The Making of the French Garden

The Making of the French Garden

The Park and Gardens of the Domaine de Courances – “A Moveable Feast”

Thursday, March 3 at 12:00 p.m.
$10 Member • $20 Non-member • Free for students*
On Zoom • In English • 12:00 p.m. Chicago(CST) /1:00 p.m. Miami (EST)/19h Paris

Register now

12:00 p.m. (Chicago) • 1:00 p.m. (Miami)  7:00 p.m. (Paris) 

* Entrée Libre initiative: Free for students high school, college, university. Please register with your .edu address


Following the success of our Grands Châteaux Series last winter, Russell Kelley spent the summer visiting the Grands Jardins de France! Our curator extraordinaire returns with a live online series exploring the evolution of the French garden through history, from the Renaissance to the Vertical Garden.  Get ready to travel through time and go green!


The Park and Gardens of Courances - "A Moveable Feast"

During the reign of François Ier, Fontainebleau and its surrounding area became very fashionable.  In 1552, Henri II’s secretary of state purchased land 12miles/20 km  west of Fontainebleau where he built the first Château de Courances and laid out a Renaissance water garden with 14 natural springs that now flow into 17 water features. It  also included the second Grand Canal ever excavated in France, which no doubt inspired Le Nôtre’s  use of the Grand Canal in the design of his formal Classical gardens 100 years later. In 1872, a new owner acquired the abandoned estate and hired the father and son team of Henri and Achille Duchêne to restore Courances’s park in the style à la française. Subsequent generations have continued to reinvent the magnificent park and gardens of Courances.

Speaker: Valentine de Ganay belongs to the fourth generation of her family to own the Domaine de Courances, and is the founder and manager of “Les Jardins de Courances”, an agricultural venture including a 7-acre/2.8-hectare potager (kitchen garden) adjacent to the domain. She is the author of three books in French: the hardcover Courances (2011, a collection of 30 essays with more than 450 images), the paperback Courances (2011, a book of photographs accompanied by French and English text), and Aristo ? (2013, a book about French society). 

This lecture, which lasts 90 minutes, was originally given on June 9, 2021, as part of a series on “Unforgettable Gardens” organized by the Gardens Trust and the Historic Gardens Foundation.


Russell Kelley is the curator and moderator of this lecture series and was the curator of last winter’s series on the “Grands Châteaux of the Loire and Île de France.” He is the author of The Making of Paris: The Story of How Paris Evolved from a Fishing Village into the World’s Most Beautiful City (Lyons Press, 2021), and has lived in Paris for 30 years.


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This program is presented in partnership with the Alliance Française Miami Metro with communication support from the Federation of Alliances Françaises USA, the French Heritage Society, the Historic Gardens Foundation, WICE and The Garden Conservancy.

Through our Entrée Libre initiative, free admission to this program is offered to students enrolled in French Studies in universities and French schools in Chicago and the Midwest.