Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


The Chateau Villandry Gardens

Villandry is the one. After 4 trips and about 10,000 kilometers of cycling in Europe, if I were asked to recommend a single European garden, to choose one garden for the most representative old-world garden experience, I’d choose Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley. It has everything you want: elaborate formal gardens, a smaller ‘English’ garden, a silly lawn garden, ponds, fountains, allees, parterres, and a pleasant woodland area to give you a break from all the hedgy-ness. It’s great. I have a slight caveat that Quinta de Regaleira in Portugal is more fun and quirky, and the other French garden I love — Vaux les Vicomte — has a more dramatic formal garden with some unique design trickery and is ultimately more historically significant, so I’d recommend that everyone go see those gardens too (I’ll make a post for Vaux les Vicomte at some point), but for a single garden visit with everything you want from an old world garden, I would pick Villandry.

These two photos basically capture why I find it such a good representation of old world gardening. The two plantings are both excessive and contrived, and moving between them makes the experience of each one more dramatic and enjoyable.

As befits my choice as the representative garden of France or Europe, a slew of photos are below. Cheers.

Villandry was one of the early French formal gardens to lay out vegetable beds in ornamental patterns. I think they change the beds every year while maintaining the overall effect.

The red and green parterres are apparently a metaphoric representation of love, which… sure.

But then I love the look of the Perovskia. I don’t know if I’ve ever see it across a long flat view like this, it’s a lovely effect, like mist rising above the boxwood.

And just when I was tired of all the hedging, I entered the ‘English’ garden. More to my taste, and, after the formal gardens, I could feel the difference in how I was experiencing it, how my gaze moved through the space in a different way.

The parterres are designed to be seen from above with shaded Linden tree allees to walk in protection from the sun and rain. I read that there are 1200 Lindens in the garden. They did a nice job of absorbing the light rain that was falling for much of my time in the garden.

The woodland area is also quite lovely to wander, and a nice companion to the Linden allees.

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