Situated in a bucolic valley in between Le Touquet and Abbeville, the abbey of Valloires has a rich history. It was founded in the 12th century and many wars left its scars more and more and by the 17th century the place was completely in ruins. The abbey was then completely rebuilt and the works were finished by 1730. Unlike many abbeys in France, this one survived the French Revolution rather unscathed. Nowadays it is a place were children with special needs or difficult behaviour get fostered. You can visit the abbey with a guided tour.
But the real reason of our visit is the beautiful garden next to the abbey. In 1987 garden designer Gilles Clément created this big garden, using a different approach. The 5000+ plant species are not organised by botanical properties, but more by there aesthetics. This is most visible in the Island gardens. The different “islands” are filled with plants, trees, flowers that all have a certain color in common. But let me take you on a small journey through the gardens.
First part you encounter after entering the garden is the regular garden. This very formal garden draws your eye straight through the abbey. A plant cloister, made out of yew hedges is an exact replica of the footprint of the real cloister of the abbey. A vast lawn is surrounded with beautiful flower borders. Blue flowers at your right, white flowers at the left. When you go up the stairs you pass a wonderful walkway lined with Japanese cherry trees. and some steps further up you arrive at the island gardens.
The island gardens are a real delight and discovery. Every island groups plants with the same foliage, bark, scent or blooms. It gives surprising combinations and it really works quite well. Nine different islands bring you in different atmospheres and guide you towards the garden of 5 senses.
This garden contains a vegetable garden that is used to provide the restaurant of the garden with fresh produce (it was full when we were there, so book in advance if you want to have a table to have lunch). It also invites you to use your sense of smell, touch, hearing and sight on a pleasant and educational way.
More recent is the Evolutionary garden, created in 2004. It contains plants that span a timeline of about 400 million years. It starts with the ferns, ginkgo trees and the more you climb the stairs the more the plants are up on the evolution ladder. The garden is in honour of Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck, who was a French naturalist and the first one who came up with a theory of evolution. On top of the garden there are 3 garden rooms that represent the research work of Lamarck : study of clouds, geology research and his creation of a Chair of Biology at the Natural History museum.
Now we go back down and get back in a formal setting in front of the abbey : the rose garden. The roses are put in squares and the colours get more vivid the more you approach the abbey. Unlike a classical rose garden, here you’ll find them in combination with ornamental vegetables, perennials and medicinal plants. This gives the borders year round intrest and not only when the roses bloom. 80 varieties are on display and also include some local ones (Rose de Picardy, Jardins de Valloires, Rose de la paix …)
Last but not least you also have a lovely shady marsh garden. The calming effect of the bubbling water makes this a pleasant spot on a hot day. And than we ended with what was the most frustrating part of our visit… the garden center ! They had such a lovely collection of roses and perennials that are not so commonly available. But with hot weather and being just at the Start of our little holiday I had to look the other way and leave without one of those beauties.
A beautiful garden in a beautiful setting… hope to visit it again in the future.