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Sensational Domaine de Chaumont

Sensational Domaine de Chaumont

Looking for inspiration? We profile one of France’s most influential annual garden events – an international affair which we’re fortunate in having almost on our doorstep... 

chaumont-garden-loireOne of the many advantages of life here in France is the freedom to take off to remarkable places and events whenever the mood takes us, with no need to book ferries, find accommodation and hope that the weather will be kind. Each summer garden lovers travel from far and wide to the Domaine de Chaumont, whose International Garden Festival unfolds on an historic setting high above the river Loire upstream from Tours. So what’s the big attraction?

Founded in 1992, Chaumont’s annual summer-long celebrations of the art of contemporary garden design are today world renowned. This year’s event features new gardens selected by a jury chaired by France’s best known literary journalist Bernard Pivot and including Andrew Wilson, Founding Director of The London College of Garden Design, and the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chief Assessor for Show Gardens. Around 300 projects were received from horticulturists, landscape designers, set designers and visual artists from around the world. To keep things relevant to everyday real-world gardening, the brief invites imaginative and resourceful submissions for gardens of 210m2 (average these days for a typical home garden) working to a maximum budget. Creatively, there are fewer constraints, the requirement being simply to surprise and enchant, play with colour, scent, sound, silence and ‘other poetic voices and channels’, and to express their respective visions with both technique and sophistication.

As in previous years, the Festival will also be inviting guest personalities – including the Chinese landscape architect and gardener Kongjian Yu and two influential multidisciplinary French designers, Patrick Jouin and François Abélanet – to demonstrate their own creative abilities. The designs are then all brought to life as thirty individual show gardens, providing visitors with an unrivalled opportunity to see truly cutting edge contemporary garden design. In addition to the seasonal show gardens, Chaumont also has permanent gardens (awarded the ‘Jardins Remarquables’ label by the French Ministry of Culture and the Comité des Parcs et Jardins de France) including a white rose garden, potager, children’s garden, chateau flower beds and more besides.

For all its international celebrity, Chaumont remains the kind of refreshingly informal, down-to-earth event you can simply drop in on for a relaxing day out, and which will entertain all age groups.

A key part of the appeal is a spectacular setting beside the Château de Chaumont, the quintessential French castle, complete with a glorious location high above the banks of the Loire. Despite outward appearances, it contains romantic 19th century neo-Gothic and Renaissance interiors created for Chaumont’s last private owners, who poured their vast family fortunes into the estate before it passed into State ownership in 1938.

Chaumont’s historic parkland owes its present appearance to celebrated paysagiste Henri Duchêne, who in 1844 laid out English-style vistas of gently contoured lawns bounded by curvilinear paths, with cedars, sequoias and local tree species, planted individually or grouped into copses. After the addition in 2012 of a new 10 hectare extension to the Domaine (bringing the total area to 32 hectares), this year sees a further metamorphosis of the park, as renowned landscape gardener Louis Benech adds contemporary precision and elegance to the existing heritage features. 

chaumont-garden-visit-loire

 

Château de Chaumont

Chaumont-sur-Loire.
T: 02 54 20 99 22
www.domaine-chaumont.fr

WORDS & PHOTOS: ROGER MOSS