The Loire Valley (Val de Loire). A large, fairly sparsely populated, region of central France that is synonymous with expert wine making. It is also home to many beautiful, romantic French châteaux, of varying sizes, many of which showcase elegant period furnishings and décor with meticulously maintained grounds.
As if that weren’t enough reason to visit, you have until 5th November 2017 to visit the 26th International Garden Festival within the grounds of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Château de Chaumont at Chaumont-Sur-Loire.
If the shows of previous years are anything to go by, it certainly won’t disappoint.
In September 2016 my wife and I were staying in the little village of Francueil, Loire Valley, having driven there from Scotland. We were on honeymoon, staying in a small but picturesque little château. The friendly owner, who conversations with were limited to French, would talk to us each morning over breakfast. He handed us a leaflet one morning for Chaumont-Sur-Loire and recommended we visit the International Garden Festival. It turned out to be the most memorable highlight of our trip.
International Garden Show
We visited the château, expecting to see a few nice flower displays, but having no previous knowledge of this show were completely taken aback by the scale and diversity of it. This festival is not just gardening, it’s a beautiful mix of the colourful vibrancy of nature with outstanding artistic creativity.
This is France’s premier flower show.
Each year the festival has a theme, applications are then made by artists from around the world with 30 winning entrants selected to participate.
A large area of the chateau grounds are divided into numbered plots, which corresponds with a map and booklet issued at the entrance, allowing visitors to stroll around at their leisure. At each plot there is a sign, written upon which is the idea behind the artists’ creation.
The gardens varied from the fairly traditional, relaxing and beautiful to the innovative, quirky and experimental. There were so many wonderful displays – this post includes some of the highlights. The pictures say it best.
One of the first memorable gardens we entered featured plants being grown in test tubes and beakers.
Another garden displayed plants on a roof top generating electricity.
Another artist sought to bring the natural indoors.
One area involved walking along a narrow footpath, seemingly into a forest. The path went downhill into a misty area. On a hot day it was incredibly refreshing, not to mention mysterious and encaptivating.
I was also particularly drawn to the Japanese influenced design, below.
Of course, how could I forget the submerged home in a world where sea levels had risen so sharply that much of the world was now underwater?
The grounds around the castle, other than the Garden Festival, are also beautiful, interesting and worth walking around on their own merit.
Feeling inspired? As I’ve said, you have until 5th November to visit the 2017 show. If you go, please share your experience in the comments section.