The lofty heights of an Italian-inspired garden afford Sue Bradley a view over the Dordogne Valley, while at home it’s time to harvest pumpkins and clear up in the garden
The hanging gardens of Château de Marqueyssac, plus an expat’s garden
The hanging gardens at the Château de Marqueyssac, known as ‘ les jardins suspendus’, are one of the wonders of the Dordogne Valley; a rolling sea of sculpted box that exists in harmony with the verdant landscape surrounding it.
Situated some 130 metres above the river, and commanding panoramic views of the castles and villages of the Périgord, the 22-hectare park belongs to a château built during the 17th century by Bertrand Vernet, who commissioned a pupil of the celebrated landscape designer André Le Nôtre to create a fitting setting for his home.
The subsequent addition of more than 150,000 pruned box ( Buxus sempervirens), along with stone pines ( Pinus pinea), cypresses and Naples cyclamen ( Cyclamen hederifolium) to the terraces surrounding the castle, was the work of Julien de Cerval, who took on the château in 1866 and whose choice of plants was driven by his love of Italy. He also built gazebos and laid five kilometres of walks around the château.
After de Cerval’s death, the Bishop of Mantua – later Pope Pius X – visited, and his favoured spot under an archway of greenery is now known as The Pope’s Seat.
In 1996, the challenge of maintaining de Cerval’s creation was taken up by Kléber Rossillon, grandson of Marius Rossillon, otherwise known as O’Galop, the artist best known for creating the Michelin Man.
He oversaw the restoration and improvement of the park, including the clearing of pathways and terraces and reshaping of tens of thousands of box trees, the maintenance of which is carried out by a team of five gardeners.
Sculptures by Gérard Chabert and Alain de Cerval, a descendant of Julien, add a further dimension to the gardens, as do a waterfall that flows from nine cisterns carved into rock, and the presence of free-roaming peacocks and an aviary of exotic birds.
The gardens at Marqueyssac attract in excess of 200,000 visitors a year, some of whom choose to scale its via ferrata – a 200 metre-high rock face circuit – while others prefer the gentle ambience of candlelit evenings every Thursday in July and August. www.marqueyssac.com