice on our visit!

The garden at La Petite Rochelle is generally of the English, informal style with an emphasis on plants. The plants include national CCVS collections of daphne and pieris but you don't need to be a plant expert to appreciate it. It is divided into a number of interconnecting "rooms", painstakingly developed between 1976 and the present day by Helene d'Andlau (cousin of Peter Wolkonsky, creator of the Jardin de Kerdalo) and her daughters.

Opening times are fairly restricted but it is so exceptional that we strongly recommend a visit if you are lucky enough to be here at the right time.

Open one weekend per month in April, May and June.

Open every day during the main French holiday period mid July to mid August BUT NB Afternoons only, 13h00 to 19h00.

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18. Louplande, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire - Château de Villaines (65km, 45mns)

Another one of our late garden discoveries, first visited in July 2010, and on the notable monuments and gardens list of the Ministry of Culture in France.

The Château de Villaines is built on the site of a medieval fortress, of which you can still see the moat on the southern side. The present buildings aree XVII century and Villaines is typical of châteaux from that period, being aligned east to west with main windows facing north and south, long and slim to allow light in from both sides.

Château de Villaines main feature is its 2.5 acre formal "potager", or fruit and vegetable garden, which is divided into raised square beds and surrounded by a garden wall. That said, the rest of the grounds are also very attractive and pleasant to wander around.

The Château de Villaines is not easy to find unless you know where it is! It is down an alleyway on the D309 road, halfway between Louplande and Chemiré-le-Gaudin.Château de Villaines and its garden are in the same area as the Manoir de Massonnière - they are only about 16km (10 miles) apart, so it makes sense to visit the other if you are visiting one.Open all of June, July and September every day from 10h to 12h and 14h to 18h (NB closed in August)2010 entry fee: 4€

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4. St-Christophe-le-Jajolet, Orne, Normandy - Garden and Château de Sassy (45km, 40 mins)

normandy gardens

Near St-Christophe-le-Jajolet is the 18th century Château de Sassy. A visit to the gardens (free) can be combined with a guided visit to the château interior. The garden is a tracery of clipped box hedges and yew, the parterres picked out in pink gravel and laid out below the towering terraces of the château. At one end of the garden is a charming orangery, framed by limes. The current gardens were designed by Achille Duchene in the mid-1920s.

normandy gardens

Open from Easter to end of September Saturday and Sunday afternoons 15.00h to 18.00h.

Open every day from mid-June to mid-September mornings 10.30h to 12.30h and afternoons 14.00h to 18.00h.

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5. Vendeuvre, Calvados, Normandy - Gardens and Château de Vendeuvre (100km, 1hr 10)

A visit to Château de Carrouges in the morning can be combined with a visit to Vendeuvre in the afternoon.

The Château of Vendeuvre was built in 1750 by Alexandre le Forestier d'Osseville as a summer residence; it has been occupied by the same family for over 250 years. The château is a perfect illustration of a French stately home and has preserved its original decor and furniture.

The orangerie houses a Museum of Doll's House Furniture with more than 700 pieces of furniture and thousands of other tiny reproductions.

Around the château are three superb gardens: a garden in the formal French parterre style, a vegetable garden and the famous water gardens.

Open May to September daily 11.00h to 18.00h. October Sunday afternoons 14.00h to 18.00h.

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6. Beaumesnil, Calvados, Normandy - Gardens and Château de Beaumesnil (115km, 1hr 20)

normandy gardens

The present day gardens were constructed in the 18th century.
Formal French gardens with superb vistas, box tree maze, lakes, motte and 120 acres of parkland. The chateau also boasts a superb moat and is open for visitors.

Open from Easter to June 30th Friday to Monday, from 14.00h to 18.00h. July and August open every day from 11.00h to 18.00h. September open every day except Tuesday, from 12.00h to 18.00h.

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7. Champ de la Pierre, Orne, Normandy - Gardens of the Château (45km, 50 min)

normandy gardens

A wide beech avenue leads from the château to the lake which is surrounded by woods, meadows and orchards. Follow the path along the water's edge to find little landing bays, a maze and follies in the château grounds.

Open mid-July to end of September mornings 10.00h to 12.00h and afternoons 14.30h to 18.30h.

In July and August also visit the fascinating old forges nearby at les Forges de la Pierre.

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8. Préaux-du-Perche, Orne, Normandy - Garden François (45km, 45 mins)

normandy gardens

Le Jardin François is a garden in the Perche region extending over 8 acres with a whole range of different habitats including wildlife friendly ponds. It is packed with a huge variety of flowering plants and shrubs, one of the highlights being the rose garden (best in its first full flush, usually late June).

It is open all year, from sunrise to sunset, but obviously is better seen at some times of year than others.

The Jardin François is near to another garden, the Parc du Château de Lorière at La Rouge - see below.

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9. Monceaux-au-Perche, Orne, Normandy - Gardens of Manoir du Pontgirard (50km, 50 mins)

normandy gardens

Near Monceaux-au-Perche is the 16th century Manoir du Pontgirard. The manor house sits among terraced gardens picked out by yew hedges.

Open from May to end of September, Saturday and Sunday afternoons 14.30h to 18.30h.

