THE GARDENS OF CHÂTEAU DE BRETEUIL
Set in the heart of the Haute Vallée de Chevreuse Regional Natural Park (Parc naturel régional de la Haute Vallée de Chevreuse), the gardens of Château de Breteuil are listed by the French Ministry of Culture as ‘Remarkable Gardens’. The magnificent Park, which covers 300 acres, is the perfect place to enjoy walks which become a magical process of discovery.
The French style Gardens form a magnificent backdrop to the castle.
Magnificently refurbished at the end of the XIXth century on both sides of the château with its north-south perspective, this garden owes much to Henri de Breteuil, grand-father of the current Marquis de Breteuil. From 1897 to 1903, with the help of the French landscape architects Henri and Achille Duchêne, he redesigned the gardens to provide the Château with the formal majestic setting that visitors see today. The Duchênes created glorious views both to and from the castle, especially when an ornamental lake called ‘Water Mirror’, dominating the Vallée de Chevreuse, came into being. They redesigned and renovated the lawns and paths, borders were planted with yew mosaics and topiary bushes.
The French Garden is reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of the Parterre d’Eau at Versailles Palace, created by its famous landcape designer André Le Nôtre. While introducing this classical style, the Duchêne brothers retained much of the original layout. The Cedar of Lebanon, planted in the times of Queen Marie-Antoinette, fits in perfectly well with the surroundings, as well as the Medieval Dovecote. It was a major economic resource at the time, with the dove-gray which was a well-known fertilizer.
Nowadays, this magnificently restored dovecote displays an exhibition ‘Breteuil à table’: ten famous paintings depicting meals and their exquisite models made by Brigitte Duboc.
In the French Garden, there are numerous points of interest
On the south side of the casle, you will admire:
- the entrance perspective showcasing perfectly sculpted yew bushes,
- the formal symmetrical scrollwork parterres in box and yew, in the main courtyard of the castle.
On the north side:
- the Water Mirror dominating the Chevreuse Valley, with its statues, yews and box-hedges, each of them trimmed using spirit-levels, and string, as well as many hours of dedicated hard work,
- the Yew Mosaic,
- the green carpet and frog marsh, ‘Grenouillère’ with its panoramic view on the Vallée de Chevreuse
- the Medieval Dovecote with the ‘Breteuil à Table’ exhibition.
The Princes’ Garden
The Princes’ Garden, an english-style garden, is listed as ‘Remarkable Garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture. It is called the Princes’ Garden to celebrate the friendship between the Breteuil family and the British Royal family.
On March 12, 1881, Henri de Breteuil organized a secret meeting with future King Edward VII and Léon Gambetta, President of the Chamber of Deputies. This constituted the beginnings of the Entente Cordiale. Furthermore, in 1912, another Prince of Wales, the future Duke of Windsor, stayed several months with the Breteuil family to learn French.
Séverine de Breteuil restored the Princes’ Garden in 1991, under supervision of landscape designer René Péchère and architect Jean-Claude Rochette, with support from the Agence des Espaces Verts of the Ile-de-France (Agency for Green Open Spaces in the Paris Region).
The garden has been created on one of the former terraces of the vegetable garden and orchard which had been abandoned. The traditional alleys have been restored and stabilized. Square patches of lawn have been sown, bordered with flowerbeds. In the centre, the old watering basin has been rehabilitated, and filled. Lines of pear and apple trees have been planted, and are pruned in the traditional palmette and espalier forms. A collection of cherry trees complete the scene.
In the Princes' Garden, there are numerous points of interest
- Central ornamental lake
- Perennial plants and fruit trees
- Japanese cherry trees in bloom in April
- Pergola of roses
The Maze of the Orangery
All visitors enjoy getting lost in the Maze, situated on a terrace below the Princes’ Garden. Created from 1000 box trees, it was inaugurated in the year 2000. At its center, you will see Mother Goose (Ma Mère l’Oye). This character evokes the image of the storyteller governess, and was adopted as soon as Charles Perrault brought out his collection of fairy tales titled Contes de ma Mère l’Oye (The Tales of Mother Goose), in the XVIIth century.
The millenium Maze is a contemporary interpretation of the fanciful copse which disappeared in the XIXth century. Designed by Claude-Stanislas de Breteuil (1730-1783), a brigadier general, it was the jewel of the park in the XVIIIth century. It was located behind the medieval dovecote and its drawings are still kept in the castle.
The Park of Breteuil covers 300 acres. Visitors take long walks in the mysterious undergrowth and relax in the heart of nature only 35 km south-west of Paris and 20 km from Versailles. Such a variety in landscapes and species is hard to find in a single place in the Paris region.
Visitors can first discover the mysterious undergrowth with carpets of wild cyclamen from the end of august to mid-october.
Striking trees punctuate the ‘Remarkable Trees Path’. Those Remarkable Trees are the Cedars of Lebanon planted in the times of Queen Marie-Antoinette (XVIIIth century), tercentenary oak trees, chestnut trees planted in the times of King Henri IV (early XVIIthC), bald cypress, tulip poplars, laricio pine trees and many others.
With the association A.R.B.R.E.S. (Remarkable trees: Outcome, Research, Studies and Safeguard) and Professor Georges Feterman, the ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ trail has been set up. The treasure hunt game (biodiversity quiz), specially adapted to families and given free of charge at the entrance of the castle, turns the walk into a magical process of discovery of the biodiversity of the Park of Breteuil.
If you are a confirmed walker, the promenade leads you as far as two romantic pools which were first transformed in the second half of the XIXth century, in the times of Napoleon III. Nature lovers enjoy the peace and beauty of the place.
After walking back towards the castle and admiring the impressive perspective on the Chevreuse Valley, children can freely play in the play area, where swings, climbing ladders and slides are surrounded by several hundred year old trees.
In Breteuil, visitors have a feeling of freedom. You can walk on the lawns. You can have a picnic, in the open or in a picnic shelter with tables and benches.
Near the playground, the kiosk-crêperie offers fast food service with pancakes and snacks.
In the Romantic Park, there are numerous points of interest
- Remarkable Trees Path
- Biodiversity trail
- Play ground