On a somewhat dreary and rainy day, our little road trip group lifted our spirits with a tour of the gardens of Villandry, one of the most beautiful gardens in all of France. I’m pretty certain we did the tour in the exact opposite direction as was recommended by the tour pamphlet, but there was hardly a soul to tell us otherwise as we were just about the only people crazy enough to venture out in the pouring rain. Lucky for us, if you ask me! And as an added bonus, the droplets of rain put a bit of shine on each of the gorgeous plants along our way.
The layout of the Renaissance kitchen gardens was particularly intriguing as they resembled quilt patterns with their symmetrical lines and repetitive themes, as shown on the map below. These squares are planted with vegetables of varying colors creating the geometrical patterns, and lined by fruit trees.
Plant identification is made easy by these informational maps as well.
This particular layout chosen for the Kitchen Garden mimics those found in the Middle Ages when monks in the abbeys planted their vegetables in geometric patterns, as a nod to the cross. Even the roses, planted at center points within the design, symbolize the monks digging their squares.
Lovely ivy-covered trellis overlooking the Kitchen Gardens create a wonderful space to reflect upon on the beauty below – the geometric patterns reminds one of chessboards, or grandma’s handstitched quilts from way back.
We spent a lot of time in awe of the precision necessary to create and maintain such a masterpiece. In fact, Villandry employs a team of 10 fulltime gardeners year-round to keep up with the demands of the various garden spaces! We came across several workers within the herb garden below, discreetly tolling away even in the rain.
Making our way to the Ornamental Garden we came across this canal leading away from the Water Garden. This canal separates the estate grounds in two, and connects with the moat around the entire grounds.
Created in the form of a Louis XV mirror, the Water Garden pool is lined by lime trees, and frequented by some thirsty swans. This video gives you an idea of the weather we were contending with as well. Good thing I love a good rain!
Beyond the canal are the Ornamental Gardens, also known as the Love Gardens. This garden highlights shapes such as the Maltese cross and the Basque cross within the designs, creating yet another geometric masterpiece perfect for reflection and lingering.
Stretching from the Water Garden to the Château, the designs are best seen from above, on the “belvedere” (which I learned meant a raised terrace!). Each square within the Ornamental Garden is named for a different type of love: Tender Love, Passionate Love, Flighty Love, and Tragic Love (shown below in clockwise order, starting from the top left design).
To be honest, we were only in the Château for short amount of time, just long enough to find even more views of the exterior! Here’s a shot of the Ornamental Garden from a child’s bedroom, below. Now if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll have realized that we missed entire sections of the estate, as you can view from the terraced areas beyond the Ornamental Garden. There is also a Sun Garden, a maze, “the Woods”, and another Ornamental Garden! I guess we’ll have to plan to come back! 😉
We nearly felt as though we were trespassing since there were so few people around, but eventually we found access to the rooftop for more astounding views of the Kitchen Gardens and village just beyond…just could not get enough! Don’t get me wrong, the Château was beautiful, but the real gem of this tour is, and always will be, the fantastic gardens.
If you’re ever in the Loire Valley and you love gardens, make sure this location makes the cut! It was well worth it, just make certain you bring an umbrella 😉
*I always recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time, for peace of mind and easy planning. Click here to buy now. Only 11 euros, or just 5 euros if you’re only interested in the gardens.