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Private Gardens of the Ile de France

Courances Gardens

Last week I got to spend six days guiding Keith Kirsten’s group of South African garden enthusiasts around the private gardens of the Ile de France (organized by the Académie des Arts de Vivre). Here are just a handful of the hundreds of photos I took.

French garden

We visited gardens of every size and type, from chateaux and arboretums to tiny home gardens (like the one above) and even the Courson Plant Festival.

french garden show
Chateau de Courson and the Gardening Show
Cute succulents at Courson.
freak of nature geranium
Amusing plant names at Courson.
courson garden show
More flowers at the Courson Garden Show
Private garden
A private garden — but not a tiny one!in Fleury-en-Bière
Fleury-en-Bière Garden entrance
Fleury-en-Bière entrance
persian garden
A “Persian” garden in Fleury-en-Bière.
iris garden
Irises and decorative garlic at St Jean de Beauregard.
Ladybug at St Jean de Beauregard.
French garden
The Conservatory of Holly
Chateau de Courances
Courances garden
The Gardens of Courences
plane tree
What plane trees look like if you leave them alone! Each of those boulders are big enough for four people to sit on them, easily. At Château de Courances.
Gardens Courances
A gorgeous alley at Chateau de Courences.
Bois de Fay Gardens

The weather was fabulously warm and sunny for the month of May (alas, not so great for the thirsty trees and flowers). Many of the plants flowered three weeks early this year.

fat peony
A fat peony in a private garden, Bois de Fay.
Chateau de la Madeleine
The restored ruins of the Chateau de la Madeleine, overlooking the Vallée de la Chevreuse.
Chateau de Breteuil
The gardens of the Chateau de Breteuil.
garden topiary
Topiary at Château de Breteuil
Chateau de Breteuil
One of the chateau owners gives us a tour of his family’s home.
Another gorgeous tree, this one at Les Grandes Bruyères
Grands Bruyères
Maples and Heather shrubs (aka bruyère en français) at Les Grandes Bruyères.
Vaux le Vicomte
More accessible to the general public, the candlelight nights at Vaux-le-Vicomte are a must-see.
Group with watering can
Keith and some of the tour members pose with the garden sculptures. How could I not have fun with a group like this?
Heather on bench
Caught sitting down on the job (I was just testing the view from the bench, I swear!)


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  • Does anyone here know how many privately-owned gardens are within the Pais PeripheriqueÉI have heard for years its only about 400, from tiny to huge…

  • Wonderful pictures. Love the one of you "testing" the bench. As much as I love gardens, it shames me to say that I've never gone looking for the gardens in the Ile de France. Too much time at Harry's (or Jacques Melac's bistro a vin) I suppose.

  • As we say in South Africa, how "lekker" (proche de "sympa") There must be a whole sub-set of touring opportunities in France for gardening-enthusiastis, what with the secret gardens of Cahors and of course, Monet's gardens at Giverny etc. Thank you for sharing some of your photos, Heather!

  • Ooooh gorgeous photos Heather – what a lovely time you had!And I must second the previous commenters recommendation of the Musée Albert Kahn out at Boulogne (only a few steps away from Métro Pont de Saint Cloud the end of the line 10). The gardens there are GORGEOUS, and it's designed in such a way that each time you visit, according to the seasons, it's different. Highly recommended.

  • Why does no one ever talk about or refer out of country visitors to the Albert Kahn Musee and Jardins–no one seems to know about them?As a New Yorker soon visiting Paris, I happened upon a web site purely by accident and heard about Albert Kahn through a tv program on our Public Broadcasting System.