Every year for the last 20 years the château de Chaumont-sur-Loire has hosted a garden festival. The intention is to showcase contemporary landscape gardening. The best of the show gardens display new talent, new ideas and new materials to the public. Because the gardens are on display from April to October they have to be real gardens. Budgets vary, but are most appear to be relatively small - probably a few thousand euros, making the ideas that appeal interesting and achievable for the home gardener.
Scultptillonage with its fun compost bins in the shape of mushrooms. Of course, as our landscape gardener client pointed out, they were completely impractical* if you wanted to use the compost, but she really liked the spray painted chicken wire 'allium' balls and yellow 'daisies'. The flowers were full of woollen yarn, for use by nesting birds, and the sunflowers had tubes for solitary bees at their centres.
I Miss You where I pedalled energetically to power the water jets, which kept a toddler entertained for some time. The central platform and steps are made of recycled pallets and it is a very pleasant water garden.
The Memory Library. We like this one because we used mirrored Christmas baubles on canes in our London garden, so we appreciated the design aesthetic. It was also very nicely positioned so that you glimpsed the château itself in the background, making a quite fairytale scene.
The Garden of Extinct Plants, laid out like the war cemeteries of northern France, with row upon row of simple black and white plant labels.
The Nature of Things, with the best integration of a bathtub in a garden that I have seen.
Some of the gardens were very attractively planted, and exactly what one could envisage living with at home. Others didn't work at all, with ambitious ideas not being achieved on the ground. There were a number where it was all about the blurb on the information board and the garden itself was unsatisfying. The designers had obviously spent too long hanging out with the sort of conceptual artists who think it's ok to have a not very original thought and express it in a poorly executed installation.
*I had an email from Claude Pasquer, the designer and maker of these Champicomposteurs, who assures me they do function, so I'll blog about them again in more detail sometime.