Les Jardines des Etretat, Normandy, France

On a recent weekend escape to Normandy we discovered the costal town of Etretat. The north coast of France is well known for its long stretches of beaches and coastal walks but here in Etretat, you will discover striking rock formations carved out of its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and the Aiguille (the Needle), a pillar rising up from the sea. 

One of the best locations to view these sights are from Les Jardins des Etretrat, our blog topic this week. 

In 1905, Madame Thebault, then a popular actress and close friend of Claude Monet, planted the first tree on one of the cliffs of Etretat when she became the owner of the beautiful Belle Epoque villa built by the Parisian architect Louis Valentin. The villa was named ‘Villa Roxelane’, in reference to the role of Roxelane played by the actress. Madame Thebault instructed landscaper Auguste Lecanu to develop the land. 

Years passed and the garden became abandoned until 1975 when it was purchased by the Russian gardener, Alexandre Grivko.

Grivko first studied economics before giving free rein to his passion for gardens, integrating the International School of Floral Design of Moscow. He opened a shop in Moscow but soon he was asked for more ambitious projects. With a partner, Mark Dumas, Alexandre Grivko founded the company IL Nature and has developed about fifty private gardens to this day. 

After purchasing a vast amount of additional surrounding land and property Grivko set about transforming these gardens into an Alice in Wonderland world of surprise and creativity.

As you arrive at the gardens and purchase your ticket from a quaint little caravan you begin your descent down into the landscaped gardens.

The first sculpture you will notice is this huge golden key planted in a tree, a work called Greyworld and the Mechanical ForestGreyworld is a collective of London artists, their work, Clockwork Forest, was originally created for the Grizedale Forest in the Lake District.

You will be led down to a terrace and the cliff of Aval with its famous needlepoint. A bamboo sculpture by Wiktor Szostalo, representing Claude Monet painting, is installed on the terrace, a tribute to the artist who used to stayed at Villa Roxelane.

One of the most striking installations here at the gardens are these heads popping out of the earth, entitled ‘Raindrops’ these resin sculptures were carved by Samuel Salcedo.

This section of the gardens are called the ‘Garden of Emotions’.  Here you can see how Enkianthus japonicas (imported from Japan) and Buxus sempervirens were trimmed to represent shells of mollusks, recreated in honour of Etretat’s well known oyster farm.

Down to the ‘Tree Huggers’ Garden’ where this sculpture composition by Wiktor Szostalo, people line up to hug the last tree on Earth.

The project was conceived in 2005 and has since travelled around the world. Through a variety of images, the artist calls for the protection of nature.

Wiktor created various characters for different countries. For France, he created a sculpture of Claude Monet painting the sunset at Etretat,  ‘Soleil Couchant à Etretat’.

You can find visitor information via their website here.

Les Jardins d’Etretat, Avenue Damilaville, 76790, Étretat, France

Tel: +33 2 35 27 05 76, Email: info@etretatgarden.fr Monday – Sunday 10:00am-7:00pm

NDID August 2018