Périgord is an area in the south-west of France. It is famous the world over for its enchanting medieval villages, beautiful scenery, excellent food and wine (being the home of foie gras) and the hundreds of wonderful castles which dot the landscape. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, that in such a romantic and picturesque setting one of the world’s greatest examples of topiary is to be found, at the Château Marqueyssac.
The history of this bewitching place began in 1692 when an adviser to Louis XIV, Bertrand Vernet de Marqueyssac, had a residence built on a 130-metre-high rocky outcrop overlooking one of the Dordogne’s most suggestive panoramas.
Marqueyssac attained the splendour it possesses today in the second half of the XIX century, when the property passed onto the hands of one Julien de Cerval. He had acquired a passion for gardens during an extended stay in Italy, and planted more than 150,000 boxwoods in the park surrounding the house. In conformity with the principles of topiary – that trees and shrubs should take on specific geometrical shapes – they acquired a considerably scenographic and surreal appearance.
Nowadays the park at Marqueyssac covers 22 hectares and contains around 6 kilometres of romantic and suggestive round paths. Most of the hundreds of thousands of boxwoods (Buxus sempervirens) are over a century old and are regularly hand-pruned by the chateau’s able gardeners.
In 2004 the Ministry of French Culture conferred the title of ‘jardin remarquable’ on Marqueyssac, and today, despite being privately owned, it is open to the public.
Vézac, June 14 2018