The Sarthe, it is much more than the rillettes, and the 24 Hours of le Mans! This beautiful department, as one does, quite often, that cross on the road of the beaches of Brittany, holds yet more treasures. To begin with, its gardens are steeped in history: the great, which sometimes dates back to the Middle Ages and the, oh so touching, these men and women who provide light.

In their book Gardens of emotions in Sarthe , Josiane Couasnon, president of the section of Fine Arts of the national Society of horticulture of France (SNHF), and Sylvie Granger, a historian at the university of le Mans, have twenty of these exceptional places that their owners open to the public from spring to autumn, or during particular events. As the “rendezvous to the gardens”, organised by the ministry of Culture each year on the first weekend of June. We visited five.

Ball: the gardens of the fortress Simon Lagoarde/Waap.en

Built on a spur of rock, the strong place of the Eleventh century, offers a breathtaking view on the north of the Sarthe, but also on the department of the Orne river, where spread of the invading normans. “today, the wind turbines were replaced!”, plague Emmanuel Guéroult by designating the new threat that loomed on the horizon. With his sisters, Suzanne and Virginia, our guide, has taken up the torch of his father, John, who, once restored the built in ruins, began to create ex nihilo by beautiful gardens. “Here, there was a field of corn”, says Emmanuel through the long avenue of lime trees, bordered by hostas, viburnum and climbing roses that leads to the enclosed garden inspired by medieval miniatures. In this mineral universe, the plantations, harmonious and solid foundation, come to soften the ancient fortress they reveal angles unusual. As the birthplace of beech from where the visitor can see the dungeon through arrow slits carved in the foliage. Great art! Awarded last summer by the readers of the Maine free who elected the castle Ball “the most beautiful monument in the Sarthe” (contact: www.donjondeballon.fr).

“home-garden” of Nuyet Simon Lagoarde/Waap.en

15 km to the south, in the town of Savigné-L’évêque, the “home” of Bernard and Laure Artru appears in majesty at the end of an avenue of lime trees pruned each in its own way. “We didn’t want an alignment too straight” , explains the master of the house, a mansion of the Fifteenth century completely reconfigured two centuries later, in the style of the Lights and in which the family lived for thirteen years. Behind the monumental entrance gate, an atmosphere of serenity, unfortunately, troubled by the new high speed line against which Laure has dug out the ax of war. The buildings, preserved by their former owners from the ravages of modernity and beautifully restored, have remained “in their juice”. A manor whose inhabitants lived in isolation. Thanks, in particular, in the vegetable garden of one hectare, laid out today in “rooms” is bounded by hedges: “the east” with its cornus, maples and pine trees in clouds, the “square colors” in which the tones change every year and the room for grasses” , , in which Bernard, a surgeon, likes to collect in the morning before returning to his patients as a contact: 06 07 36 00 97).

Gardens in the plural to Sanded-sur-le-Loir Simon Lagoarde/Waap.en

In the extreme south of the department, the field of Sanded-sur-le-Loir brings together a galaxy of the universe very different. The Renaissance château, with its majestic steps and six ramps, with most 160 grounds allegorical carved in stone, cohabiting with spectacular ruins of neo-gothic, built three centuries later to the side of the cliff. This madness of the 1830s is among the 250 selected sites for the “lottery heritage” hosted by Stéphane Bern. Side gardens, large lawns with ornamental tulips arranged in a diamond, or in the arc of a circle, leads to a maze of topiary trees with the branches tortuous, in the middle of which stands a sycamore, monumental. Without forgetting the Italian-style garden created in the 1930s, to the rear of the castle, by the architect Flandrin. Owners of the premises since October 2010, the painter Guy de Malherbe and his wife Marie-Hélène organise from April to September with exhibitions of contemporary art as well as open-air concerts (contact: www.chateaudeponce.com).

Chateau de Villaines: a garden of exception Simon Lagoarde/Waap.fr

This is the end of a long alley, forest, the castle of Villaines, located on the town of Louplande, appears in all its splendour. Large areas grassed and is dotted with topiary yews and boxwood, adds to the luster of the imposing building of the Seventeenth century, located slightly below, while at the rear a wide opening, guide the eye towards the surrounding countryside, like a call to the reverie, in the purest tradition of English gardens. The vegetable garden of one hectare, entirely enclosed by high walls, is the other great attraction of the area. This beautiful space, long neglected, is beautifully redesigned and landscaped in the 1990s by the current owners in a classical style “à la française”, in perfect harmony with the castle and its dependencies. The symmetry of the squares, and alleys that lead to the pools and fountains of living water, the borders of boxwood, the cords of apple and pear, the large arches of climbing roses, and the diversity of vegetables grown have earned this exceptional place, receive, in 2005, the grand prix of the national Contest of the kitchen gardens of the SNHF (contact: www.chateaudevillaines.fr).

Crannes-en-Champagne: the renaissance of the Mirail Simon Lagoarde – Waap!

Difficult to imagine the state of abandonment in which was the area of the Mirail when his owners made the acquisition in 1987. “Only the big trees and the roof of the manor emerged from the jungle” , remembers the painter Thibaut de Reimpré by appointing the elegant building of the early Sixteenth century, fully restored. After years of clearing, of research, of trial and error, the garden, designed as a series of tables, exudes a peace and charm of good. Seen through the long perspective lawned, bordered by yews and the topiary which descends in a gentle slope from the terrace, with the pins of Spain altiers who go to the conquest of the stars, the small rectangle of water dressed lily with its two cork-trees, trimmed into the clouds in front of which one sits to meditate, the citrus fragrant orangery Nathalie, roses ubiquitous and are, for the most impétueux, in the canopy of the trees… It leaves the Mirail with regret, but with the firm intention of returning to it (contact: 06 85 94 18 70).

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