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10. La Rouge, Orne, Normandy - Gardens of Château de Lorière (50km, 50min)

normandy gardens

The park of the château de Lorière is in the English "landscape"style, alternating lawns, woods and groves of exotic trees collected from foreign lands all arranged to give a sequence of set "views" of the house and the garden features. A walk through the gardens also gives a number of lovely views of the Perche countryside that surrounds it. In addition to the park itself there is a magnificent kitchen garden and a rose garden with hundreds of old varieties, many beautifully scented.

Open weekends from 1 May to 30 September, 10.00h to 12.00h and 14.00h to 18.00h.

The Parc du Château de Lorière is near to another garden in the Perche region, the Jardin François - see above.

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11. Crouttes, Orne, Normandy - Gardens of Prieuré Saint-Michel (80km, 1hr 10)

normandy gardens

A succession of gardens such as the rose garden, the "physic" or medicinal herb garden and the iris garden are distributed around the priory buildings. The Prieuré Saint-Michel is built in the half timbered, colombage style that some consider typical of Normandy bocage and it is in a lovely valley setting. The grounds also include an orchard, a wildflower garden and small water lily pond. Worth a look if you're visiting Camembert which is nearby.

Open Wednesday to Sunday from 1st May to end of September, afternoons only from 14.00h to 18.00h.

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12. Le Lude, Sarthe, Pays de la Loire - Park and Château du Lude (100km, 1hr 20)

The Château du Lude is the northernmost of the major Loire Valley châteaux. This impressive château is just south of Le Mans and not far from the gardens of Petit Bordeaux at St Biez-en-Belin. Different parts of the château reveal its origins as a medieval fortress, then a Renaissance château, with final additions in the 18th-19th centuries. It has been in the same family for 250 years.

The extensive grounds, which run alongside the river Loir, include a formal French parterre, woodland and a rose garden.

Open from 1 April to end of September every day except Wednesdays in April, May, June and September.

Gardens can be visited 10.00h to 12.30h and 14.00h to 18.00h; tours of the château interior afternoons only, 14.30h to 18.00h.

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13. Champ du Bataille, Eure, Normandy - Gardens and Chateau du Champ du Bataille (140km, 1hr 30min)

normandy gardens

The chateau of Champ du Bataille boasts a magnificent garden based on the classic French style but with many modern twists. The old gardens had fallen into disrepair and disappeared virtually without trace until the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the chateau, which is situated next to one of the best golf courses in France.

An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden.

This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes - 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the chateau du Champ de Bataille.

normandy gardens

Château du Champ de Bataille gardens are open weekends and public holidays from Easter to end of October, from 14.00h to 18.00h.

May, June, September open every day 14.00h to 18.00h.

July to August open every day 10.00h to 18.00h.

Château du Champ de Bataille interior is open for "audioguide" visits on weekends and public holidays from Easter to end of October, from 15h30 to 17h30.

July to August open every day 15h30 to 17h30.

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23. Bellême, Pays de la Loire - the Garden of Bois-du-Puits, Belleme (35km, 30mns)

Le Bois du Puits has been designed by its owners as a botanical garden, so all the plants are labelled. Over 2000 different plants are grown in this garden of 4.5 hectacres (over 13 acres) which is on the site of a former plant nursery at Serigny on the outskirts of Belleme. The whole is sub-divided into different gardens including the "Flirty Garden", "For the Birds", "In the Mirror", "Trompe l’oeil", "Easter Island" and many more.

Le Bois du Puits is open from May 1 to September 30, Friday / Saturday / Sunday and National Holidays, afternoons from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

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24. Montmain - Gardens of Angelique (185km, 2hrs)

We first visited this on holiday 15 years ago and in 2014 decided it was time to return. Gloria and Yves Lebellegard started this garden in 1989 in memory of their elder daughter Angelique. Since her husband's death, Gloria has continued the task with the help of her daughter Claire. Yves loved roses and the garden contains over 2000 varieties. The XVIIth century mansion looks down on two gardens.

  • North of the house, a dreamy, romantic garden has been created, with grassy paths winding between beds rich in plants and shrubs.
  • The south garden is formal and Italianate, with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary.

Benches and seats are thoughtfully dotted throughout the garden. Beautiful at any time of year (the images in the slideshow are photos we took in October 2014, just before it closed for the season) but Gloria recommended we come back to visit the garden end of May/early June when the roses are in their first flush. Personally, we loved the garden in October!

Open daily except Tuesday 1 may to 15 October, 10am - 7pm. Also Tuesdays in May and June when the roses are out.

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14. Colombiers-du-Plessis, Mayenne, Pays de la Loire - Jardin des Renaudies (85km, 1hr 30min)

At Colombiers-du-Plessis the English-style botanic garden of Jardin des Renaudies covers 10 acres. 3000 different shrubs, trees, and herbaceous plants, topped of by an "ecomusée" in the former farm buildings, give the visitor an unforgettable floral experience.

Open April to mid-October Tues - Sat 13.30h - 18.00h, Sun 14.00h - 19.00h.

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15. Giverny - Monet's Gardens and Museum at Giverny (210km, 2hrs)

One of the most famous gardens in France, perhaps the world, Monet's garden at Giverny is at the limit of where we would propose for a day out, but has to be mentioned as it is so famous. If you want to see the famous water lilies their flowering season normally starts around the end of June, but the gardens are full of colour throughout the spring, summer and autumn.

Open daily except Mondays from 9.30am to 6.00pm from 1st April to 1st November.

The neighbouring Impressionist Museum, with works by artists who stayed at Giverny, is well worth a visit at the same time as Monet's home and gardens.

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