Chateau de Villandry The Jewel of Loire Valley

by Corina Clemence

The Chateau de Villandry is located in Villandry, in the department of Indre-et-Loire, France.

The lands were acquired in the early 1500’s by Jean Le Breton, France’s Controller-General for War under King Francois I, and a new chateau was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Philip II of France once met Richard I of England to discuss peace. The castle remained in the Le Breton family for more than two centuries until it was bought by the Marquis de Castellane. During the French Revolution the property was confiscated and in the early 1800’s Emperor Napoleon acquired it for his brother Joseph Bonaparte.

Dr. Joachim Carvallo purchased the chateau in 1906. When Dr. Carvallo bought the property it was in terrible disrepair and on the point of being demolished. It had been disfigured by the walling up of the arches, fake windows and additions, and the moat had been filled in.

The gardens at Chateau de Villandry are a delight. They are lovingly and enthusiastically tended by Henri Carvallo, curator of the chateau and great-grandson of Dr. Carvallo.

Dr. Carvallo envisaged the harmonious renaissance architecture and the original design. He gave up an impressive career in science under the tutelage of a professor who later went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and devoted himself to the restoration of Chateau de Villandry and its magnificent gardens.

Later on Dr. Carvallo founded the Association de la Demeure Historique with the objective of saving historic buildings throughout France. He certainly saved Villandry which is now one of the most visited chateaux of the Loire Valley.

Carvallo's best work was the restoration of the gardens, which still make the reputation of Villandry. Gardens existed as early as the 16th century and these were recreated under Carvallo's instructions following evidence of engravings found in "Les plus Excellents Bastiments de France" (1576-1579) by Jacques Androuet Du Cerceau.

The gardens at Chateau de Villandry are the grandest examples of formal Renaissance style gardens in France. The gardens, which are terraced on three levels, were influenced by Italian gardeners brought in by Charles VIII. The design for plantings on each level are:

The first level is the highest, at or above ground level with the chateau, is the Le Jardin d'Eau, (water garden) featuring lawns, fountains whose edges are bounded by arbors.

The second level, includes the : Le Jardin d'Ornement, (ornamental gardens), consisting of the Garden of Music, the Garden of Love, the Decorative Flower Garden and the Garden of Simple delights. In the front of this level where the castle stands is a bed planted with a pergola walk shaded by vines.

The third and lowest level, is the kitchen garden Le Potager, (vegetable garden), consists of vegetable plantings, fruit trees and bushes,as well as herbs for seasoning or medicinal purposes. This garden, in the Louis XIV style, and takes the form of a rectangle of slightly irregular shape surrounding on three sides the two higher tiers of gardens. It is devoted to vegetables and has 9 square sections divided into beds of various coloured plants, surrounded by hardy plants and box hedges.

Villandry is a vegetal feast, with big purple cabbages, zigzags of crazy-growing leeks, blocks of autumn pumpkins, beds of yellow and green peppers and mounds of celery all replanted twice a year with a brilliant eye for the colours of the changing seasons.

At the opposite side of the garden to the castle, there is a maze of 12000 clipped beech trees.
All of these are gardens are impressive in their own rights, so I will not recommend one more than the others.

Villandry is well worth the visit. Without too much pomp and ceremony you can witness a chateau that lives in harmony with nature, and the remarkable beauty of these gardens. Eight gardeners work at Chateau Villandry full time, and plant about 45,000 plants and 60,000 vegetables in its gardens each year.

In July each year Chateau Villandry holds Les Nuits des Mille Feux, when they light up the magical gardens of the Villandry castle with 2000 candles. Lit just as the sun begins to set, the candles burn on until after midnight in the beautiful grounds of the Loire's most famous chateau. Strolling musicians play Baroque music which adds to the mystical atmosphere during this quintessential Loire experience. Don't miss it - it is spectacular.

If you can not make it to the Les Nuits des Mille Feux in July, then you definitely should try to see all the Chateau Villandry gardens in the summertime, and preferably about 2 hours before the sun sets, as the light adds that certain 'Je-ne-sais-quoi'.

Corina Clemence operates a luxury french chateau in the Loire Valley near Blois, for up to fifteen people perfect for family holidays and for touring vineyards and chateaux and relaxing. It is ideal for a french wedding, party or event. Rent the whole castle or rent a suite. Rent a castle in France. Hire a chateau. Rent castle Rent chateau France

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