The first weekend of June in France is designated ‘Rendez-vous aux jardins’ – over 2300 gardens throughout France are open to the public (some by appointment only), in order to encourage people to see the remarkable gardens and parks of France – it’s the perfect time to discover some amazing gardens in Provence.
Provençal gardens are a play of light and shade, of shapes, forms and fragrances, and all are determined by the precious supply of water.
Provence gardens can be roughly categorised as follows: ‘classic’ gardens such as Château de Bourgane, le Jardin de Brantes and les Jardins d’Albertas; gardens round bastides (country houses) such as le Clos de Villeneuve, Romégas and le Domaine d’Orvès; ‘collection’ gardens such as the Jardin de plantes tinctorales or the Jardin de l’abbaye de Valsaintes, and contemporary gardens such as La Louve and Le pavillon de Galon.
Then there are also the magnificent vegetable gardens at Château Val Joanis, the ethno collection at the Jardins de Salagon, the fascinating town garden of Villa Santa Lucia in Marseille, the marine garden at Domaine du Rayol, and the lovely sculpture gardens at the Commanderie de Peyrassol.
Below are our recommended gardens to visit. Most of these have been classified by the Ministry of Culture as a Jardin remarquable (notable garden). A few of the gardens will have reduced rates on June 1-3, and some will host special events on that weekend. Download the full Provence programme details (in French only).
Bonnieux Le jardin de la Louve – a contemporary garden created in the 1980s by Nicole de Vésian, composed of Provençal vegetation on a succession of terraces. Open Thursday afternoon from 2.30- 5.30pm April, May, September and October; 3.30-6.30pm in June and July. (Times sometimes change. Check their website) Closed in August. Jardin remarquable
Cucuron Le Pavillon de Galon – A ‘reinterpreted’ French garden set around an 18th century hunting lodge. Ornamental pools, exceptional trees (magnolia grandiflora, plan trees and box) Open 6 weeks a year and by appointment 04 90 77 24 15. Jardin remarquable
Gordes Jardin du Palais Saint Firmin – A Mediterranean garden of 1000m2 set over several terraces including topiary olive trees and a beautiful view of the Luberon valley. Open on ‘garden open days’ or by appointment for groups.
Lauris Jardin de plantes tinctoriales (garden of plants used in dyeing) – Unique in Europe, this garden on the terraces of the Château de Lauris is dedicated to plants from which colours for paint, cosmetics, dyes and food are extracted. Open 8 May – 31 October, 10-12 & 2-7pm every day except Monday. Jardin remarquable
Pertuis Château Val Joanis – Ornamental vegetable garden, clipped box trees, flowers. Open 1 April to 2 November every day from 10am-1pm & 2-7pm. From 2 November, Monday to Friday from 10-12.30 & 2-7pm Jardin remarquable
Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt Les jardins du Château de Bourgane – Big avenues of trees and box with ornamental pools around an 18th century Provençale country house. Open Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays.
Sorgues Jardin de Brantes – Huge garden around an Italianate château. Pools, a 19th century box avenue and the tallest plane trees in France (26m). It was in this park that the Marquis of Brantes made the first ever hot-air balloon flight in 1789. Visits by appointment only 04 90 39 11 73 or 06 75 22 79 00
Bouches du Rhône
Aix-en-Provence Romégas – 18th century French garden around a typical Aix country house. Traditional box beds, hundred-year-old pines, ornamental pools & fountains and a Laurustinus labyrinth. Open May-October, 10am-12pm Mon-Saturday & Monday, Tuesday & Friday 2-5pm. Open all year by appointment 06 60 59 17 53 & 06 23 54 22 74. Monument historique & Jardin remarquable
La Barben Château de La Barben – Both the Château and garden are classified Monument historique. Topiary box trees, an avenue of plane trees, an ornamental circular pool where Napoleon’s sister Pauline Borghèse used to swim and a French-style garden designed by André le Nôtre, gardener to Louis XIV.
Bouc-Bel-Air Jardins d’Albertas – 17th century French, Italian-inspired, garden over four terraces with ornamental pools and fountains. Open by appointment 2-6pm weekends and public holidays from May to October and June, July, August every day from 3-7pm. Monument historique & Jardin remarquable
Marseille Villa Santa Lucia – 19th century terraced garden. Rockeries, caves, waterfalls and lovely views of the bay of Marseille. Open 8am – 2pm Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 1 July to 30 September. Open on ‘garden open days’, other days by appointment. Monument historique
Flassans-sur-Issole Commanderie de Peyrassol – The beautiful gardens round this 13th century Knights Templar command post are home to Europe’s biggest collection of huge sculptures. Beyond the park are dry stone terraces where the vines are cultivated. Open from 15 April -15 October Monday to Friday 9am-7pm & 10am-7pm Saturday and Sunday. From 16 October to 14 April, from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday and from 10am-6pm Saturday, closed Sunday in winter. Jardin remarquable
Gassin Jardin Botanique l’Hardy-Denonain – A marvellously eccentric terraced botanical garden. Open every day from 30 April to 15 October, except Thursday. 10-12 & 2-6pm. Sunday 3-9pm
Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer Domaine du Rayol – Le jardin des Méditerranée’s 7 hectares of different gardens. During the summer months it’s possible to visit the marine garden with a guide bearing flippers and snorkelling equipment in the Figuier Bay. Open every day from 9:30am (Closing times depend on the season). Monument historique & Jardin remarquable
La Valette du Var Domaine d’Orvès – Terraced garden around a Provençal country house. Ornamental garden with ponds and fountains. Open from April to September by appointment for groups of maximum 5 people. Monument historique & Jardin remarquable
Alpes de Haute Provence
Mane Jardins de Salagon – Ethnobotanic gardens & museum exploring the relationship between man and his environment. Includes a medieval garden, a medicinal garden and a scented garden. Open 1 February to 15 December. Closed Tuesday from October to April. Jardin remarquable
Mane Château de Sauvan – 5 hectares of garden, 200-year-old trees, 18th and 19th century statues and vases and ornamental pools. Open every day from 10-12 and 3-5pm. Monument historique & Jardin remarquable
Simiane-la-Rotonde Jardin de l’abbaye de Valsaintes – Botanic garden, collection of lavender plants, 550 varieties of roses and 350 different species of plants for arid conditions. Open from 2-6pm every day from April to October and from 1 May to 30 September, every day from 10:30am-7pm. Jardin remarquable
Valensole Clos de Villeneuve – three terraces of formal gardens and ornamental pools. Open by appointment 2-6pm April to September. Jardin remarquable
More details on the Provence-Alpes Côte d’Azur parks and gardens site.