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Just five miles from Dieppe on the Alabaster Coast in Upper Normandy, Varengeville-sur-Mer has enjoyed a long association with artists, gardeners, and aristocrats. Since 1898, when Sir Edwin Lutyens arrived to design Le Bois des Moutiers for Guillaume Mallet, this small leafy village has developed strong links with the British garden community which continues today. We will be visiting the garden of Robert Mallet, grandson of Guillaume, to see his exceptional collection of hydrangeas, as well as the late Princess Sturdza’s renowned creation at Le Vasterival. We also take time to meet the new generation of talented gardeners and plantsmen in their very private woodland gardens of great merit.
Kirsty exchanged a career in academia (she is a PhD specialising in French philosopher-novelists) for a life in gardening. Trained at Capel Manor, she was head gardener at Mapperton in Dorset during the early nineties, where a series of fortunate encounters opened the door to garden writing. As well as writing a weekly column for The Express, for many years she was a frequent contributor to Gardens Illustrated, House and Garden, Country Life, The Times, The Telegraph and The Independent. In 2003 she moved to SW France, where she continues to explore the possibilities of her own (very forgiving) garden – when not travelling, writing or leading tours.
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We take the Eurostar from London St Pancras to Gare de Calais-Fréthun and meet the coach for the drive down to Normandy. Lunch is included at Château de Miromesnil with owner, Mme Rometet, who will show us the working potager and grounds of this beautiful Renaissance château. We then drive into Dieppe to check in at Hotel La Presidence before a short walk to a local restaurant where we dine together.
In the leafy outskirts of Varengeville we meet Robert Mallet for a guided tour of his remarkable collection of Hydrangea (thought to be the most comprehensive in the world) thriving beneath a plantation of Paulownias. After lunch at a local inn, we are invited to Le Vasterival, the famous woodland garden in the Gardenesque style. Created by the late Princess Greta Sturdza of Norway, it is now owned by her nephew and his wife, Irene, who continue to develop and care for the garden. Under sensitive direction, the superb team of gardeners are ensuring Le Vasterival is reaching a new peak of excellence and charm. Return to Dieppe for another relaxing evening exploring the town or at the hotel.
Today we visit three contemporary gardens, all with views to the sea. The first is a woodland garden, 30 years in the making, now described as ‘one of the most exciting new gardens in Europe’. This picturesque woodland garden is set in a dell dramatically overlooked by the owner’s strikingly modern house. The passion, knowledge and enthusiasm of the owner ensure our visit to this garden will be very special. Lunch is at a local restaurant overlooking the sea. In the afternoon we are privileged to visit Le Vallon de Morville, the private garden of a supremely talented designer, the late Pascal Cribier. Before leaving Varengeville we visit another exciting private garden, this one just five years in the making, guided by its young and enthusiastic owner, plantsman Alexandre Anagonistes.
Leaving Dieppe, we travel to the woods above Eu to discover the Jardin Jungle Karlostachys, where Charles Boulanger and his father Michel have incorporated an astonishing range of sub-tropical plants to the forested hillside. Lunch follows at a local restaurant. We then return to Gare de Calais-Fréthun to catch the Eurostar back to London St Pancras.
Single Room Supplement from £175.00 (4 days).
Located in the city centre opposite Dieppe beach and the Les Bains de Dieppe aquatic and thalassotherapy centre, this comfortable hotel offers contemporary rooms with stunning sea views.
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