I thought I would break the post on the Château Chenonceau into three parts, the history and pictures of the Château, the interior, and the surrounding forest and gardens. As you might have guessed from the picture above, this is the last. Chenonceau is located in an absolutely beautiful forest and even the parking lot pictured above is lovely. From the map below, you can see that the entrance is a long city block from the château. As they say in the brochure:
“The beauty of Chenonceau imposes itself like a relationship that speaks to the heart: the harmony between the sky, water, gardens and architecture appeals to every visitor, no matter what their cultural background.”
As you walk in from the entrance you are in a tree lined promenade surrounded by forest. To the right is a farm and other buildings hidden in the trees. The farm provided produce for the château and now provides cut flowers for the rooms of the château. These flowers are earmarked for the floral decoration of the Monument, the Building of the Domes, and the Orangerie.
The yard of the 16th century farm, recently restored, will give you the feeling of being part of a historical film set up before entering the Jardin des Fleurs where the flowers that decorate all of the castle’s rooms are raised. The floral decoration of Chenonceau requires a large-scale production of flowers for cutting. Each room of the château is decorated with an original floral composition prepared by a team of florists of the Chenonceau estate who renew every bouquet twice a week. The visitor to the château is welcomed by fresh flowers, and thus feels that he is considered as a guest in an inhabited residence. A wide variety of flowers for cutting are grown in this garden: white lupines, delphiniums, lilies, peonies, dahlias, irises… which you find in bouquets throughout the seasons inside the buildings. The floral workshop also uses natural materials like branches, pine cones, mosses, and lichens in order to preserve all the charm and refinement of a country château at Chenonceau.
Half way down the promenade on the left is a maze rebuilt exactly from Catherine de Médicis’ plans, opened to visits in the summer. Lined with yews taxus baccatta, according to a circular plan and rounded by a tree-covered walk, the maze also offers the opportunity to discover the caryatids added by Catherine de Médicis on the castle's front. They had been scraped off by Madame Pelouzet 300 years later and replaced behind a bush in the park. Now these caryatids are back where they belong, in the background of the maze.
Once you get to the end of the promenade, passing between two sphinx, you enter the forecourt or as it was called in the past, the Court of Honor. Lining the Court of Honour, which features climber rose-trees and a majestic alley of 16 orange trees, is the Building of the Domes, from the 16th century, which previously contained the Royal stables and the silk raising yard. Silk raising was introduced in France by Catherine de Médicis.
As you continue on toward the château, you will see the two main gardens. As you are facing the castle, the smaller one on the right is the Catherine de Médicis garden and the larger garden to the left is the Diane de Poitiers garden. Even though the Catherine de Médicis garden is smaller, it is full of flowers and bounded by a multicolored forest of trees that gives it a sense of intimacy. The flower beds themselves are planted twice a year with 30,000 to 32,000 plants for each planting:
- The spring plantings: yellow Viola pansies and blue, white roses depending on the decorative theme, daisies, pink or white bellis perennises and their bulbs ; daffodils and mysosotises.
- The summer plantings: petunias, tobacco, lilliput dahlias, patiences, verveine, or more begonias.
Overlooking the Garden of Diane de Poitiers is the Chancellery, the house of the estate steward at the foot of which is a dock decorated with a vine. This dock is the indispensable access to any tour on the Cher River.
When Diane de Poitiers received the gift of Chenonceau in 1547, she only found a modest garden, a rustic and confined space which was not suitable for the creation of a courtyard. This is why major works were carried out over a period of 5 years that led to the creation of sumptuous beds currently known as the Garden of Diane de Poitiers. It is situated upstream from the Castle, on the right bank of the River Cher and protected from river floods by raised terraces. At the time of its creation, the garden’s charm lay as much in its stage setting as in the choice of its plants: fruit trees, rustic shrubs, hawthorns and hazel trees, while the borders of the paths were sown with strawberry plants and violets.
In the very center of Diane's Garden, “Le Jardin de Diane”, is the garden's original fountain. The center of the garden is animated by a water-jet, recreated in 2002, which was, back at that time, a huge innovation. With a surprising design for its period, the stream of water spurts forth from a large rock sculpted for the purpose and then falls with a splash into a pentagon-shaped receptacle made of white stone.
Along the edges of the garden are these beautiful vases with red phlox. Altogether, the Gardens' floral decoration changes in the spring and in the summer needs 130,000 bedding plants grown on the Estate to be planted.
Across the river Cher is a beautiful forest. In the usual understated French approach, the forest is curated, beautiful scene after scene of natural beauty with paths leading to even more lovely tableaux.
I have decided to close this post on these beautiful images. If you have the chance, go to Château Chenonceau, the jewel of the Loire Valley Châteaux.