While exiting the castle, the park’s visit begins on a small terrace that is embellished by sculpted boxwood. Its balcony, shaded by linden trees, offers visitors an unobstructed view of the park. Surrounding it, laburnum, lilac, honeysuckle, hawthorn and mock orange flower abundantly among the colorful foliage of barberry trees, dogwood trees, smoke trees and bladder-senna. Nearby, a young beech forest (common and purple) replaces the Coniferous Woods pine. In spring, the undergrowth is covered with garlic mustard, knotted crane’s-bill, yellow archangel, cowslip or wood violet ... The visit continues along the old canal section that diverts the Chavaniac stream towards a small waterfall irrigating four successive ponds. Water lilies and other aquatic plants can be admired in the shade of weeping willows and alders. Bald cypresses, American sweetgum and swamp oak reflect elegantly in the Grand Etang which is the largest pond. Nearby, azaleas and rhododendrons exhilarate visitors with their heady fragrances. The path continues towards Lafayette’s Oak Tree. Under its imposing canopy, this European oak tree, planted three centuries ago by Lafayette’s grandfather, provides a pleasant shade for visitors. In the Arboretum located in the heart of the park, purple beech, northern red oak, white mulberry, Atlantic cedars and many other species will transport the visitor across the globe, from the Old World to the New World and from Asia to the Middle East. Between the Rose Garden and Arboretum, it is hard to miss the Moon Tree, a Norway maple born from a seed carried into space by Stuart Roosa aboard Apollo 14 in 1971. This seed was given to Raymond Pages and planted in Chavaniac-Lafayette Park on the occasion of the bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence of the United States, in 1976. Before visiting the Rose Garden, it is a good idea to take the linden tree lined path that borders the park. Dawn redwoods and and a Colorado spruce, lined with numerous ornamental shrubs (plum trees, Judas-trees, snowberry bushes, rose of Sharon and smoke trees) silently guard the tomb of the Moffat family, who wished to be buried on the property that they formerly managed. The Rose Garden, located just below the court of honor, offers a remarkable view of the castle and the entire park. At its tip, flanked by two saucer magnolias and in a setting of sculpted yew and boxwood, a stele was erected in honor of Lafayette and Washington.
Described in the Discovery Guide for Château de Chavaniac-Lafayette and its park (available at the castle’s gift shop), the trails Lafayette in America, 1824-1825 and Reflections of Two Worlds
will offer you another way to appreciate the park’s flora .
Château de Chavaniac Park