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The Gardens of Villandry

semi-overcast 24 °C

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The gardens of the Chateau de Villandry are a textbook example of the formal French gardens of the 16th century. The textbook, 'Traité du jardinage selon les raisons de la nature et de l'art,' by Jacques Boyceau, the superintendent of royal gardens under Louis XIII, states, “The garden should have a geomtric plan using the most recent discoveries of perspective and optics. A terrace overlooking the garden should allow the visitor to see all at once the entire garden..."

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"All vegetation must be constrained and directed to demonstrate the mastery of man over nature. Trees should be planted in straight lines and carefully trimmed, and their tops trimmed at a set height..."

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Here in Villandry, four gardeners spend three months each winter pruning more than one thousand lime trees that form the avenues.

"The residence must serve as the central point of the garden and no trees should be planted close to the house; rather, the house is set apart by low trimmed bushes..."

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Villandry has 52 kilometres of box hedges that have to be pruned between April and October each year.

"The most elaborate planting beds, in the shape of squares, ovals, circles or scrolls, are placed in a regular and geometric order close to the house, to complement the architecture and to be seen from above from the reception rooms of the house..."

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"These beds near the residence are filled with broderies, (embroideries), designs created with low boxwood to resemble the patterns of a carpet, and given a polychrome effect by plantings of flowers, or by colored brick, gravel or sand..."

"Farther from the house, the broderies are replaced with simpler parterres, (squares or rectangles), filled with grass, and often containing fountains or basins of water..."

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"Beyond these, carefully created groves of trees serve as an intermediary between the formal garden and the masses of trees of the park..."

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"Bodies of water (canals, basins) serve as mirrors, doubling the size of the house or the trees..."

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The gardens of Chateau de Villandry perfectly display all the features of a formal French garden of the 16th century. Ornamental flowers were relatively rare in French gardens in the 16th century and there was a limited range of colours. An important ornamental feature was therefore the topiary, a tree or bush carved into geometric or fantastic shapes...

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Although adhering to the general design of a medieval French garden, by using some 140 thousand flowers and vegetables the gardens of Villandry are a riot of colour today and it is recognised as one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe. The vegetable beds are as colourful as the flower gardens...

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To see more of Villandry and the gardens of many of the chateaus we have visited you can watch Monty Don's French Gardens on Netflix. Episode 2 features the world famous vegetable gardens of Villandry.

Posted by Hawkson 00:54 Archived in France

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Comments

More loveliness at this time of year. Thank you. Good time of the year to go? Not a person to be seen.

by Sue Fitzwilson

the mastery of man indeed ... love to see this and think about how gardeners might be trained to keep the gardens perfect.

by Janet

Just back from Ottawa. Saw Mackenzie King's estate in Gatineau which has French and English gardens side by side with sign pointing out the difference: one formal, the other "natural" both on a tiny scale compared to above.

by R and B

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