Diane’s Garden at Chenonceau
While staying near Amboise we drove to the castle at Chenonceau, about 10 miles. We got there late in the afternoon, as we were warned the place would be very crowded earlier in the day.
In the 16th Century King Henry II gave Chenonceau to his long-time mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Reversing the usual pattern, she was 20 years older than the king. Dr. Freud has never analyzed the relationship.
Anyhow, Diane built a garden within walls the shape of a square. It was the kind of formal garden I generally don’t like, but I found myself appreciating it anyway.
It was built with a fountain at the center, surrounded by a circular path. Straight walkways at regular intervals led from the fountain to paths parallel to the walls, creating grassy triangles.
An odd aspect of this garden was that it lay completely open, with nothing hidden. There were no trees, no shade, no little private nooks of any kind. Perhaps Diane sought to discourage intrigues against her.
Also, the garden’s large size diminished any sense of enclosure that might be gained from the walls. Then there were the meatballs made of yew and boxwood that tend to set my teeth on edge.
So what did I like about this garden? Well, I liked the surrounding walls, which provide an elevated promenade as well as views of the chateau.
I liked the giant planters full of tender geraniums. I also surprised myself by liking the curly cue miniature gray hedges of Santolina.
And I liked the selection of flowering plants. I was especially taken with the venerable Hibiscus plants, grown as standards with thick trunks that made me think of olive trees.
Also beds full of Gaura, English Daisies, Begonias, Artemesia, etc.
Well, back to Diane and Henry. Henry eventually was killed in a tournament. His long-suffering wife, Catherine de Medici, took the opportunity to kick Diane out of Chenonceau and move into it herself. She then built her own garden up river from the castle, which I’ll write about in another post.
Do you enjoy formal gardens with everything laid out in one open space? It’s not something I would want for myself, but somehow I liked Diane’s garden at Chenonceau.