HomeTop StoriesFrom labyrinth parks to exotic paradises: the floral splendor of Brittany

From labyrinth parks to exotic paradises: the floral splendor of Brittany

Oriane Jouno runs her finger over the palm-sized pseudo-blossom of the Hong Kong dogwood. As if painted, the color changes from cream to light pink. “It is one of our rare woody plants in the park,” says the 35-year-old Frenchwoman, who with her family manages the enormous Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne near Fougères.

It was her plant-mad father Alain Jouno who set up the park in 1994 in the eastern part of Brittany, on the northwestern Atlantic coast of France. Where only shrubs used to grow, today 24 themed gardens celebrate the art of landscape architecture.

The Japanese garden at the country house exudes tranquility with carefully raked gravel. In the water garden, on the other hand, grasses, perennials and shrubs sway in the wind. In a pond, pyramid-shaped bamboo islands protrude from the water. Via curved, arched and hanging bridges the visitor is led through the plant kingdom, past rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas to the hydrangeas that radiate such blue that they almost appear artificial.

In Brittany, considered the land of hydrangea, huge shrubs populate even the roadsides.

Artfully tailored treetops

In the Jardin du Château de la Ballue, a 17th-century castle in Bazouges la Pérouse, the arrangement of yew, hornbeam and boxwood requires extreme precision. A gardener carefully adjusts the cord perpendicular to the hedge before taking up his shears. Perfectly shaped cubes and spheres pay tribute to the art of pruning in this castle garden.

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“A garden is not an exhibition of plants,” says Marie-Françoise Mathiot-Mathon, “it is the overall composition that counts.”

The owner of the castle pursues one goal with her garden artwork: beauty. And so visitors walk through this garden as if on a well-composed theater stage, where even the crowns of tall pine trees have been modeled.

With its sublime parterre of geometric shapes and symmetrical paths, the complex initially appears to be a Baroque garden, but it was actually created in the 1970s. Intertwined paths lead through 13 sub-gardens, including a labyrinth – baroque garden fun reinterpreted!

Subtropical garden with a view

“Gardens are the only remaining luxury of our time,” says Guirec Maréchal. A former war correspondent, he fulfilled a dream in 2021 by acquiring the garden of Le Kestellic in Plouguiel, near the pink granite coast of Brittany.

There is a height difference of 80 meters over the 7 hectares of the garden. The Breton works tirelessly on the dense park, cutting through the greenery to provide views of the picturesque bay of the Jaudy River. “I seek an aesthetic balance between unbridled nature and my landscape designs,” he says.

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About 1,800 plant species from five continents thrive in the hidden oasis, including some exceptionally tall subtropical tree ferns. With their enormous fronts they form an exotic mini jungle. And aren’t old-growth forests seen as a disappearing treasure in our world?

Designer gardens in a flower frenzy

Another person who has joined Brittany’s beautiful botanical scene is French shoe designer Christian Louboutin, who acquired the Jardins de Kerdalo in the Côtes d’Armor department in 2021.

For Louboutin, both in fashion and in his garden, it’s all about shapes and colors. His private park in Tredarzec remains open to the public and visitors can stroll through this vast realm of wonder, amid a sea of ​​flowers that radiates the colors of an impressionist painting.

In Kerdalo, water flows everywhere: from stairs, in canals, through an Italian cave and further into ponds and a lake. Under the gigantic leaves of the man-sized mammoth leaf (Gunnera manicata), visitors feel transported back to the beginning of time itself.

A garden around the castle

Anyone who enters the vast Domaine de la Roche-Jagu also embarks on a journey through time.

“After terrible storm damage, a young landscape architect had the opportunity to create a contemporary garden around the 15th-century castle, but inspired by the Middle Ages,” says park director Fabien Dumortier.

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“We are fully committed to biodiversity.” You can spend hours here wandering through the various fruit and herb gardens or strolling under the pergolas – all the way to a camellia grove with its 350 species.

Rarities found in a fishing village

Plant rarities from the Southern Hemisphere crowd at the foot of a granite rock in the Jardin Exotique et Botanique de Roscoff. In this small fishing village on the northern Atlantic coast, succulents, agaves and cacti compete for attention among 3,500 subtropical plant species in a well-organized and easily accessible space. “For example, our many sugar bushes (protea) are a bit reminiscent of South Africa in Brittany,” says Jean-Michel Moullec of the civic association GRAPES, which manages the garden.

Even more exoticism envelops the visitor on Île de Batz in the Jardin Georges Delaselle, named after the botany enthusiast who created a landscape garden with exotic plants on the car-free island near the village of Roscoff from 1897 onwards. It is an oasis in the Atlantic Ocean with tall palm trees and banana trees – thanks to the Gulf Stream, which has given this Breton island a particularly mild climate.

The Jardin Georges Delaselle is an Atlantic oasis with tall palm trees and banana trees.  Daniela David/dpa

The Jardin Georges Delaselle is an Atlantic oasis with tall palm trees and banana trees. Daniela David/dpa

The Japanese garden in the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne is a place of tranquility.  Daniela David/dpaThe Japanese garden in the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne is a place of tranquility.  Daniela David/dpa

The Japanese garden in the Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne is a place of tranquility. Daniela David/dpa

The enormous Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne contains 24 themed gardens that celebrate the art of landscaping.  Daniela David/dpaThe enormous Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne contains 24 themed gardens that celebrate the art of landscaping.  Daniela David/dpa

The enormous Parc Botanique de Haute Bretagne contains 24 themed gardens that celebrate the art of landscaping. Daniela David/dpa

Le Kestellic's garden offers beautiful views of the picturesque bay of the Jaudy River.  Daniela David/dpaLe Kestellic's garden offers beautiful views of the picturesque bay of the Jaudy River.  Daniela David/dpa

Le Kestellic’s garden offers beautiful views of the picturesque bay of the Jaudy River. Daniela David/dpa

Floral madness in the vast Domaine de la Roche-Jagu park in Brittany.  Daniela David/dpaFloral madness in the vast Domaine de la Roche-Jagu park in Brittany.  Daniela David/dpa

Floral madness in the vast Domaine de la Roche-Jagu park in Brittany. Daniela David/dpa

Brittany is considered the land of the hydrangea.  Daniela David/dpaBrittany is considered the land of the hydrangea.  Daniela David/dpa

Brittany is considered the land of the hydrangea. Daniela David/dpa

The Jardin Georges Delaselle is named after the botany enthusiast who created a landscape garden with exotic plants on a car-free Atlantic island from 1897 onwards.  Daniela David/dpaThe Jardin Georges Delaselle is named after the botany enthusiast who created a landscape garden with exotic plants on a car-free Atlantic island from 1897 onwards.  Daniela David/dpa

The Jardin Georges Delaselle is named after the botany enthusiast who created a landscape garden with exotic plants on a car-free Atlantic island from 1897 onwards. Daniela David/dpa

Shoe designer Christian Louboutin acquired the Jardins de Kerdalo in Brittany in 2021.  The Gulf Stream flowing through the northwestern French region helps create the perfect climate for lush gardens and parks.  Daniela David/dpaShoe designer Christian Louboutin acquired the Jardins de Kerdalo in Brittany in 2021.  The Gulf Stream flowing through the northwestern French region helps create the perfect climate for lush gardens and parks.  Daniela David/dpa

Shoe designer Christian Louboutin acquired the Jardins de Kerdalo in Brittany in 2021. The Gulf Stream flowing through the northwestern French region helps create the perfect climate for lush gardens and parks. Daniela David/dpa

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