And gardening for the serious. That's how the Prieuré d'Orsan struck us.
Foo.We went there because it was the 'No 2 must see' on a client's list. It's quite a long way out of our normal territory, but we were happy to go because our neighbours Sylvie and Pierre-Yves created a wonderful garden on the edge of the Forêt de Preuilly which was heavily influenced by what they saw at the Prieuré d'Orsan. So we had high expectations, as did the client.
The liveliest place in the garden.What we found was a garden that we were all, at best, ambivalent about. It is unrelentingly green. If you let them, the hornbeam hedges became oppressive and claustrophobic. Their intended purpose is to create a peaceful setting for meditation, and I guess they achieve that in the sense that there isn't anything else to distract you!
The zucchini compound.Our impression was that this was seriously uptight gardening, by people who relished the rigid control of nature. Everything was pinned down or precisely shaved into geometric forms. In July there was little evidence of flowering plants (although to be fair, I think if we had been there a few weeks earlier there would have been some lovely roses and clematis).
Sue and I got the giggles.At the entrance there is a blackboard with a long and poncy message about how this is a place for contemplation and could visitors please speak in hushed tones. This reduced our client, Sue, and myself to the state of naughty schoolgirls. Things were not improved when the receptionist handed us our tickets and told us that today, exceptionally, we could walk on the grass.
The stylish chestnut stave seats are all fiendishly uncomfortable.We are all glad we went, and it is an interesting garden, but I think if you don't come from a French intellectual and aesthetic background, you will be repelled as much as you are attracted.