8 Beautiful European gardens

Richard Mellor

Here are eight places to find extreme botanical beauty in Europe.

Monet’s garden, Giverny, France

Monet's garden Giverny France
Image via Giverny

Most of Monet’s famous Impressionist studies were achieved in his own house at Giverny, 50 miles west of Paris.

For four decades, the painter and avid horticulturist developed a Japanese-style water garden with willows, a pond, that iconic wooden footbridge and, of course, water lilies.

The garden is open to visitors during the summer months and reopens on 26 March.

 

Château de Villandry, Villandry, France

Château de Villandry

France is well known for classical formal gardens.

Open all year, this all-organic effort in the lovely Loire Valley sashays down four terraces and pairs a massive, decorative potager—a place where even cabbages look graceful—with a vision of parterre perfection.

There are fountains, rose-lined pergola, a yew-tree ‘love garden’ and perfectly pruned hedges.

 

Gardens at the Versailles Palace, Versailles, France

Versaille Palace

There’s formal and there’s formal.

Back in the 1660s, Louis XIV decreed that gardens were as important as palaces, and the Sun King’s still-magnificent backyard reflects as much.

The vast garden is an incredible riot of flowers, fountains, winding paths and scenic vistas.

Versailles’ truly vast greenery is headlined by a spectacular orangery and the prettiest fountains you’ll ever see.

 

Sissinghurst Castle garden, Sissinghurst, England

Sissinghurst Castle garden
Image via Welly Woman

A “ramshackle farm-tumble”—that’s how botany writer Vita Sackville-West described derelict Sissinghurst upon buying it in 1930.

Today it’s England’s most enchanting garden, regardless of season.

The fairytale setting of a ruined Elizabethan castle helps, but not nearly as much as the meticulously pruned climbing roses, pinkish walls and heaps of arches, wisteria, walks and benches.

 

Egeskov Castle garden, Funen, Denmark

Egeskov Castle garden

While Kronborg—aka Elsinore, and setting of Hamlet—steals the Danish castle headlines, Egeskov and its gorgeous grounds hover beautifully under the radar.

The centrepiece is an impressively preserved Renaissance fortress.

Its numerous divided sections include a fuchsia garden containing 104 different species and four hedge mazes.

 

Giardino Giusti, Verona, Italy

Giardino Giusti
Image via Flickr

An exercise in Italianate classicism, this urban garden offers a trove of delineated aspects undulating over various levels.

Underneath tall cypresses are boxwood parterres, water features, statues, stone masks, grottoes, a labyrinth, most surviving from the 16th century.

The most popular spot is a belvedere offering stately views over Verona.

 

La Foce, Chianciano Terme, Italy

La Foce, Chianciano Terme
Image via La Foce 

Southern Tuscany is handsome enough with its clay hills, lonely farmhouses and cypress groves. But things get dreamier still amid the Florentine-style greenery of Villa La Foce, designed by English architect Cecil Pinsent.

Sweeping uphill, his distinctive, enclosed zones—box-edged beds, avenues, ponds, lawns, wildflower meadows—each seem prettier than the last

 

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore, Italy

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore

Accessible only by boat and shaped like a ship, this island garden and palace was the idiosyncratic vision of Count Carlo Borromeo back in 1632.

With Isola Bella—the name says it all—steeped at one end, his final grounds feel pleasingly arbitrary.

There are 10 obelisk-lined terraces, half a dozen grottoes, a tree-lined jetty, lots of lotus flowers, a citrus grove and, overlooking it all, a marvellous unicorn statue.