The gorgeous gardens of the Chateau of Chenonceau, Loire Valley

Written by on February 4, 2018 in Centre, Museums and Châteaux

The Chateau of Chenonceau is famous for its floral displays. Every room is exquisitely decorated with scented, utterly stunning bouquets made by a master florist in the Chateau’s floral workshop.

Of course, all those flowers and fruits used in the spectacular displays have to be grown. Largely the flowers come from the stunning gardens of the Chateau de Chenonceau. The gardens are overseen by American gardener Nicholas Tomlan. He came to France for this job from Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania – named the best botanical Gardens in America by USA Today. He’s now the brilliant botanical director at the chateau. I met with him on a stormy day at the Chateau de Chenonceau….

The gardener at the Chateau de Chenonceau

“In the old days, they’d grow root vegetables here” says this affable gardener (above left) “no flowers”. Looking around at the formal beds with a mix of vegetables and flower and roses spilling over walls in what is now the walled vegetable garden I can’t imagine it any other way. But, it wasn’t until the renaissance days that flowers were grown simply to look good and to decorate the interior. Ancient owners Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, both had flower displays in the chateau. Records tell us that some of them were “monumental” taller than a man, flamboyant, colourful and showy.

“Nowadays it’s a mix of flowers and veg for the displays and also for the restaurant” says Nicolas as he stoops to pick a lettuce to put in his basket to give to the castle’s restaurant chef. “The queen would have never visited the vegetable gardens, but the flower gardens – absolutely”.

I’m sure she would have approved of Nicholas’ work and would recognise the style. These gardens were recreated using drawings from the late 1500s. There are gorgeous giant wicker bird cages in which flowers grow, wild flower meadows, formal parterre gardens and the most beautiful arrangement of colour and blooms. The seven gardeners here grow more than 130,000 plants each year and the gardens are as important a place to wander and admire as the chateau itself.

“Do you ever feel anything ghostly here” I asked him. “Not really” he says, then adds “We do have a small greenhouse that has a double lock and we only ever turn the key once. But, every week, on at least one occasion, the greenhouse has been double-locked, and we’ve never been able to explain it”. The ghost of the gardens perhaps, I suggest. Would it be Diane or Catherine I wonder and decide Catherine, she was said to be a very determined woman.

Magnificent gardens of the Chateau de Chenonceau

Diane’s Garden, as it’s called, is on the right-hand side of the chateau. Catherine’s garden is on the left-hand side. Clearly their rivalry wasn’t just contained to Henry. There is also a maze commissioned by Catherine and a grand Green Garden with tall trees in which sits the historic Orangery. In the 16th century this part of the estate is where the animals and Catherine’s aviary were kept.

L’Orangerie Restaurant at Chenonceau

Nowadays the orangery is L’Orangerie restaurant and it is fabulous – both for the food and the interior. You’ll certainly enjoy Nicholas’ handiwork here, every dish seems to be adorned with fruit or leaves and it’s so beautiful you feel bad breaking up the artwork! The cheese cloche which is wheeled around for diners to pick what they fancy is a masterpiece. Don’t be fooled into thinking that it’s all just good looks, it’s not. The chef makes amazing dishes, the pastries are created by a master and the cheese is chosen by a legendary affineur (someone who matures cheese until perfection – a very French thing).

Every table is decorated with a bouquet made by Jean-Francois and his team. I have to tell you – I’d go back just for the restaurant!

Inside the Chateau de Chenonceau

The chateau is gorgeous inside. There are tapestries, paintings and exquisite furniture. The kitchen  looks as though a chef of medieval times has nipped out for some more vegetables and will be back at any moment to prepare a feast. But the flowers are truly the star of the show.

Practical information for visiting the Chateau de Chenonceau

Website for the Chateau de Chenonceau: www.chenonceau.com

Read more about the Chenonceau castle of flowers and how it comes to be filled with magnificent bouquets each day.

Botanical tour with Nicholas Tomlan and floral workshop with master florist at the castle Jean-François Boucher is exclusively for small groups, by reservation only: events @ chenonceau.com

L’Orangerie restaurant can only be accessed once you’re inside the chateau grounds. You can book in advance at: restaurants @chenonceau.com

Where to stay near the Chateau de Chenonceau

Nearby Amboise makes for a perfect base to visit the Chateau de Chenonceau, it’s about 20 minutes by car. I stayed at the lovely Hotel Bellevue which has a great little restaurant and fabulous bar and is a stone’s throw from the incredible Chateau d’Amboise in the centre of this historic town.

If you stay in Amboise, don’t miss out on a meal at the nearby Le Parvis restaurant (3 rue Mirabeau) where the appetite you’ll build up walking around will be well satisfied!

How to get to the Chateau to Chenonceau

Trains from Paris run to Amboise, nearby Tours and to Chenonceaux station which is right by the chateau (making for a great day trip): UK-Voyages-SNCF.

For more information on the area: www.amboise-valdeloire.co.ukwww.valdeloire-france.co.ukuk.france.fr 

Related Articles

Visit to the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte France

The Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte lies in the lush countryside of Maincy, department Seine et Marne, Ile de France. The famous tapestry makers Gobelins were once based here before being ordered to set up shop in Paris by Louis XIV. They remain in Paris, creating their extraordinary designs to this day. They were not alone in […]

Continue Reading

The Historic Chateau de Blois Loire Valley

The Chateau de Blois is one of the great castles of the Loire Valley. This beautiful castle is famous for its residents but also because it presents a unique view of the evolution of French chateaux architecture. Buildings dating from the 13th to 17th centuries are set before you. The stone markers of time from […]

Continue Reading

Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire Loire Valley

The Chateau de Chaumont-sur-Loire is stunningly pretty, reminiscent of Disney’s fairy tale castle in Sleeping Beauty. Nestled on the banks of the River Loire In Loire et Cher, it is unique for its presentation of art and the international garden festival that’s held here annually. History of the Chateau de Chaumont The original fortress was […]

Continue Reading

The fairy tale Chateau du Rivau Loire Valley

This is a love story. It’s the tale of a couple who fell in love with an abandoned chateau. They bought it and have spent the last two decades lovingly restoring it and creating the most magical gardens. Falling in love with a neglected but exquisite Chateau Normally these stories are about expats who can’t […]

Continue Reading

Why is the Mona Lisa so famous?

The Mona Lisa, known as La Joconde in France, has one of the most famous faces the world has ever known despite being more than 500 years old. Her likeness hangs in the Louvre Museum in Paris and each year millions queue to see her face behind its thick bullet proof glass. Many wonder what […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top