This grove of centuries-old trees is a remnant of the 18th century when Louis XIV had just acquired the Chèvreloup plain to extend his private hunting grounds.
In this originally agrarian landscape, Louis XIV had game shelters created: eight sectors of wild lands called hunting sheds. Oak Hilltop is one of them.
More than 300 years old
Here, for more than 300 years, the vegetation grew almost freely, and over time the trees enriched the soil with their dead leaves, making it light and slightly acidic. From these native species the oldest trees of Chèvreloup grew: we can admire the spectacular European ash, sessile oak and pedunculate oak, some of which are as much as 200 years old.
This grove provides the light shade and cool atmosphere needed for a collection of rhododendrons. Most of these shrubs come from mountainous regions with cool, damp summers: the Caucasus, the Himalaya or the Far East.
Collection of rhododendrons
The collection of rhododendrons presents cultivars and some wild species belonging to this multiform genus, which illustrate the diversity of sizes and shapes, the design and texture of the foliage and the shapes and colours of the flowers. In addition to the varieties commonly cultivated in gardens, with their oblong, dull grey leaves, we can also observe other shrubs with young leaves covered in silver or gold velvet, with narrow or heart-shaped foliage, and flowers shaped like big bells or open stars.
The genus rhododendron includes some one thousand species, of which only a few dozen are used to produce more than 28,000 cultivars, by hybridisation or selection.