I have extremely vague memories of visiting Loire jardins and Chateaux as a child.
The strongest is getting lost in a maze. Completely traumatising. I to this day have an appalling sense of direction so mazes are still avoided as well as driving without a satnav and walking without extra allotted 'I'm going to get lost' time.
The other memory is of a child's 'camera' which my grandad bought for me whilst we were there, which showed pictures of gardens through the viewfinder.
The memories were so weak it was imperative that the gardens were revisited. It would be rude not to whilst in the Loire and being such a green finger wannabe these days.
We decided to go to le Chateau de Villandry as it is so well known for its potager gardens. I now also know that it has this potting greenhouse of dreams. The gardens grow 80 000 vegetable plants and 120 000 flowers a year.
The garden is known for its beauty, intricate designs and topiary however we spent the most time looking at all the baby plants and planning what to grow on our allotment next year.
These Black Pearl peppers were one of my particular favourites. So perfectly formed and shiny.
These 'Peppa Orangina' were also beautiful. Both from the capsicum annuum family.
We were in no hurry, so after allotment planning we decided to follow the suggested 'long walk'. It seemed a waste to do anything less, unless physically unable in the hilly areas, as it showed the beauty of the gardens from different perspectives.
The first part takes you up into the hills and through the surrounding wood. There is the most spectacular viewing point at the top where you look down directly through the middle of the symmetrical gardens.
Down on the terraces we sat for a while contemplating the meaning of life, appreciating the fantastic OCD brain of designer Joachim Carvallo and then we watched a child playing with a swan…asking for trouble. Alas, no trouble came, so we moved on.
We descended through vine covered walkways.
Then marvelled at the pear trees. I have omitted any pictures of the maze. In fact I didn't take any. It again was traumatic, even though there was no possible way of getting lost. Moving on…
The flower and herb gardens were wonderful, a real sensory experience to walk through, however my true interests were in the vegetable gardens. They did not disappoint.
Everything was meticulously planned. We read about the plot rotation, designs and planning involved to grow such a beautiful allotment.
The vegetable plots were surrounded by borders of flowers, all chosen for their colours, sizes and co-planting qualities.
Butterflies and bees were everywhere, it was such a relaxing walk. France pretty much shuts down in August and everyone goes on holiday so the gardens were quiet. Lots of tourists, but not enough to disturb viewing.
I came away with far too many seeds from the garden shop within. I cannot wait to sow them this Autumn and next Spring!
The Chateau and Gardens are open every day, all year round, however, Spring and Summer are the best times to view.
They are located a mere 2.5 hour drive from Paris or 20 minutes from Tours.
Tickets are €6.50 for the gardens alone or €10.50 for the gardens and Chateau which you can pre-book online.