Friday, 23 September 2011

Elsie's Garden

Elsie in full flow.
Elsie de Raedt is a Belgian from Antwerp who now lives in Chinon. She has created the most wonderful garden, full of roses, which you can visit by appointment. She also runs a B&B, and all guests are given a personal guided tour by Elsie.

Rosa Antoon van Dijck, created by the Flemish Ministry of
Agriculture, with help from Elsie.
The old dovecote has been converted into the toilet for garden visitors.
I first heard of Elsie because she runs rose husbandry workshops and there was an article in the paper about her. She knows vast amounts about roses - I know a little bit, but she is completely immersed in their cultivation, history and romance, and marvellously generous with advice. If you are planting a garden in the Loire, she can help you choose roses and even supply the plants. She speaks French, German, Dutch, English and probably a couple of other languages, and networks with anybody who matters in the rose world I think.

Burnet Rose Rosa pimpinellafolia, with its striking black hips.
Very impressively, her garden at Chinon is never watered. When we visited, in early July, there had still been very little rain for the year. The garden looked a bit faded, most of the roses had finished their first flush and not yet started their second, but you would never have guessed that it never received supplimentary water. Even though we didn't visit at the ideal time, we still had a great time with Elsie, sitting down to her own special rose flavoured apéro afterwards and chatting until it was time to go to lunch. Chinon is somewhat touristy, so although I had researched where to go for un bon rapport qualité/prix, we asked her where she would suggest. She confirmed my research that the Café de la Paix on the main drag is a good choice, but she also mentioned that the Café des Arts, which I had discounted because it has some terrible online reviews, has changed hands and is now quite good (and the waiters are exceptionally good looking!).

The resident whippet, the more than incongrously named Orca.
Susan

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