Saturday, 3 August 2013

An International Garden Festival in France

Before we departed for our recent holiday it dawned on me that some creative map reading could lead us in the direction of the International Garden Festival at Chaumont -sur -Loire.
Having made such a visit in the summer of 2010, I positively purred at the thought and waited for an opportune moment to suggest the idea to himself. No objections were raised from that department so on a tremendously hot and sunny Bastille Day we found ourselves at the entrance of the festival. Perhaps our timing could have been better but although a public holiday there was never any sense of overcrowding. The festival in fact was open until 8.00pm and if we had realised that before we set off we would have visited later in the day. Not only would it have been marginally cooler it would have been a better time for taking photos.

The festival now in its 22nd year is notably different to the garden shows and festivals held in the U.K. Gardener designers from all over the world are invited to submit their designs from which a panel selects those which appear at the show. The gardens are not five day show garden wonders but remain in place from April - October each year. There is a distinct theme each year - the theme for 2013 being 'Gardens of Sensations'. The setting for the festival takes some beating. Perched up above the river Loire the château and its grounds are a part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The entrance we took takes you up a set of terraced steps probably about half a mile in length. When you get to the top the chateau faces you in front of which are well manicured flower beds of annuals. This year's displays included grasses, nictonias, petunias, salvias and gauras which were shimmering in the heat. I did take some photos but the sun was so strong at this point that the colours are all bleached. There are also many areas of attractive permanent planting as you walk round. There are no floral marquees, garden sundries etc., etc but simply one retail outlet on the perimeter of the festival area. All this for the excellent admission price of 11 euros!

I will not do a garden by garden tour but here are some of the images that struck me as we slowly meandered around ~ 

The gardens that made the biggest impression on us where those which made people of all ages smile and in some cases laugh aloud with joy. They were not all full of superb planting combinations but were interactive and great fun. These included what I can only describe as 'The Ringing Singing Tree' (above bottom left), which was a suspension of twiginess that chimed and sang as you made your way through it. Another was the 'Jardin d'amour' (below middle centre and bottom left) where recorded voices floated through the air as you walked round proclaiming " I love you" in 32 languages including 'bird' ~
The garden that I could not bring myself to say anything positive about was "The Outside In' Garden. I just saw dirty sheets with holes in them and was not tall enough to peer through many of the holes to see the woodland planting below ~

There were probably two gardens that were our favourites. Below was the only garden which bought the "Wow!" reaction from both of us. Difficult to photograph on such a bright day but there was so much sparkle and light that it took my breath away ~
Finishing with the very last garden which was the' Jardin de rizières' - a miniature paddy field complete with its very own frogs. Two small boys were full of themselves with excitement as they realised that there was one more than one frog in the water. I can still hear their voices in my head as they ran past me eager to convey this information to their mother. If this was their first introduction to a garden festival what a brilliant way to start a potentially lifelong experience ~ 
 On exiting the festival there was still the ornamental kitchen garden to peruse before we headed for well earned refreshments. History was made when for the first time ever in almost 30 years I downed the cold beer whilst himself had the ice cream ~
Finally there was just enough energy left in our weary legs for the long walk back down the terraced steps to our campsite, which almost on the banks of the Loire, is perfectly positioned for anybody wanting to visit the festival.

If you would like more detailed information on any of the 26 gardens you can find descriptions, planting lists as well as the low down on all the designers here. It was only when I found this link that I realised that we had managed to miss out on three gardens! I'm blaming it on the heat.

21 comments:

  1. What a brilliant place to go. It must be a real challenge to keep a show garden looking good all summer long.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Jessica. As far as I could gather the château's gardeners look after the show gardens during the festival which must be a huge job. There were some dying/dead plants which was a shame but the majority of them were most happy and healthy :)

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  2. I've a little disco ball that I use as a Christmas tree ornament. Perhaps it will find a home in our next garden, a smaller more intimate space where I could enjoy that sparkle.

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    1. Hard to convey in a photo Diana but those disco balls positively sparkled as they floated on the water. Hope that you can make use of yours in your outdoor space in the future and remember to post a photo on your blog if you do :)

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  3. What a super day for a keen gardener while on holiday, did you manage to bring any plants back, it that allowed by customs?

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    1. A most super day indeed Pauline. Yes it would have been allowed by customs - I think that there is a limit though in what you can bring back. However it was not allowed by himself who was being most practical as it was so hot that any plant would have been gasping for breath in our camper van.

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  4. I especially like the look of the kitchen garden, but all the photos are inspiring. Glad you could get there and share it with us too!

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    1. Thanks Cathy. The kitchen garden was a perfect way to round up the day as it was a real garden as opposed to a show garden.

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  5. They certainly know how to do garden festivals over there. I suppose the festival lasting so long will have it's own challenges for the designers. They'll need long flowering plants, though I'm sure that the gardens will evolve other the months with new things coming in to flower too. It would be interesting to visit at the start of the festival and then again at the end.

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    1. An excellent point Jo - it would be great to visit both at the start and the end - maybe one day :)

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  6. Looks like an interesting festival - not sure about some of the 'arty-farty' gardens but I am sure you came away with some inspiration. I expect you would have lingered longer if it hadn't been so hot.

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    1. Some of the gardens are slighty over the top Elaine but there's plenty to grab your attention and make you think. You are quite correct - we would have lingered longer if it had been cooler.

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  7. Think I have been to Chaumont in a my 'previous life' (ie pre Golfer) - but not at garden festival time! What a great time to be there, Anna - lucky you! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Maybe you and the Golfer may get a chance to go to Chaumont together Cathy at some point in the future at festival time. I do hope so :)

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  8. I remember your post about the last visit, what struck me then was the sense of fun, which was clearly not a one-off. The heat fairly sizzled off the screen in those photos, but what a great way to spend an hour or three.

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    1. Yes Janet that sense of fun and joie de vivre was evident this time too :) I think that we might have been gone for slightly longer but it took ages to limp back to the camper van :)

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  9. WOW!!! I LOVE this!!! Isn't France just amazing!!!! Your photos are great, looks like fabulous show! Loving the shoes and wardrobe, in fact loving all of it! Great that it last so long too. As for the Château - wow! Stunning :)

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    1. France is indeed amazing Anna - well we think so anyway :) The wardrobe was the entry in to a garden where the plants grew bigger as you walked round - great fun.

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  10. Wow, a lot of creative and quirky ideas, Anna. I should really go there some time, always sort of put if off because it has the reputation for being very crazy, modern and experimental. But looking at your pics there's definitely more to be found - so a big thank you for sharing :)

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    1. Hope that you get there one of these days Annette. Crazy, modern and experimental are certainly all in evidence but there's so much to make you smile too perhaps more last time than this year but we had a great day.

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  11. Ooh what a treat, that looks a great show to go to and like others I agree the fact that it runs for such a long time is really interesting. The setting looks amazing in itself. A great post.

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All your comments are much appreciated and treasured. I wil try to reply to everyone who leaves a comment, but it may take me a few days, especially when I start spending more time in the garden and at the lottie. I know that you will understand :) I am sure that I will also visit your blog if I have not already done so. If you have any specific questions I will either reply to them here or you can email me at : thegreentapestry@gmail.com

Namasté

- Anna.