|Adding my thoughts to the back of Au Pied du Mur|
I've heard loads about Chaumont International Garden Festival previously, but I never thought I'd actually get to go there. You can imagine I gave a quick hop and skip of delight when I found it was a must-see on our itinerary for France.
If you ever get the chance to go, do - it's quite unlike any garden show in the UK*. For starters the Festival lasts several months rather than days (from 20th April to 5th November this year), and each garden is surrounded by a beech hedge, housed in a permanent site which set aside from the rest of Chaumont's extensive grounds.
It also pays to put any preconceptions to one side as applications are drawn from a much wider circle of potential candidates than usual with around 20 to 30 gardens selected from a pool of hundreds of applications. Artists are well represented as well as those from the world of gardening and landscape design.
I could imagine RHS judges tutting behind me at the standard of each garden's finish, but that didn't matter. These are expressions of ideas and visitors can wander all over them, feeling and breathing in the designer's intention as they go. I found I felt a wider range of emotions as a result, from 'What the f***????', to bursts of giggles and joy.
The festival's longevity means my experience of a couple of weeks ago will be quite different to what later visitors will see. Plants will fill out and inhabit their spaces completely, and the flowers and plants designed to fulfil this year's Flower Power theme will truly come into their own.
* = sadly the similarly intentioned shows at Westonbirt Arboretum held around 15 years ago are no more.
So what caught my eye at this year's show?
Ways of viewing a garden can be quite different...
|A view onto Puissantes Immobiles which gave the effect of highlighting individual plants|
... and you'll find plants may be labelled.
Your view of 'what is a garden?' will be challenged quite thoroughly...
|The reverse side of Au Pied du Mur|
Gardens aren't just for humans...
|This little dog was most reluctant to jump over the water in Levant|
... and may prove rather a challenge to some of them.
Reality will be distorted in all kinds of ways...
|Playtime and photocall in Monochrome Blanc|
... now you see me...
|Monochrome Blanc looking the other way - a potential candidate for my Great Green Wall Hunt?|
... and now you don't.
Sometimes an interior deserves special attention...
|I loved the attention to detail in her 04bis workshop, reminiscent of the artist's studios we saw in Giverny the day before|
... because there's a chance to meet my first ever plasticine artist, Anne Marlangeon.
|I loved the play of light on the foliage and the dark architectural shapes of Phoenix|
|Spot Naomi and me photobombing our own photographs in Les Coulisses de l'Attraction!|
Hop on over to Sign of the Times to see another favourite featured as today's Friday Bench.
Chaumont isn't just about the garden festival. There's a wildly romantic looking chateau overlooking the Loire for starters.
And in the historic Park the gardens team provide an amazing sourcebook of planting ideas too. I now believe my massed planting of alliums seriously lacks an equivalent amount of camassias after I viewed this scene.
Use succulents as bedding plants? Why not?
They can manage self restraint too, as shown in this area where visitors first approach the festival and room is needed to avoid a pinch point. Something to think about for Greening Grey Britain perhaps?
Chaumont has lots of other features such as land art (including one by Andy Goldsworthy); a misted, jungly garden and much more besides. We didn't have time to see it all in our allotted afternoon; it's the perfect excuse to go back one day.
I was the guest of Loire Valley tourism, who put together a fantastic programme of varied gardens, accommodation and food for our visit.
As usual, the words and opinions are my own and there are no affiliate links or cookies associated with this post.
You may also like
For more information on the all the gardens we visited, have a look at the interactive map I've put together. It contains a brief summary of each place, links to all the articles I've written, and has plenty of pretty photos plus links to useful information so you can plan your own trip.