Thursday 4 August 2011

Vive la France! Chaumont, Monet and Clos du Coudray

I have been on me hols to France....lots of chateau, overeating and far too much patisserie! however there were also lots of nice gardens and inspirational plant ideas.

So a few things...

First of all i was thinking of a more formal approach to the garden....

This was the chateau at Villandry, a must visit if you are in the Loire.... amazing formal gardens, although I wouldn't like to be the gardener with all that clipping to do.  As well as all this formal stuff there were also some really good modern gardens where I was very enamoured with a giant Echinacea, and am now pondering putting lots of very giant plants in the garden (6ft plus) as I like the idea of the plants making you feel small.

I was very impressed with all of Frances municipal planting, as there was none of the UKs low maintenance stuff and dull evergreens, a lot of placse had loads of my kind of plants like this fluffy helianthus?? Eupatorium???. With their planting the approach very much seemed to be the 'what going cheap today and what do I have in the back of my lorry' as they did have a very ramshackle mix of plants from Brugmansia to Lasiocarpus or geraniums...

I also wondered about having a little folly by the pond....

We also went to see a mushroom farm which was very interesting, although there are only so many mushrooms a boy can see....

Then a big thing was a visit to Chaumont. If you haven't come across this before, basically it is a kind of French 'Chelsea' but different in that every year designers can submit plans, and a panel then selects 25 gardens to be created. These are then created in the grounds of this Chateau and anyoe then has the whole of the summer to visit.

The chateau its self is actually amazing, very fairy tale... and the area the gardens are planted in is also very impressive with lots of jungly grassy planting, ponds and giant fish...

The theme was biodiversity (yawn) but had some very interesting gardens and design stuff. The one below was about how plants need looking after (yawn again)  but i did rather like the sedum bed and amusing blood drip bags connected to trees and plants

It was a great show, and also not rammed with crowds as our own flower shows are, it is disappointing it doesn't get any tv coverage in the UK as I think people would be really interested to see the gardens

Now, you cant go wrong with a few balls on sticks can you? some of their balls were actually clear plastic and with some germinating seeds in them which was interesting, but a little mouldy after a month of sun

We have all seen chicken wire sculpture, but this is coloured chicken wire sculpture....

 This final one, which is part of the permanent gardens was really great as it was a woodland walk/adventure type thing with windy paths through trees and glades, and at the bottom they had a mister making it feel very Jurassic Park...

Then we also went to Monet's garden, which we had been to before a few years ago but in April? where it felt completely different. Beautiful garden, very intensively planted, and very intensively visited (try and get there first thing). 

This is the famous walk through the middle, with the nasturtiums poised to take over...

Then the famous water gardens.....they are just as good in the flesh!

But equally as good are the long thin flower beds which are planted  very densely in colour themes, great design and must be hard to keep looking good.

Finally we also took a chance to visit the Clos du Coudray garden which we randomly saw listed in a free leaflet and wanted to give a go to as it seemed like my kind of plants.

Things didn't start off well as it was in a little village and we arrived grumpy and hungry as this seemed to be the only village in France with no shops or restaurants, and over the holiday we needed feeding with about 1000 calories every hour otherwise we may have died.... It was also very quiet and we were a little wondering about wither 7.5 euros each was worth paying for what was essentially a garden of a garden centre

However, we were very surprised as this turned out to be the hugest garden ever with lots of distinct areas and good planting. The more we wandered the happier we got, feelings that were backed up by a group of garden designers/students who were visiting at the same time.

They did have a jungle garden which was good to see, mainly the usual suspects but with lots of beautiful big Gunneras. Also good to see some big gingers and Arisaemas. Sadly they seemed to have lost all their tree ferns 

I rather liked this Persicaria,anyone know the species??  they also had a huge grass garden which was quite inspiring... I haven't been a big grass fan, but this is changing as I do like my Arundodonax, and Ive also managed to find a giant grass and a couple that rarely flower in the the UK (I don't like their flowers much, and it gives me hay fever paranoia) 

And finally to finish with a pretty, when will you be mine......

My own garden is also looking great at the mo (Im dead modest), I wonder if its too good as it is now exactly one month to go before the garden opening and hope that things dont start going over. Ive also just been asked to return my forms about opening next year, eek!


  1. These are such great gardens. I am your new follower.
    Ohio Outdoors

  2. I've always wanted to go to Chaumont.It sounds more interesting than Chelsea, although I did note the few yawns scattered about in the post.Sounds busy too. I always want a special opening just for us! The last garden looks the best. Gunneras and cobra lilies are such a great combination.

  3. It was certainly different! the only odd bit being that there werent loads of stalls and people trying to sell you stuff. I really liked that the gardens lasted for several months as you got a much better feel for the reality of it.

    Yawns are just for the biodiveristy/save the planet theme as whilst still important this is getting a little old and the messages and responses are a little cliched. Why not a different type of theme like 'Divas' or fiesta?!

    PS if you got there first thing you would also have the gardens to yourself, as we got there an hour after opening and it was still just us in some of the gardens as they are all screened/hedged off so all feel quite private! Im sure they could also get you a red carpet on request!

  4. That explains the abscence then :) Glad to know you had a lovely time and enjoyed looking at your photos, some interesting plantings there! Neither of us have been to Monet's Garden, definitely on the list.

    The plant you like is Persicaria runcinata, still difficult to get hold of in the UK but more common in mainland Europe.