Chaumont First Timer

Me at Chaumont International Garden Festival
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...

Part of the Puissantes Immobiles garden at Chaumont
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...

A flower-filled Au Pied du Mur
The reverse side of Au Pied du Mur
... do photos of plants count as a garden? My head said no, but I loved filling my vision with these pictures. I could imagine this idea being used to great effect indoors to bring some much needed cheer.

Gardens aren't just for humans...

Small French dog not quite sure what to do with the water filled Levant garden at Chaumont
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...

The back of the Monochrome Blanc garden at Chaumont
Playtime and photocall in Monochrome Blanc

... now you see me...

Monochrome Blanc looking outwards
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...

The charming Anne Marlangeon
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.

Plants rising like Phoenix
I loved the play of light on the foliage and the dark architectural shapes of Phoenix

Such fun to photobomb one's own photo!
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.

The lovely Chaumont chateau

Chaumont isn't just about the garden festival. There's a wildly romantic looking chateau overlooking the Loire for starters.

Fab sultry alliums and camassia combo

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.

Agaves and echeveria - I think

Use succulents as bedding plants? Why not?

A restrained entrance conceals the floral fireworks ahead at Chaumont

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.

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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.


  1. What a fantastic post. I loved it. The camassia and allium is something to remember. Thanks for sharing. Groetjes Hetty

    1. Hi and thanks Hetty! That allium/camassia combo got an amazing amount of attention on Twitter - it's given plenty of people food for thought. I'd thoroughly recommend a visit to Chaumont if you get the chance :)

  2. More Chaumont, from 2014, for the fans:

  3. Didn't they have a plasticine garden at Chelsea one year - did James may have something to do with it. I have to admit a garden has ti have living plants in my book.

    1. They did - it's here on the blog somewhere...

      ... ah yes

  4. That looks fun! And those photos at first I thought were tiles...

    1. They could easily have been tiles - that would be a great way to decorate our bathroom!

    2. I thought of you two when I saw the succulent bedding :)

  5. It all look it looks fabulous, especially the space! I love the idea of a festival that goes on for months so it's not heaving with people.

    1. It's a shame the Westonbirt festival only lasted a couple of years Colleen. I think you'd really enjoy this one :)

  6. Lovely exhibit.

  7. I got side tracked when reading this a while ago so left without commenting VP. I enjoyed reading your post and seeing your photos. You hit the nail on the head with "I found I felt a wider range of emotions as a result, from 'What the f***????', to bursts of giggles and joy". My reactions when visiting the show were just the same :)

    1. I spoke to a friend yesterday who went a week or so after me. She felt the same as we did, Anna :)


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