There is a very special place in Occitania, a corner of Asia in the heart of France and Europe: it is the Bamboo garden of Prafrancean exceptional botanical garden with more than 1000 bamboos which every year, from mid-February to mid-November, takes visitors on a journey full of surprises and discoveries in full contact with nature.
Among the most enchanting gardens in the country, it was born in 1856 from the dream and determination of Eugene MazelatPassionate about horticulture and the natural sciences, he imports and transplants here exotic species from Japan, China, the Himalayas and North America.
On his death, the estate was bought by the Négre family who enlarged it to the current 34 hectares, 15 of which are occupied by the magnificent park which is now part of the prestigious circuit The Most Beautiful Gardens of France.
Walk in the bamboo forest: not to be missed
Walking in an oasis of greenery and peace, away from the hustle and bustle of the city, is in itself a thrilling experience but being here, in the presence of a majestic ginko biloba tree, manicured Japanese gardens, redwoods, Chinese palm trees and ponds of lotus flowers and water lilies is a rejuvenating daydream.
The trip can start from the “bamboo road», majestic avenue shaded by giant bamboos that can reach 25 meters high: next to them, also the sequoias which culminate at more than 40 meters.
The feeling is one of “feeling small” in the face of so much wonder and genuinely delighted.
As you continue, you become even more immersed in the exotic atmosphere by meeting the lao villagea faithful reconstruction of the typical houses of Laos in bamboo and furnished with great detail to reflect, as faithfully as possible, the way of life of the small Southeast Asian country crossed by the Mekong River.
To recreate the exotic decor even better, they can be admired all around pepper and coffee plantsbanana trees, cane sugarpapayas and taroherbaceous plant of the Araceae family native to central-southern Asia.
And we are only at the beginning.
The charm is there cultivatedating from the 16th century, watched over by an enormous chestnut tree and still marked by the traces of the great flood of the Gardon in 1958: the route of the Chinese palm trees begins here and leads to the most evocative zone of the forest, the valley of the dragonslarge Japanese-style garden by landscape architect Erik Borja.
Lotus flowers, thousand-coloured plants, the 30-metre ginko biloba, the winding stream at the edge of which stands a wooden pagoda: everything combines to excite and create an ideal corner for meditation.
Again, to the right of the main avenue, here is the Eugene Basins Gardena water garden with stone basins that house delicate water lilies, and the Mazel Greenhouseswith species from the Canary Islands, succulents and a rich collection of bonsai.
Finally, the Labyrinth (obviously in bamboo), the Garden Center where the fabulous plants admired in the park are on sale, and the shop selling various items including herbal teas, furniture, stationery, beauty products and those based on essential bamboo.
As mentioned, the Bambouseraie de Prafrance is open every day from mid-February to mid-November with variable times depending on the season and available on the official website.
Entrance is allowed until 45 minutes before closing but at least you have to really appreciate the bamboo forest two o’clock.
The most practical way to reach La Bambouseraie is by car: from Nîmes, the largest city not far away, follow the N106 to Alès then take the D910 towards Anduze: once you arrive at the bridge over the Gardon d’Anduze, turn right on the D129 and continue for 3 kilometers to the entrance to the park where there is free parking.
To avoid the crowds, the best days are mid-week and close to opening hours.
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