Saturday 6 December 2008

Ahhhh is for Arboretum

Usually, I let Susan write about gardens - she is into plants (and stuff), whilst I am more a views and vistas person. As I have been to this garden twice, and Susan hasn't*, it is time for me to be brave. Luckily, this is a "big picture" garden.

The Chateau at Azay le Ferron has extensive gardens, laid out in 1856 in the "English Style". This picks up from the 18th century English fad for parkland gardens in the style of Capability Brown and Humphry Repton, but for some reason it never seems terribly convincing when done in France. To my eyes the open spaces are too wide and open and bordered by the trees, rather than an idealised naturalistic landscape with little copses scattered to draw the eye around.

I think the French are at their best in a garden when you give them a mountain of small box bushes and leave them alone for a while. Luckily, at the back of the chateau is a garden where they have done just that. There is a parterre (knot garden) and a collection of slightly weird topiary immediately behind the chateau (Any takers for the theory that great parterre gardens like those at Villandry might be a sign of borderline autism?)

I like the "bush as futuristic TV" topiary,
the "Madonna bra" is amusing but less effective.

The main attraction (and the way they market themselves) is as an arboretum. The way it is slightly oddly laid out in no way detracts from how good an arboretum the garden is, with a great collection of trees from Europe/Asia and North America, including various sequoias and cedars - big trees all.

Giant Sequoia

There is a leaflet that gives you a list of the trees so you can get your eye in, and a couple of suggested walks. I have only ever done the route marked in red on the leaflet - but the second time I walked this route I did it in reverse.

I am a rebel, me...

As you get towards the bottom of the garden the trees become more of a forest - then suddenly it opens up to a large (now unfortunately empty and not in the best of condition) round pond with fountains. There are a number of decent vistas from here, including some "borrowed views" over the adjacent farmland. The best view, however, is back towards the house.

These gardens are well worth an hour or two of anybody's time, and the chateau - although I have not yet been inside it - also looks pretty good.


*This is not quite true - Susan and I went to the garden in February, but didn't get in because we discovered at the cashier that we didnt have any money with us. Not even 3 euro each to see the garden.


Anonymous said...

Good job, Simon, and I think to improve your craft you should report on lots more gardens. Susan too. Not to hijack your blog or anything.

By the way, in the first photo, am I seeing topiary Hershey's kisses?

Simon said...

Youre too kind. I do gardens, Susan does plants - so I usually let her write about the gardens too. That way I don't have to think about anything but taking photos.

Dunno about Hershey's Kisses, but as soon as I saw it I though "big girl wearing Madonna's Bra" Maybe that's just the way my mind works...

I will now go sit in a corner until I can behave myself.

Sweetpea in France said...

I have been on a guided tour and it is wonderful and well worth it - you have to be able to understand that in that particular era hunting and stuffed animals were "de riguer". I have also been at the Chateau when they have had a medieval event. Unfortunately, although I have been to the rose gardens I have never walked the arboretum. I was there recently for the 40th anniversary of the Alpine Renault vehicles! Maybe not your style Simon! The jazz was excellent!

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