In Berry, the gardens of Noirlac Abbey are adorned with new attire

At the beginning of June, the violet of the bellflowers mixes with that of the sages and nepetas in the irregularly shaped flowerbeds that now make up the garden of the cloister of the Abbey of Noirlac, located in Bruère-Allichamps, in Berry, 40 km south of Bourges. From the gallery on the first floor, which offers an overview of these gardens, there can be no doubt: these flowerbeds are intended to be the reflection of the clouds running across the sky.

This is how Gilles Clément wanted them, who was responsible for redesigning the gardens of this Cistercian abbey long since desecrated. The blue of the flowers and the gray of the foliage blend elegantly with the limestone lacework of the cloister arcades cut in the 14th century. The famous landscaper did not want to insist on the religious aspect of the site. He preferred to follow a poetic approach. And, if he took up the traditional division of the cloister garden into four, he forgot all symmetry: the beds vary greatly in size.

osmanthus and miscanthus

A rather different atmosphere emerges from the landscaped garden between the reception building and the cellar. Gilles Clément designed it as a link between the bocage to the south, where the waters of the Cher flow, and the north where stretches, beyond an inconspicuous surrounding wall, a hillside planted with of vines until the phylloxera crisis. However, he had to deal with the path imposed on the public who, after having crossed a forecourt decorated with Judas trees with pink spring flowers, must pass through the recently enlarged reception building.

As a result, he had to provide a pond and low walls to separate the forecourt from the spaces whose visit requires the purchase of an entrance ticket. Beyond, rectangular beds are first dressed in osmanthus and miscanthus perhaps a little too thick. Then, at the foot of the convent buildings, rosebushes mutabilis chinensis with generous and changing flowers were planted in high corten steel tubs. A cherry tree, dazzling in the spring, watches over the whole.

The atmosphere is quite different in the oriental garden, under the windows of the chapter house. Golden grasses sway there at the foot of a grassy terrace which will one day be an orchard. And which remains bordered, on the south side, by the alignment of bicentenary lime trees, pride of this abbey classified as a historical monument since 1862.

A Natura 2000 bocage

Beyond the entrance porch, Gilles Clément has preserved the meadow and the bocage – it is classified as a Natura 2000 area and a naturalist guide accompanies walks around the fauna and flora. The landscape architect dreamed of installing a high footbridge over the dead arm of the nearby Cher, so that when arriving from the south, visitors could discover, like the monks of old, the abbey, imposing and majestic, in its green setting. But, for now, this project has not come to fruition.

Designed fifteen years ago, but completed only two years ago due to multiple constraints, these gardens are not set in stone. Since the arrival, eighteen months ago, of Jonathan Champion, the gardener, adjustments in the plantations have been made in good understanding with Gilles Clément. Others will probably follow.

Already, guided tours allow you to discover these new gardens for which Paul Fournier, the current director of the abbey, and his team hope to win the “Remarkable Garden” label from the Ministry of Culture. Noirlac would fit even more into a history made, since the 12th century, of continuity but also of permanent renewal.

Became a pottery after the Revolution until its purchase in 1909 by the department, the abbey has since been restored at great expense. Besides the annual music festival (read below) and welcoming artists in residence, Noirlac, which has become a cultural meeting centre, has equipped itself with studios to host sound creation workshops. With 25,000 annual visitors before confinement, it was also the second most visited tourist site in Cher. The former president of the county council wanted double. An ambitious requirement. The new gardens should, however, attract an additional public.


« The Crossings » of summer 2022

– From June 18 to July 16, The Traversées de l’Abbaye de Noirlac promise to draw new maps, without borders or sentinels, where early music, jazz, modernity and traditional music exchange the best of their history and their knowledge. We will therefore hear vocal and instrumental ensembles, chamber music, tango, jazz…

– June 18, Louise Jallu will play the bandoneon and Abdullah Miniawy, Egyptian singer-slammer, will speak of the hopes and disappointments of young people in his country.

– June 25, Judith Pacquier will conduct an oratorio by Aliotti, Il Trionfo Della Morteand July 16, will be given The Passion according to Saint John of Bach under the direction of Louis-Noël de Camboulas.

Info. and res. : and


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