Loire Valley Gardens – the May 2013 tour

Bouges le Chateau - flower and vegetable garden

Bouges le Chateau – flower and vegetable garden

The weather was not as kind as it might have been for this month’s tour; in fact, it has been the wettest and coldest May in France since the 1920’s.

My Australian guests were made of tough stuff however and we enjoyed a week of visits to eleven fine gardens across the Loire Valley region.

Each month our tours are slightly different, reflecting seasonal variations and the interests of our guests. For May 2013 our program featured a wide selection, including a couple new to me.

Wisteria at Cheverny

Wisteria at Cheverny

Sunday: Bouges le Chateau and Chateau de Chenonceau

Monday : Chateau de Cheverny, Blois and Les jardins de Roquelin

Tuesday : Prieure d’Orsan and Drulon

Wednesday : free day

Thursday : Chateau du Rivau and Chateau de Villandry

Friday : Chaumont Festival of Gardening

maytour2003 018There is always a plant of the month and this year the honour must go to Iris germanica, which were flowering well in more varieties than we could count, in every garden we visited. Peonies were also in flower, especially Tree Peonies, although many blooms were ruined by the rains. Another plant holding up well was Viburnum plicatum Mariesii, draped in stunning white lacecap flowers.

Chateau de Rivau

Chateau de Rivau

Each morning we set out from Chabris to explore for the day, stopping off at a village restaurant for a great lunch. The Chaumont lunch will be hard to forget however, sheltering from the cold rain under a parasol and a lime tree, eating from the festival pasta bar. It was good pasta, but we were so cold! On the other hand the meal at Rivau was excellent – a variety of wonderfully presented and tasty home grown salads. I also opted for a Chinon wine tasting while chatting to the owner of the chateau about the garden.

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Wild orchids, Lily Beetles and a Plant Fair

The Cowslips have reached their peak here in central France and orchids are providing the excitement now. We have come across several Early Purple orchids in damp, shady patches but a recent find made our day: a meadow full of thousands of Green-winged orchids in the full range of colours from deep purple, through lilac pink to pure white. This delightful sight is in one of the fields we pass most days when walking the dog and I believe there are many more floral treats to come in this spot.

Wild orchid

Orchis morio...or is it O. longicornu in the meadows at Chabris

On Sunday we jumped in the car to visit the plant fair in Bouges le Chateau, leaving the dog in the house hiding from the heat. The gardens are interesting and will be better later in the season when there are more flowers, but in the English style park there were again thousands of orchids in the meadow running down to the lake, amongst Cowslips too numerous to think of counting. Around the chateau there is a very formal French topiary garden and an Italianate water garden. The chateau is not large but is privately owned and full of furniture; the same age as our house, Chantal was keen to see how it had been decorated. The plant fair itself was much less interesting but we did meet people from the Indre Horticultural Society and chat them up about our gardening courses.

The white form of the Green-winged orchid

The weather is a warm 24 degrees C today and I am trying to find as many excuses as I can to spend time in the garden. Anything I need to plant requires the creation of new beds so even planting a few sweet corn requires major effort. I check the whole garden several times a day for new signs of growth or flowering and as a result can easily remove Lily Beetles as I find them: three again today.

In flower only recently – Choisya Aztec Pearl – a hybrid between the American Mexican Orange Blossom C. arizonica and C. ternata, bred and  released by Hillier Nurseries in 1989 – we have it in the central bed formed from the water feature dating from 1890 or there abouts. It is close to the Dining Island which is fast becoming surrounded by flowers as we had intended when we started this project. Another wonderful plant here: Salvia argentea, with amazing silky white hairs all over its large oval leaves. It has overwintered and is growing spectacularly well in our light, sandy soil.

Salvia argentea