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While strolling through the largest garden of more varieties of bamboo than you ever knew existed (about 40), you would imagine that you’ve found yourself in a far eastern land, a place surrounded by exotic flowers and plants (impossible to pronounce), hearing only the waft of a gentle breeze combing through the long stalks in a bamboo forest.
The zen-like ambiance of this unexpected garden has actually placed you in the Mediterranean climate of the south of France, not far from the town of Alès and two kilometers (just over one mile) north of Anduze. There are 34 hectares devoted to the cultivation of bamboo and other exotic plants from the Asia.
We’ve been wanting to see La Bambouseraie for long time now, so while we were south we decided to take a drive (about an hour) from our temporary home base in Saint Laurent des Arbres.
To satisfy the thirsty bamboo, more than five kilometers (3 miles) of irrigation canals are discretely blended into the landscape. With the sunny climate, ideal soil and a dependable supply of water, the bamboo can grow more than a meter (3 feet) a day.
La Bambouseraie de Prafrance was founded in 1855, and is the very first giant bamboo forest in Europe. Eugène Mazel, a native of the Cévennes who made his fortune by importing spices, began his bamboo collection while traveling through the French colonies of the Far East. After purchasing the domaine of Prafrance from its owner, Anne de Galière, he began to build his dream bamboo garden on the property. It now features water gardens, sequoia trees from California, traditional projects (Japanese garden, Laotian village), a garden labyrinth, a greenhouse and a nursery.
Oh! and some dwarf Vietnamese pigs. They look pretty humungous to me, though.
The Japanese Zen garden is relatively new to the park (2001) designed very true to Japanese style. The sculpting of the landscape took inspiration from the year it was founded, which was the Year of the Dragon. The Japanese garden’s form is dependent on the body of water it surrounds, so you’ll see the water wind through the garden like a dragon, both existing in harmony with each other. Note that “dragon” is an anagram of Gardon, the nearest river…
Dragon in the Zen Garden
For the rest of the post and to see a lot more photos after the fold click:
Back to its history. Because the park required so much maintenance, Mazel exhausted his finances and went bankrupt in 1890. The bank, Crédit Foncier de France took over and managed the property until November 1902 when it was sold to Gaston Nègre. Nègre devoted his life to preserving and ameliorating the park (a large part of the collection had been lost through neglect).
The park was later passed down to his son, Maurice Nègre in 1948. He fought hard to restore the park, which had been damaged by the floods of 1958, but he unexpectedly died in an accident in 1960. Luckily his wife took over to continue her husband’s work. In 1977, her daughter Muriel and son-in-law Yves took over managing the estate and development of La Bambouseraie. Muriel continues to run the business today.
Remarkably, only about a dozen gardeners are required to maintain the public areas and the nursery.
Although La Bambouseraie is closed to the general public part of the year, the park is actually a year-around source of bamboo events for zoos all over Europe. It also holds winter expositions in major European capitals and sells nursery stock.
Though it’s not very French and there are no rides or lively attractions, it’s a beautiful place and worth a look-see if you’re in the area and if you appreciate gorgeous gardens. You will probably spend no more than about 2 hours here, less if you’re quick. With your admission fee, you receive a 30 minute guided tour, which is worth taking but not obligatory, and you can purchase bamboo plants and flowers for your garden or home at the nursery.
La Bambouseraie de Prafrance
30140, Générargues, Anduze, France
Telephone (+33) 04 66 61 70 47
Open March to November, every day from 9.30am to 7pm.
More photos below:
Easily stressed out bamboo
We really loved the striped bamboo.
Sequoias from California live here too.
Waterfall inside the greenhouse
A quiet corner of the garden.
Poems inspired by a poetic place.
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