Angus StewartFestival International des Jardins, Chaumont

I have had the pleasure of visiting the impressive French International Garden Festival of garden design for the last couple of years and can thoroughly recommend it to garden tourists from around the world. Those seeking ideas on garden design, new plant cultivars or simply a day in the French countryside with a garden flavour will all find plenty of value there.

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LE TOUCHER D’OR – design by Bertrand Colson and Gaëlle Le Borgne

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The magnificent Chateau Chaumont provides a stunning backdrop to the gardens

One thing I liked in particular is that the festival runs for many months such that the show gardens need to be sustainable over a much longer period than the usual show garden that is ‘here today and gone tomorrow’. Too often the short term show garden is all done with smoke and mirrors with ideas that are impractical for most gardeners.

The International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire has been held annually since 1992 and each year a theme is explored in the festival’s display gardens. For instance, this year’s theme was the Seven Deadly Sins such as greed, gluttony and envy – a fantastic challenge for the 26 plots available to garden designers from around the world.

Each plot is surrounded by hedges of beech and hornbeam, and is approximately 240m ² in area, so the semi-permanent gardens that are built there can accommodate substantial visitor traffic walking through them. The castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire provides a spectacular backdrop for the festival and its various outbuildings can also be accessed but one day is hardly enough to take in all the experiences on offer.

 

To quote the organisers in their colourful description of the event

“Since 1992, the International Garden Festival has been a wonderful panorama of the state of landscape design in the world. In 21 seasons, more than 500 gardens have been created as prototypes of the gardens of tomorrow. The festival welcomes contemporary garden creations: thematic gardens, paths for children, theatre, both playful and wonderful … an invitation to dream.”

LE JARDIN MIS EN BOÎTE

LE JARDIN MIS EN BOÎTE

As with all such events not every show garden will appeal but I found the breadth of designs and ideas to be captivating and I could have happily spent a couple of days exploring them all. But I have at times been called a “plant nerd” and those with an eye to garden design may find the themed gardens to be more of a novelty than a template for the “gardens of tomorrow”. But from a plant point of view I found the array of interesting perennials and shrubs to be well worthwhile and the various designs often gave some fascinating displays of colour and texture that would translate to home gardens or more extensive landscapes.

Le Domaine de Narcisse

Le Domaine de Narcisse

 

 

 

The festival runs until November 2nd 2014 so there is still plenty of time to experience it this year. If you are touring the Loire Valley then you would do well to see if you can fit this one into your travels!

 

 

 

 

 

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Angus Stewart

About Angus Stewart

Gardening Australia TV presenter, author of 'Creating an Australian Garden', 'Australian Plants for Year-round Colour' and 'Let's Propagate', garden travel guide, native plant specialist and breeder. Central Coast, NSW. Find out lots more about native plants at Gardening with Angus.

7 thoughts on “Festival International des Jardins, Chaumont

  1. A great report Angus. Chaumont has been on my list of must do’s for years. Recently I visited Les Jardins des Paradis, originally designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurieres. Arnaud, I think was involved early on when Chaumont began. Loved Paradis, so sensual.

    Fabulous to see the plants in the designs. One question, who maintains the 26 gardens? Do the designers accept responsibility, or…..?

    • Hi Peta
      There were maintenance staff tending to the gardens on the day I was there and my impression is that they were part of the general staff that run the whole show. I would imagine that the designers look in from time to time to ensure that their gardens are doing what they want them to do over the 6 month period of the show.
      Cheers
      Angus

  2. Nice report Angus. I agree entirely that Chaumont has a very different feel from somewhere like Chelsea because the gardens have to survive and look good all summer.

    We were there 4 years ago and I was struck by how many of the gardens were NOT designed by landscape architects – but by photographers, dentists, philosophers. One of my favourites was by a dancer (and subsequent husband of actress Natalie Portman!). It gave a different sense to the designs. Was that still true this year? It would be a shame if the ‘professionals’ had completely taken over.

    My report is here by the way http://landscapelover.wordpress.com/2010/08/26/le-festival-des-jardins/ if anyone wants to learn how Ms Portman’s husband made visitors laugh…

  3. Stephen Ryan on said:

    Dear Angus,
    Craig and I have just come back from France leading a tour and this festival was on our itinerary and I can’t agree with you more. We spent hours there and loved every second of it. Hope to get back again some time.
    Regards Stephen

  4. Great to hear that Stephen. It is wonderful that you both had such a great time there. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we could get a long term festival like that off the ground in Australia. Maybe I am dreaming but it seems a much better investment than the here today gone tomorrow show garden thing. No doubt I will run into you at a rare plant fair in the not too distant future.
    Best wishes
    Angus

  5. steven on said:

    Thanks Angus. I really enjoyed hearing about this garden festival. I too like the idea of more long term festival style gardens. A few years ago I visited the Cornerstone Gardens in the Sonoma Valley just north of San Francisco ( http://www.cornerstonesonoma.com/explore/portfolio/gardens-3/ ). They are a series of walk-through gardens showcasing new and innovative designs from landscape architects and designers and are semi-permanent which means they need to have substance and longevity. I think it is a great progression from the short term garden show style! Ever since seeing these gardens I’ve had the idea of doing something similar at the hospital I work at …. it’s a dream and has challenges, but we must keep dreaming!
    Cheers, Steven

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