Trees company: French arboretums to visit

From spring to autumn, arboretums across France provide visitors with a magical blend of botanical beauty and species safeguarding. Jane Hanks picks some favourites

November is a good time to plant trees and you can get inspiration from one of the many and varied arboretums in France. The earliest ones were created in the 19th century when explorers brought new varieties back from around the globe and their majestic specimens dating from that era now often reach 40 metres in height.
There are also contemporary ones, which can be either large and landscaped or small, specialising in a few selected species. As well as providing a beautiful place to visit, arboretums of today have an important role to play in preserving species in danger of dying out in the same way that zoos are trying to save
animals on the brink of extinction.

The Arboretum des Grandes Bruyères, Ingrannes, Loiret was created by Bernard de la Rochefoucauld in the 1970s to address this issue and he has also founded an association which gives financial aid to arboretums across France. Mr de la Rochefoucauld spent much of his working life abroad and admired the botanical conservation work of the British, Dutch and Americans and wanted to promote the same kind of spirit in France.

In his 14 hectare park, which he has donated to his association, Arboretums de France, there are 7,500 different trees and shrubs laid out according to their geographical origins. Planting started in 1973 and it has always been a chemical free zone. Its collections of magnolias, dogwoods (American and Chinese) oaks (mainly North American), cypresses, pines, firs and spruce are recognised at national level by the CCVS Academy of Specialized Plant Collections.

As well as the trees, the visitor can stroll though an English style garden, a French garden, an orchard and a vegetable garden, which have all been landscaped around the house. Highlights include 300 or so varieties of heather in pinks, reds, purples, whites and pinks.

Marie Degaey works for both the Arboretum des Grandes Bruyères and the Arboretums de France and says that the work by Bernard de la Rochefoucauld ...

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