The idea is not to produce gardens where plants are the main feature, as at the Chelsea Flower Show in the U.K., but gardens to inspire the imagination. The result is an extraordinary mix of ideas, some of which are strange, some of which are stunningly beautiful. All of them really do get your imagination going.
Here are just a few to give you an idea of the variety of gardens to see
1. Le jardin bleu d'Absolen (The smoke blue garden)
Le jardin bleu d'Absolem (The smoke blue garden) is the second garden you come to. The idea revolves around the caterpillar and Alice from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
"The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence; at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of his mouth and addressed her in a lauguid, sleepy voice. 'Who are YOU?' said the Caterpillar."
You walk past beautiful models of blue butterflies in the air on sticks, into the delious, hallucinatory world with the famous blue caterpillar on a mushroom in the middle. There is smoke from the hookah and illusion in the garden.
2. Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity)
Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, the principle established by the French Revolution) is by two landscape architects from England. It’s a peaceful simple garden with serried ranks of marching golden garden gnomes, rakes held firmly in hand, and a French flag at one corner. The idea is equally simple: this is a revolution staged by garden gnomes in search of liberty, equality and fraternity.
Read the explanation (which is very funny), to understand the full frustration of the gnomes:
“After years of cruel uprooting, the community of garden gnomes refuses to put up with its extermination any longer. Torn from their peaceful underground existence, cast out by traditional horticultural society, stolen away by ill-inspired liberation fronts and made fun of by elitist gardeners, they are finally rebelling.”
Then make up your mind about garden gnomes.
3. Toi et Moi, Une Rencontre (You and Me: a Meeting)
Toi et Moi, Une Rencontre (You and Me: a Meeting) is filled with red trees and gleaming black blades of stone, its paths dark among a black garden which has gleams of shimmering mica on the surface. In the center there’s a perfumed fountain playing.
It’s the inspiration of Nicolas Degennes, artistic director of makeup and colours at Parfums Givenchy who is passionate about the different senses.
4. Locus genii, le genie est partout (The genie is everywhere)
Locus genii, le genie est partout (The genie is everywhere) concerns the essence, or genie, within each one of us. Inspired by Aladdin, you enter a cave with trees decorated with precious stones, following the lamp. But there are dozens of magic lamps with the genie wafting his way from one to the next. Where is the genie? Why he's everywhere.
5. En patisserie, tout est permis (In patisserie, everything is allowed)
En patisserie, tout est permis(In pastry-making, everything is allowed) by two students and a teacher from France makes the connection between pastry-making and gardening.
A happy accident can produce a new recipe. Think of the famous tarte tatin which came about when a cook baked a caramelized apple tart upside down, at least that’s one of the possible explanations for the delicious upside down tart. And many plants seem to spring up by luck. The idea is that the two worlds inspire each other. So the middle of the garden contains a vast set piece made by Antonin Careme, the master pastry–maker, who inspired archictects in his turn. There’s a delightful model cow in one corner.
6. Le jardin des renards rouges (Foxes in the garden)
Le jardin des renards rouges (Foxes in the garden) was designed by three teachers of landscape architecture at the University of New Mexico in the U.S.A. Foxes are on the prowl through the garden, on the other side of a water-lily pond which is a charming sight. But are they friends or enemies? It’s difficult to know.
7. En vert (In a green world)
En vert (In a green world) turns the world on its head. A walker loses his way down a pathway leading into luxuriant flowerbeds. But these are odd green plants with large leaves. There the world tips over.
You see upended trees with the branches in the ground and the roots in the air and a series of ladders with upended men dressed in black. Their heads which you don’t see are buried in the ground. Dotted through the garden are video and sound terminals which right the world when you look at them. You’re made unsure of where you are in this world where balance has been turned.
8. Chaumont-sur-Loire Festival Information
Tel.: 00 33 (0)254 209 922
Open Chateau and Grounds daily 10am-6pm
There are restaurants, cafes and shops on site
Admission to Garden Festival only adult 11 euros, child 12 to 18 years 7.50 euros, child 6 to 11 years 5 euros
Admission to Castles, Stables and Park adult 10 euros, child 12 to 18 years 6 euros, child 6 to 11 years 4 euros
Admission to Garden Festival, Castle, Stables and Landscaped Park adult 15.50 euros, child 12 to 18 years 11 euros, children 2 to 11 years 5.50 euros, under 5s free
Getting ThereChaumont-sur-Loire is between Blois and Tours, 115 miles south west of Paris.
By car Take autoroute A10 and A86 and exit at Blois (junction 17) or Amboise (exit 18) then follow the signs to Chaumont which is on the D952.
By train Daily from Paris Gare d’Austerlitz on the Orleans – Tour line. Get out at Onzain then take a taxi from there.