The gardens of the Folies Siffait
Owned by the Loire-Atlantique Department, the impressive garden of the Folies Siffait in Le Cellier is made up of terraces, niches and balconies, with a breathtaking view of the Loire.
An amazing garden on the banks of the Loire
On June 24, 1816, Maximilien Siffait (1780-1861) and his wife Marie-Louise Jourdan (1783-1819) became owners of La Gérardière, in the town of Le Cellier. They settled there with their two children, Jeanne-Louise (1811-1830) and Oswald (1816-1877). At the time, the property consisted of an assortment of fields and farms around the château and the park.
In 1817, Maximilien began to design a garden in a field that was totally unworkable but had a magnificent view of the Loire. On the rocky outcrop overlooking the river at a height of nearly 70 metres, he had an incredible garden built that descended in terraces to the shore. The monumental nature of the site, the labyrinthine architecture adorned with niches, turrets and staircases, the colours and the trompe-l'oeil features made the garden a "folly" in people's eyes. That is how the site came to be known as the Folies Siffait.
A poetic garden
In 1836, Oswald Siffait became the main owner of the land at La Gérardière. He bought numerous plots of land, thus considerably increasing the size of the property. A member of the Nantes Horticultural Society, Oswald had a famous collection of rare trees planted in his park around the château and in the terraced garden. The renowned nurseryman André Leroy (1801-1875) worked on these sites between 1846 and 1850. Although there does not seem to be much left of his efforts, the alignments of trees still remain.
When Oswald died, his son Ernest Siffait (1841-1904) inherited the property and sold it in 1895 to Edmé Fleury, an engineer from Nantes. The Folies Siffait garden was then left untended, and dense vegetation took over the site, giving the garden its present-day poetic atmosphere.
A conservation site
The Folies Siffait garden now spans 3.33 hectares and is part of the ecological, plant and wildlife conservation area in Le Cellier. The area boasts the plants and wildlife typically found in large wooded gardens (red squirrels, nuthatches, woodpeckers, primroses, etc.), as well as tall trees such as Lebanese cedars, evergreen oaks and large-leaved lime trees. The site is also home to reptiles and bats. It has been listed as a historical monument since 1992.
In 2007, the Department bought the site from the town of Le Cellier as part of its policy to protect sensitive natural areas and continued the rehabilitation project to consolidate the structures and eventually reopen the site to the public.
In order to maintain the Folies Siffait garden, a balance must be found between opening this exceptional historical heritage to the public, conserving the fragile built heritage and protecting the sensitive natural space. Access is regulated, not only to protect the site, but for safety reasons as well, since the area can be hazardous for unaccompanied visitors.