The Loire Valley is renowned as ‘France’s Garden’, and in summer it hosts an international design festival that imagines the future of gardening.
Words: Robin Powell
Chaumont-sur-Loire Garden Festival
Loire Valley, France
April – October 2018
Every year since 1992, the gorgeous Renaissance castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire has hosted a garden festival with a difference. Designers from around the world contribute a garden based around a theme, and plant it up to last for the six months of the festival. This year the organisers quote the French philosopher and novelist Erik Orsenna – ‘gardens are philosophy made visible’ – and ask designers to use imagination and ‘every technical possibility’ to create gardens of wonder that reference the links between gardens, literature and thought. ‘Pansy’ they remind us, comes from ‘pensee,’ the French word for ‘thought’. Twenty designs will be built from the more than 300 entries submitted. As well as the 20 gardens, visitors can explore the chateau and its extensive grounds, and in July and August, stay late, with the gardens lit up from 10pm til midnight.
Famous for its spectacular formal potager, which is replanted twice a year, the gardens here also feature parterres planted in the form of symbols of love – fickle, tender, passionate and tragic. Get a sense of the whole place by exploring the chateau (and its small but exquisite art collection) and viewing the gardens from the tower before getting to grips with ground level.
Visit August to September to see the highlights here. In the 19th century walled kitchen garden more than 400 varieties of tomatoes are grown with other edibles and flowers. The tomatoes are sold fresh, and as preserves. And at the Tomato Bar restaurant there is a great view of the dahlia gardens, which display more than 200 named varieties. You can also stay here – the chateau is a three-star hotel with 22 rooms – and enjoy the gardens to yourself before the day-trippers arrive.
The chateau on the banks of the Loire is beautiful, and so are the gardens, where the head gardener depicts the rivalry between the chateau’s owners Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici, as contrasting flower colour themes. Dahlias, alstroemerias, cleomes, celosia and amaranthus are grown for cutting and are displayed in vases in the chateau.
The creeper-covered, 18th-century stone house is French romance is a nutshell, and there is also a swimming pool and good value restaurant in this comfortable 15-room hotel down the road from the chateau.
Ross tours will head to France as part of the Grand Gardens of Europe tour departing May 8, including some of Europe’s finest gardens – tulips at Keukenhof, Monet’s exquisite Giverny, Sun King Louis’ grand Versailles, Sissinghurst and the Chelsea Flower Show. It’s the best of the best! To inquire about this or any of our tours call Ros & Royce on 1300 233 200 or head to our website, www.rosstours.com
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