The fifth season of the popular Open Gardens scheme begins in April with more gardens, a new website and a new Anniversary Card giving access to high-profile gardens of national importance as well as the privately owned gardens. This year, the association expects to have 200 gardens in 35 departments.
The scheme works by encouraging garden owners of all nationalities to open up their gardens, big and small, to the public to raise funds for charity.
Last year it raised a record €23,000 – with €12,000 going to A Chacun son Everest which runs courses in the Alps to help children and women in remission from cancer but who need help restoring their confidence after treatment. Another €4,000 was split between seven other charities.
President Mick Moat said: “We are very excited that we have succeeded in attracting some very high-profile gardens to the scheme. They are stunning and of national importance. We are launching our Anniversary Card at Easter to give them the status they deserve.
“This year we would like to attract more gardens, make a significant increase in the number of French participants, increase the donations we give to charity from €16,000 to €25,000, attend many more flower and plant festivals, including Chantilly in the spring and autumn, and we have redesigned our leaflets and publicity to increase our profile across France. We always welcome new gardens and coordinators.”
The association started in 2013 when four British gardeners in the Creuse decided to open their gardens to raise some money. The idea quickly caught on. It has also attracted the French gardening scene and enjoyed top billing at the prestigious Journées des Plantes de Chantilly last year. The association will have a stand at the 2017 spring and autumn events.
Participating gardens are open for a few days during the year. Visitors buy a €10 membership card which gives them access to any of the gardens for one year or pay €5 for a one-off visit.
The new style Anniversary Card is being launched at Easter. It costs €50 and gives access to the private gardens as well as six prestigious French gardens.
All proceeds from the purchase of the card go to Open Gardens. The first cards will be valid up to December 2018 but thereafter they will be valid for just one year. To find out more see the new website at www.opengardens.eu
Three Gardens to visit in April
Vaux-le-Vicomte (main image) is one of six French gardens open to the public which has agreed to join the Anniversary Card scheme. The others are the Arboretum du Château de Neuvic d’Ussel, Corrèze, Jardin de Kestellic, Côtes de’Armor, Arboretum de la Sedelle, Creuse, Abbaye de Morienval, Oise, Jardins Henri le Sidaner, Oise – and talks are ongoing to increase the list during the year.
The gardens of the Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte (www.vaux-le-vicomte.com) were one of the first to be created in what became the jardin à la française style. They were created for Nicolas Fouquet, the Superintendent of Finances for Louis XIV in the mid-17th century by landscape gardener André le Nôtre, who went on to design the gardens at Versailles.
The formal gardens were laid out along a three-kilometre axis to create a suitably stunning setting for the château.
Two itineraries have been created so visitors do not miss any of the details.
There are also acres of wilder parkland to explore with woodland and streams. Open Gardens’ new Anniversary Card scheme gives access to the gardens and grounds only.
Owner: Mick Moat
Open: April 16 10am-5pm
In April, spring bulbs should be at their best with 2,000 daffodils in flower, grown in 3 areas each with a different variety, and in the woods there are oxslips, cowslips, primroses, bluebells and fritillaries.
Owner – and Open Gardens president – Mick Moat has created a number of different areas in his 15,000m² garden including a bog garden, a wild flower area, a wildlife pond with five different coloured water lilies, a small woodland, a vegetable garden and around 150 shrubs which ensure colour throughout the year.
Owners: Chantal and Jean-Marc Choquet
Open: April 29 and 30 10.30am-6pm
This is a natural garden in an undulating landscape punctuated with rocky outcrops and with springs, an orchard, flowerbeds, medicinal plants and a large vegetable garden, where Mr and Mrs Choquet use the permaculture method.
They say this has been a great success and they have been surprised by the way it has increased biodiversity in their garden. Last year they found prized chanterelle mushrooms on their land for the first time.
Mr Choquet is looking forward to meeting other gardeners and says the visit will last about an hour and he will also open in June, July and August.