The International Garden Festival, Chaumont-sur-Loire is like Kew Gardens meets Chelsea flower show with French flair. There’s a stunning chateau thrown in for good measure, a fascinating history and some of the most gorgeous gardens in France.
The magnificent gardens of Chaumont-sur-Loire
Since 1992, the International Garden Festival of Chaumont-sur-Loire has provided an inspiring introduction to landscape design styles from around the world. Several hundreds gardens, which act as prototypes for the gardens of the future, have been created during the course of its history. The inspirational designs showcase the talent of around 30 designers each year and present new species and innovative materials, as well as inventive ideas and creative approaches to gardening. Each year there’s a different theme and the gardens are transformed. Each year also sees a different art festival taking place in the ground, the chateau and even the stables.
You really need a whole day here to enjoy the permanent gardens and the temporary gardens that change each year. Once you’ve done the gardens you can explore the large park. It is immense – and not to be rushed. Take a picnic or enjoy lunch in the pretty restaurant. It’s not as crowded as some of the flower shows I’ve been to which makes for a relaxing visit in which you can truly appreciate the surroundings. There also aren’t the commercial aspects you see at some garden festivals, no rows of stalls selling everything from picnic baskets to bulbs. But there is a large shop that’s full of rather elegant items and some plants you can buy.
History of the Chateau de Chaumont
The first castle of Chaumont was built in the 10th century, a fortress style building which was replaced in the 15th century. Owned by the Amboise family it was updated in the French Renaissance style in the late 15th century. It looks straight out of a fairy tale – all pointy towers and turrets.
But it’s the later ownership of the chateau which tells the most fascinating tale. In 1875 the Chateau-de-Chamont was bought by a 17 year old orphan. Mary Say was the granddaughter of an immensely wealthy sugar baron and inherited his vast fortune. Three months later she married Prince Henri Amédée de Broglie. The pair were the toast of Parisian society but spent half their time at Chaumont. They lavished a fortune to restore it’s glory and create magnificent gardens and tropical greenhouses. They held parties for their rich and famous friends, bringing the Paris Opera and Comédie-Française to the castle to entertain guests who were transported from Paris by special train. An elephant wandered the grounds, a gift from an Indian Maharaja who attended a party.
When Marie was widowed in 1917 she married prince, Louis-Ferdinand d’Orléans. He was more than 30 years her junior, she was 73 at the time. He squandered her fortune and the castle was sold to the state. The castle has been kept to look as it did when Marie lived there. The rooms are beautifully furnished, and each year art exhibitions are held there.
Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival
Chaumont sur Loire Garden Festival held annually from April to October. It’s a must for gardeners!
Find details: domaine-chaumont.fr/en
More on the chateaus of the Loire
Chateau de Chenonceau, visit the castle of flowers…
Chateau de Chambord
Chateau de Blois
Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau