One of France’s most beautiful and surprising gardens is in the Gard department near Anduze. La Bambouseraie en Cévennes is the home of an impressive amount of bamboo varieties, along with other remarkable trees and plants. At only one hour from Montpellier and 50 minutes from Nîmes, you can immerse yourself in a peaceful world of giant and exotic vegetation in ever-changing scenery.
As our family was on a little holiday in the Gard region, we couldn’t miss a visit to the botanical garden ‘La Bambouseraie en Cévennes’. We went during the high season, and although we arrived right after the opening hour of 09h00, there was already a crowd. I was a bit worried about not being able to enjoy the garden with so many visitors around. However, the set-up is large with enough space for everyone. When entering the park, you walk through a wholly covered bamboo lane. Near the end of the lane, just before the farmhouse, you will find some of the oldest sequoias in France. These enormous oaks were planted in 1860 by the founder of La Bambouseraie himself: Eugène Mazel. A spice merchant and passionate botanist originally from the Cévennes, his dream was to create a garden never before seen in France. So, he did.
Solid like steel
Mazel had the chance to buy a piece of land in his native village. And the valley of Générargues benefits from a tropical microclimate. The perfect place to plant his imported bamboo and other exotic plants. In 1856, Mazel opened his garden. La Bambouseraie now covers 34 hectares in total, of which 15 hectares are open to the public. We let the path guide us through the park. Soon enough, we walked into a Laotian village. This is where you can learn about how humans use bamboo. Although bamboo is a grass – and not a tree – the hollow stem is solid like steel. And therefore, the perfect material to build houses. Something the Laotians have understood for a long time. We also had the chance to see the start of a banana tree blossom. Absolutely beautiful!
The next stop was the labyrinth made of, you guessed it, bamboo. Time to play! Our brood spent quite some time in the maze made of bamboo walls. I never knew you could grow hedges out of bamboo. But you can! La Bambouseraie uses a Japanese bamboo variety. One advantage of using bamboo is that your hedge grows rapidly, and the foliage is dense and won’t fall off in autumn. After the maze, we hadn’t finished playing as we discovered the aerial path. Following the giant net stretched between the bamboo brought us up to 8 metres amongst the foliage. What a fun way to bounce our way through nature!
Of course, the kids wanted to walk the aerial path again. And again. But I had set my mind on another highlight. In 2000, the year of the Chinese dragon, the Dragon Valley was created, using strict Japanese garden and Feng shui rules. This was my favourite part of the garden. I have to say the weather was gorgeous, which made it even more beautiful. From the Japanese-style Red Phoenix Pavilion, I gazed over the heart of the Dragon Valley centred around the river Gardon. The river is shaped into a mythical dragon and you will find Japanese maple trees and dwarf bamboo along its banks. The summer colours added up to a magical view. A true moment of zen!
We walked back to the exit through the bamboo forest, with heights between 15 and 25 meters, and the Chinese palm path. With an extra stop at the pool garden with its beautiful flowering lilies in numerous colours. And a last stop at the aerial path, of course. Just before the exit, you will find a garden centre with knowledgeable people to help you choose some plants. Or you can have a roam around the ‘Bamboutique’ with bamboo-inspired paraphernalia. There also is a ‘Bamboosnack’ where you can have a pause and something to bite and drink. They even have bamboo on the menu!