You're not in Scotland anymore, Outlander Plant lovers!
Suffice it to say that they do things differently in France.
Located in the Loire Valley, about a 3 hour drive southwest of Paris, you'll find Le Chateau Villandry, one of the last great Renaissance chateaux built on the Loire River. The chateau itself is not that impressive, compared to others from the era like Chenenceau and Chambord. The main reason to visit Villandry is to see the gardens. The gardens I most appreciated were the kitchen and the love gardens.
The kitchen garden, which you see above, is divided into individual rectangular beds, each bordered with tightly clipped boxwood hedges. The vegetable planting scheme is designed to alternate color and texture to give the impression of a living chess board.
Tree roses punctuate the beds, adding height and color. The perimeter of the garden is lined with colorful flower beds and bordered with espaliered apple and pear trees. Grapes are trained along the arbor above the stone walls. Even in fall, when most vegetable gardens are looking tired and unkept, the kitchen garden at Villandry is beautiful.
The Gardens of Love are another special feature at Villandry.
Best viewed from the chateau balcony, separate parterres represent four aspects of love: Tender Love (upper left corner), Tragic Love (lower left corner), Passionate Love (upper right corner) and Fickle Love (lower right corner).
Tender love is shown with perfect heart shapes, separated by red "flames" of love. The boxwoods in the tragic love quadrant are pruned to take the shapes of swords and daggers; the red flowers are the blood shed by men fighting over women. The hearts in the passionate love parterre are split open by the intensity of love. The fickle love garden has horn shapes and fans to indicate flirtation. Although not the case in this photo, the flower color in the fickle love garden is usually yellow, the color that symbolizes betrayal.
Here is a view of the Tender Love garden with the Kitchen Garden in the background on the right. The clipped, upright evergreens that look like chess pieces are yews.
Today the chateau is undergoing renovation, its rooms reflecting the French art of living in the 18th Century. The kitchen garden is transitioning to becoming entirely organic and the produce from the garden is used in the preparation of food served in the chateau restaurant. So if you want to get a wee taste of what a grand French castle was like when Claire and Jamie were there, I highly recommend a visit. For more information about the Chateau and gardens, visit their website.
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