The Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival in the Loire Valley is often dubbed as the French version of the Chelsea Flower Show. But far from being an endless show of flowers and nothing more, there is a whole host of surprising, brand new experiences in store.
This may be a festival of flowers, but the theme for its 27th edition this year is the concept of thought, as chaired by the writer Jean Echenoz. With a top French novelist who has published 17 novels and been the recipient of a dozen literary awards in charge, you can expect to be dazzled by a delightful selection of literary-inspired treats.
The gardens have all been designed to bring to life the worlds of famous writers like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Octave Mirbeau, Marcel Proust or Jorge Luis Borges. There’s also inspiration drawn from American Indian legends and the Sufi tale of the Conference of the Birds, demonstrating the incredible literary variety.
As you walk through the gardens, you’ll be swept away to a land of literary excitement. It will be all the more enjoyable if you read a book or two from the featured authors before you arrive.
There’s a whole list of prestigious guests who will be attending Chaumont-sur-Loire this year. If you’re an avid gardener, then you’ll be pleased to know that prominent landscape artist Bernard Lassus will be there, but there’s also something for art lovers too.
The famous American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly will be in attendance, as well as the remarkable team from OULIPO for literary lovers (a group that stands for Workshop of Potential Literature). It’s thanks to them that you can visit the mindblowing Jardin des voyelles (Garden of vowels).
After all the excitement of meeting famous guests and strolling around the architectural treasures of these incredible gardens, you’ll need a little relaxation. The perfect spot to do so is at the radically contemporary International Klein Blue Japanese meditation garden. There’s nowhere quieter to seek a quick moment of calm.
The design is inspired by the spaces of wonder that often stand at temples of Zen Buddhism, serving as an aid to meditation about the true meaning of life. Of course, while you’d be welcome to ruminate about the higher purpose of life in this gorgeous meditation garden, you can equally just soak up the splendour of serenity.
While gardens are most widely considered to be places of pleasure – or as this year’s theme suggests, even a place of intellectual inspiration at times – they can also be used to help solve the world’s crises.
As the concern for climate change intensifies, there’s no doubt that world architecture must adapt and a particular focus on the future of green architecture at this festival shows the benefits of revamping traditional concrete in favour of greener surfaces that can better deal with extreme heat and rainfall.
In this way, the plant-inspired poetry on show is not only interesting to read and the gardens delightful to stroll around, but also inspiring for the world’s most important concerns.
Among the treasures, you’ll find a sculptural book of sand, unprecedented spiral architecture and a contemporary cloister decked out with sublime ‘feather flowers’, to name just a few of the gems on show.