We love to visit gardens when we’re in the UK, so discovering there was a jardin a l’anglaise just down the road from the La Chouette put a ‘must-see’ right at the top of our list. We were lucky enough to go in June, still early in the season, on a really hot sunny day. We weren’t the only people with the same idea. There were pockets of people drifting through this 35,000 m2 floral park as we wended our way through the five feature gardens, but we still managed to capture plenty of photographs with barely a soul in sight.
We saw no sign of the miniature steam train – Chemin de Fer Touristique du Tarn – as we crossed the narrow gauge railway just inside the entrance. No doubt the sound, sight and smell of locomotive add further to the gardens’ character in high season. They surely give parents and grandparents a welcome promise of excitement for accompanying young ones, who somehow never find shrub borders, rose beds and specimen trees quite as appealing as we grown-ups.
As much-travelled garden aficionados, we weren’t holding our breath for the Jardins des Martels to top some of England’s finest, but we certainly weren’t disappointed. Although fairly new, and only open to the public since 1994, the gardens offer a range of pleasing vistas and novel features. Bags of colour, shape, texture, scent and, much appreciated under the baking sunshine, shade and water.
One feature we particularly enjoyed was the mini farm. Sure to be a hit with the kids, this corner of the gardens is home to some 150 animals. We encountered goats, sheep, llamas, hens with baby chicks, donkeys, terrapins, frogs, toads, giant carp and, in all their velveteen antler glory, a herd of deer.
Flora we ticked off in our I-Spy book included water lilies, hostas, roses, jasmine, spiraea, iris, agapanthus, hydrangea, cistus, potentilla and smoke bush.
All in all a pleasant way to spend a few hours and to remind yourself of the beauty of nature.
Jardins des Martels is at 81500 Giroussens, Tarn, France. Open 10am to 6pm daily from May to August; 1pm to 6pm in April and September, and four afternoons a week in October. More information at www.jardindesmartels.com