Corrèze: the beautiful journey through the Sothys gardens

In the heart of Xaintrie, on the borders of Corrèze and Cantal, the 4 hectares developed by Sothys have just obtained the “Remarkable Garden” label crowning
the original approach of the famous cosmetic brand.

Jacques Chirac, on an electoral tour in the distant villages of upper Corrèze, used to throw a joke at his hosts “it’s beautiful but it’s far.” The first question we ask ourselves, after having swallowed kilometers and turns in the sublime landscapes of Xaintrie, the far west of Corrèze between Tulle and Aurillac, is: why did you come to create a garden in Auriac, a small idle granite village? and in slates?

Bernard Mas, designer of the place and architect of the Sothys success story, brushes aside the question: “I wanted to do something for the land of my ancestors, in the village where they settled in 1714”. And to the grumpy people who doubted, the octogenarian displays his result: 10,000 visitors visited the 4 hectares of this garden last year like no other.

“I wanted to do something for the land of my ancestors, in the village where they settled in 1714”

Bernard Mas, designer of the place and architect of the Sothys success story.

The beginnings are meritorious. “No one wanted to come here, and I had a hard time finding a landscaper interested in these meadows covered in brambles and of brooms which I traveled as a child and which my father had left me as an inheritance”, explains Bernard Mas. “At first, adds, not without humor, Marie-Ange Mas in charge of visits, it was necessary to talk a lot to occupy the first visitors, because there was not much to see.» But, since 2007, when it opened to the public, things have changed. Today, the place, which occupies a rugged topography, surrounded by high forests, is a fifteen-stage route which has reached its full maturity. Beauty is the common thread, we take care of appearance, a discreet link with the cosmetics brand which financially supports the place.

Elegant reception pavilion

After passing through an elegant reception pavilion which serves as a boutique, you are greeted by a granite ball placed on a base filled with water that an ingenious and invisible hydraulic system rotates, a world map of a promised land. To the right, a Japanese garden and, opposite, a French garden. A restrained sloping path, the lush “mixed-border”, leads beyond a dry stone wall to a string of spaces separated by borders of greenery. The most spectacular is the one dedicated to the skin where the bark is celebrated. A Acer griseum(cinnamon maple) exfoliates with the passage of the hand, and we caress the heptacodium like the coat of a chamois from which it borrows the color and texture.

In the next space, otherwise known as a “hydrating getaway,” you take off your shoes to walk on massaging pebbles surrounded by tropical plants, refreshed with misters that delight young visitors. We achieve a sort of aesthetic perfection with the Egyptian garden, dedicated to the goddess Sothys, an enclosure closed by a gate and decorated with a long water mirror bordered by palm trees. A curiosity at an altitude of 700 meters!

“We are not an advertising garden. (…) Everything here makes sense”

Christian Mas, general manager of Sothys

However, “we are not an advertising garden, insists Christian Mas, general director of the brand. My father’s work is not intended to be educational or scientific either, we must experience it as a walk, a pleasure of life. Benches and chairs invite the visitor to take breaks in this landscape that the beginning of autumn magnifies with ocher and red tones. With as precious companion… silence.

As everything is atypical in this garden, the landscapers had to be too. A Breton couple based in Côtes-d’Armor, Pascal and Cécile Collarec are at the helm here, helped by six permanent gardeners. A restaurant in an old barn, opening onto a pond, serves products from a dedicated vegetable garden, and a luxury gîte nearby welcomes holidaymakers all year round. Every summer, the Pasdeloup Orchestra holds a festival. Also, on the small road where once the farmers slowly pushed the red cows of the highlands, coaches and cars from all over Europe now provide entertainment. “Everything here makes sense,” concludes Bernard Mas, not a little proud to have given Limousin and Auvergne one of its most beautiful gardens and to Auriac, in Corrèze, a future…

The Sothys Gardens in Auriac (Corrèze). Tel.: 05 55 91 96 89. Adult, €7. Until November 4, Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

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