Postcard from France

Gallery images – the garden at Eyrignac Manor in France. Does it reflect the hand of Russell Page asks Deryn Thorpe.

Deryn Thorpe is continuing her sojourn in France and sends a postcard from the Loire Valley and sheds a new light on the famous gardens of Eyrignac.

I’m in France, staying in a chateau near Angers (top of the Loire valley) with 16 friends from Perth and husband Bill. We are having a wonderful time walking around the lake and extensive grounds and enjoying the extravagant decor. Recently we were in the medieval town of Sarlat in the Perigord region (famous for walnuts and duck) where we stayed for a week with different friends and visited the gardens of Eyrignac manor.

I’ve taken garden tours to Eyrignac twice before and always enjoyed the formal, French-style garden. The house and gardens have been in the family since the 17th century and all the literature provided by the gardens promotes ancestor Gilles Sermadiras de Pouzal de Lile as the designer, who spent several years building the gardens with his young son, completing them in 1965.

The brochures provided by the garden promote Gilles Sermadiras’s great skill as an amateur designer.  I’ve always thought that the layout was refined and professional with very skilful use of perspective and during this visit I discovered that initially, Gilles Sermadiras ordered plans from professional landscapers, Russell Page and Loup de Vianne.

I’ve seen many gardens designed by Russell Page, a British landscape architect who from 1945 until 1962 lived and worked in France and enjoyed an international practice. His design aesthetic was founded in French landscape design, emphasising “control” over the landscape, strong geometry, parterres, statuary, and terraces. He is a true master of landscape design.

This design is what I see when I visit Eyrignac. I love the hornbeam alleys, avenues of pots and English-style neo-gothic arcades, beautiful, floral white garden that takes advantage of landscape views and the terrace that enhances a false perspective, a technique that requires a masters’ touch.

Additions to the gardens, created by the current family, are a flower garden that in autumn are full of colourful dahlias, flower meadows and vegetable gardens with bright orange pumpkins. I loved the informality of these spaces that contrast so well with the French formality of the other garden rooms.

The gardens are enhanced by beautiful stone buildings, including the manor house, which is still used by the family, Roman chapel and dovecot.

Do visit if you are in the area and let me know whether you think that a professional may have played a bigger role in the design than is acknowledged by the family.

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