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The Floral Park of Apremont

The Apremont-sur-Allier Floral Park is located around ten kilometres from Nevers, in the Berry region in the heart of France. It boasts an unbeatable setting, and seems to be frozen in time. The château, which stands on the left bank of the river, creates a stunning backdrop for it. A series of charming mediaeval houses stretches along the wooded banks of the Allier, each with their own little garden, topiary hedges, flowers and climbing plants. It was here that, in the middle of the 70s, Gilles de Brissac designed a landscaped park spanning over 12 acres that was to become a real masterpiece, combining the abundance of English gardens with the precision of French parks. The floral park is not only the château’s gardens, as Gilles chose to integrate it into the village and make it a natural extension of one of the most beautiful villages in France.

An english-style garden, a french-style layout

From the village of Apremont-sur-Allier, the transition to the floral park is smooth. The park gates open onto what used to be the village square, and is now home to the White Garden. The White Garden is a tribute to Sissinghurst Garden in Kent, and is also the starting point for the route though the floral park. The thick mixed borders include shades of white, silver, grey and green and stand out boldly against topiary hedges. The White Garden is home to a group of charming mediaeval houses set on a thick, perfectly manicured lawn, and four linden trees that have been there since the park was created.

The pathway leading away from it takes visitors under a fragrant canopy of Chinese and Japanese wisteria. This pergola, spanning over 100 metres in length, is planted with early and late types of wisteria, so that visitors can enjoy their blossoms for as long as possible, from mid-April to the end of May. The spring and summer borders surrounding this fragrant canopy change constantly throughout the year. Shy, colourful pansies and tulips brighten up the garden from the end of March, followed by roses, peonies, irises, alliums, alstroemeria, and delphiniums. The season closes with a spectacular collection of brightly coloured dahlias. All our annuals and perennials are labelled, so visitors can put a name to what they see throughout their visit.

The park may look like an English garden, but thanks to its many hornbeam topiaries, it retains a very French type of rigour. It’s crucial to Gilles that every garden has an architectural structure, and it’s in the French-style gardens that this structure really comes into its own. At the Apremont Floral Park, the lawn provides a link between the different areas and the clipped hedges help to define and frame these areas. It is this link between two garden styles that gives the Apremont-sur-Allier gardens their unique charm.

A garden with decorative structures

Ever since the very first sketches of Apremont Floral Park, Gilles de Brissac wanted to adorn the gardens with decorative structures. Also known as “follies”, these decorative structures, which were very much in fashion in English gardens in the 18th century, enhance the visitor’s stroll around the park and pay homage to Gilles’ creative and original thinking. There are three structures in the floral park: The Chinese bridge, the Belvedere, and the Turkish pavilion. They were all designed by Alexandre Serebriakoff, a Russian-born interior portraitist and close friend of Gilles.

The Chinese bridge was the first structure to be installed in 1985, and quickly became synonymous with the floral park. Its bright red colour stands out against the greens of the surrounding laws.
Employing his usual attention to detail, Gilles decided to use two types of materials to build this bridge. All of the parts that are in contact with the visitors’ hands are made of wood, while galvanised steel was chosen for the rest of the bridge due to its solidity and durability. The bridge is painted with a classic type of paint and then a glaze, reminiscent of the brilliance and beauty of Chinese lacquer. The edges of the roof and the spheres at the top are gilded with gold leaf.

The Turkish pavilion, dating from 1994, seems to rest on the water. It has been cleverly placed so that the visitor can see it fully from wherever they are looking from. Its appearance is reminiscent of the shores of the Bosphorus in Turkey and many of its elements are based on the traditions of the Ottoman Empire: The wrought iron designs depicting carnations, the crescent moon on the tip of the pavilion, and the green and white zellige floor tiles purchased from Tetouan in Morocco.
The four paintings inside were done by Jacques Roubinet, one of the residents of the village of Apremont in the 1990s. They illustrate the different stages of life through the seasons. The set of mirrors means that all the paintings can be seen at one glance, even though they are placed on all four sides of the pavilion.

The newest of the park’s structures, The Belvedere was built in 1997. It was inspired by the Pavlovsk Palace in Russia. The interior is adorned with large earthenware tiles made by the Montagnon ceramics factory in Nevers, based on paintings by Alexandre Sérébriakoff.
The paintings represent the journey of the Pulcinellas, characters from the traditional Italian commedia dell’arte, who set out to explore the world in search not of treasure, but of the most beautiful place to live. They set off from Venice, and after travelling through four continents, they finally decide to stay in the peaceful Apremont park, with its ponds, swans, and houses surrounded by flowers.

A garden full of remarkable trees and water

As you walk through Apremont Floral Park you’ll also come across the vast arboretum. A real haven for plant diversity, the arboretum offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in an impressive collection of trees from all over the world: Japanese maples, tulip trees, weeping beeches, gingkos biloba, sweetgums, giant sequoias, and bald cypresses, in the tradition of botanical collections from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors can familiarise themselves with the richness of the arboreal flora, admire the varied shapes and foliage, and enjoy the calm and freshness that reign supreme in this natural garden of Eden.

To bring water to the park, Gilles had a new water point built in the 70s, in the meadow overlooking the gardens. This reserve is fed by a system of gravity from streams in the forest and overflows from other ponds further inland. This is the reserve that supplies the garden’s small ponds today, which contribute to the charm and balance felt in Apremont Floral Park.

Overlooking the Chinese bridge, the waterfall is one of the gardens’ most striking features. Nestled in a former quarry bed, over 650 tonnes of rock had to be moved in order to create it.

The Apremont Floral Park is so much more than just gardens. It’s a journey through time, space and human creativity, and an ode to nature and the art of gardening. Whether you’re a keen botanist, photographer, or simply looking for a relaxing stroll, Apremont Floral Park is a treasure not to be missed in the heart of the Berry region.