Known for its famous Hortillonnages, or floating gardens, Amiens is no stranger to greenery — in fact, it’s the 4th greenest city in France. But many forget the understated Jardin des plantes, which dates back to the 18th century and is thus one of the oldest in France. Louis XV gifted it to the commune in 1751 on the condition that it be turned into a botanical garden… and no one disobeys the king. Today, you can admire its flourishing and thriving collections as you walk along its paths that cover a hectare. There is also a magnificent greenhouse in the style of Napoleon III that is open for visits. Far from the hustle and bustle, and yet only a 6-minute walk from the city centre.
01. Urban garden
02. Art garden
It’s a chicken and egg story, what came first: the garden inspired by the artist or the artist inspired the garden? Visit Zuytpeene, in Flandre, and you can meet Gerard Guio, a poetry enthusiast who sows the seeds of rhyme and beauty in his own lush Odyssey. An idyllic garden that he built around his 18th-century Flemish farm a dozen years ago. He brings the fertile land to life with the sounds of Alexandrines and the flowing water of ponds, fountains and waterfalls that he loves so dearly. Water lilies, daisies and irises flourish harmoniously in this naturally-grown Eden, offering the perfect rhyming couplet to the views of Mont Cassel. This warbling gardener will take you on a visit like no other, fusing botany with verse.
03. Château garden
A royally verdant spectacle fit for a king, with a majestic path that appears to have no end. That’s right, it’s the quintessential garden à la française: a sight of near orderly perfection. One of the most splendid examples of such mastery is the Domaine de Chantilly, designed by André Le Nôtre, who also designed the gardens of Versailles. Grandiose water jets, fine sculptures and scintillating pools… a fusion of noble sights and sounds that will put you on the throne of nature. Fancy something more organic and unrefined? The Domaine’s English gardens are what you need! Take in your picturesque surroundings and enjoy a stroll chaperoned by swans, aquatic birds and gracious waterfalls. Be sure to check out the Temple of Venus and the island where Eros reigns tall… true works of art. The banquet isn’t over, as we also have the illustrious Anglo-Chinese garden that inspired Marie-Antoinette, topped off with a tasting of Chantilly cream in the Le Hameau restaurant. An extravaganza for all the senses.
04. Fanciful garden
Nadège is the whimsical dreamer behind La Goutte d’Eau, located in La Caloterie, on the road to Montreuil-sur-Mer. Her passion for all things green shines through as she takes you around her many English-style gardens, each with their own theme that evolves as the seasons pass. Whether you choose lounge or tea time, you’ll be captivated and enveloped by the peaceful atmosphere: the serenade of the melodic water, the subtle aromas of rose bushes and hydrangeas, and the antique mood personified by the flea-market treasures. And just wait until you see her amazing watering can collection!
05. Children’s garden
Parc Mosaïc, in Houplin-Ancoisne on the outskirts of Lille, is a great day out for all the family. Every one of its ten gardens represents a different country for kids to explore, through a mixture of architecture, contemporary art, flora, games and events. A wonderful idea intended to pay tribute to Lille’s multicultural population from all four corners of the world. Children will delight as they travel the world, learning about new cultures while also having fun with the bark beetle maze, goblin’s path, the hill of grass, musical games and hammocks. Guides are available to ensure everyone, both big and small, understands all the fine details.
06. Meditation garden
Meditation requires calm surroundings to help us achieve that oh-so hard goal of ‘letting go’. It’s not easy to push the troubles of daily life aside; our brains are just too good at thinking of a million things at once. It’s time to learn how to disconnect and find the perfect balance between body and soul. There are many zen gardens, including the Ly gardens in Sénarpont, inspired by Japanese feng shui. Or there’s the medieval-inspired gardens at the Abbaye de Vaucelles, a remote Cistercian abbey near Cambrai. If you’re looking to fix some natural imbalances, check out “La Bible”, where they grow medicinal plants mentioned in the Bible. After a stroll around “La Bouqueterie”, comprising three patches of perennials, you can continue on to the belvedere and admire the views across the abbey and the Vallée de Haut Escaut. Round off your meditative retreat with a visit of the monastery itself, which holds the largest chapterhouse in Europe and features magnificent ribbed vaults.
07. Garden for world peace
It’s no accident that the idea for the Jardins de La Paix sprung from the Hauts-de-France region, one of the worst affected by the First World War. Gilbert Fillinger, Director of Arts & Gardens and the man behind the project, talks of a “contrast between peace and the violence of war.” Found at some of the Great War’s major battlegrounds, the 15 gardens have been designed by landscapers, artists and architects from 35 warring nations, highlighting both the international dimension of the conflict and the potential power of unity. A constructive way to pay your respects and help restore faith in humanity.
08. Medicinal gardens
Inspired by the strict, wise and reasoned lifestyle of the Carthusians, the Jardins de la Chartreuse de Neuville offer a rainbow of floral, medicinal and edible plants. One in particular truly stands out, the Vavilov connected garden. You’ll be amazed by this visionary work, inspired by the Russian agronomist, geneticist and botanist who devoted his life to cultivated biodiversity and understood the issues of environment, climate, food and health that lay ahead. A true pioneer. The gardens have been designed in accordance with traditional medicinal principles, including the botanical cloister with its 54 flower beds and nature trail. You’ll come away having learnt something new and with a few new plants in tow.
09. Gourmet garden
On the site of a former stately farm, visit this kitchen garden that dates back to the era of Napoleon III and was designed by landscaper Louis-Sulpice Varé. The Jardin potager des Etournelles, located in Breuil-le-sec in the Oise department, measures over 43,000 square feet and is as charming as they come, rightly earning its classification as an ‘Historic Monument’. The plot, beautifully lined with boxwood, perennials and fruit trees, is home to a variety of beds teeming with market fruit and vegetables, flowers, aromatic plants and a thriving collection of cucurbits. Continue your visit with a walk through the English park, whose pond and island are surrounded by mighty trees. And before you leave, be sure to admire the magnificent, 17th-century harvest barn.
10. Sensory garden
While Gilles Clément may be uncategorisable, he considers himself first and foremost a gardener. And his aura can be felt throughout the Cistercian Abbaye de Valloires, whose gardens are his creation. Located in the bay of Somme, this masterpiece of bucolic art has won several awards and is a showcase of flora and biodiversity, in tribute to Picardian naturalist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck. Laid out in islands, the gardens are based around five different themes that take you on a sense-arousing journey of discovery. There’s the quintessential French garden; the tropical garden with its unique decor made of various bark and foliage; the prairie; the garden of Evolution, which recounts the history of man’s relationship with plants and the marsh garden, a reminder that the river Authie runs through the estate. On top of that there’s the fantastic rose garden, home to the famous Rose of Picardy, especially designed by David Austin for the Valloires garden to celebrate L’entente Cordiale between France and England. Our favourite is the garden of 5 senses, which brings all your senses alive at once. Here, you don’t just look at nature; you smell it, touch it, hear it and taste it too… so energising!