What inscription would appear on the gold plaque below an oil portrait in an ornate gold frame, displayed at the grand chateau staircase, if the splendid image peering back was my face? Oh, that is an easy one! Let the engraving begin: “Francophile and Passionate Garden Lover – Debbie Ambrous”
I couldn’t help it. I grew as the flowers grew in Granny Bryan’s garden, following in her footsteps and snipping begonias to root in clay flower pots. Seed catalogs arrived in the mail, and they were just as much fun to read and feed my imagination as the Sears Roebuck catalog. I was learning to transplant, propagate, mulch, fertilize and prune before I reached my teens. While I’m still not an expert, the language of flowers and plants is deeply instilled.
People of the same persuasion are drawn to Chateau Villandry and the immense gardens, and others immediately fall under its spell. This landscape is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Villandry was built in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for Francois I. Only the keep remains of a medieval castle that was razed in order to make way for the chateau. In 1754, the Marquis de Castellane, who came from a noble Provencal family, purchased the chateau and had it redesigned to meet 18th-century standards of comfort. In 1906, the chateau was bought by Joachim Carvallo, the great-grandfather of the present owner. He created 16th century-style gardens that were in perfect harmony with the architecture of the chateau. Each room enjoys its own unique view, particularly of the gardens.
Jim and I arrived mid-day on a sunny day, better than a rainy one, in mid-May. A gray-haired lady was seated on a bench with a gentleman, and his arm rested tenderly on her shoulders – a scene of love for each other and for the gardens. I understood and shared those feelings. My heart beat faster when my eyes were filled with the beauty of the gardens, lakes and the chateau. I needed my own bench to sit and reflect.
Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul. – Luther Burbank
Like-minded tourists were stooping to admire the flowers and their cameras were clicking away. We smiled and talked with a few including two pretty ladies from Thailand. I promised to include their pictures in the blog. I hope they didn’t lose their notes, like I lost mine.
Children played on the lake banks and skipped along the pathways.
Since we didn’t have an invitation to join them, we moved along to drink in the rich beauty of the magnificent garden.
Then it was time for lunch.
We didn’t bring a picnic lunch, so we left to eat at an outdoor café along the Loire River, a short distance away. After a leisurely, peaceful meal in the breeze, imagining how wonderful it would be if I could live there and follow this routine every day, I forced myself to return to the gardens – almost paradise!
I couldn’t possibly include the pictures of the interior of the chateau in this one post. Another time, we can walk inside to see the paintings (no portraits of me inside) and climb the circular staircase in the tower for a birds-eye view of the gardens. Ya’ll come back!
I anticipate a few very busy months, so I will only post every two weeks instead of weekly. I wish I could say that I will be spending all of my time, busily gardening at Chateau Ambrous. I do hope to fit in some of that personal joy.What are your plans for your flower gardens? Do you enjoy the planning and planting almost as much as the flourishing finale? Let’s hope the weather cooperates. Agreed? Don’t forget to leave your comments for others to enjoy and perhaps a few suggestions for me.
The history and commentary for the gardens and chateau were derived from the tourist brochure. All photos are the personal property of Debbie Ambrous.