What with the potager and the Festival International des Jardins at Chaumont-sur-Loire, I was getting close to my sensory overload threshold. The point at which my brain turns to mush. The point at which I normally would be heading off to the cute little bistro I had seen on my way to the castle. Instead I was standing at the entrance to le Parc des Prés du Goualoup.
The area before me was flat and large – 10 hectares to be exact (that’s just over 20 acres for those of you who, like me hover on the metric/Imperial divide. Actually, I still don’t have a very good sense of what an acre is, just that 20 of them is a very large area.)
Opened to the public in 2012, it is a work in progress. The goal is to create a series of jardins pérennes liés aux grandes civilizations. More of these perennial gardens in the style of traditional gardens of the world will be added over the next few years. The guiding muse of the design is described as l’esprit (spirit) contemporain. Traditional. And contemporary.
A circular path takes you through the park/garden. To the left is a small grove of Cedars of Lebanon that seemed to encircle (shelter?) a few large, round objects. To the right gardeners were working on the iris bed, planted just last year. I set off to the right. It’s always fun to chat with the gardeners.
Since there are none of the high hedges that enclose the festival gardens nearby, you can see what’s coming up from quite a distance. This gives you a while to try and figure the thing out before you reach the plaque.
Although descriptions of gardens as modern or traditional are meant to be helpful, I’m often left wondering about the time line. When does ‘modern’ begin? Like the controversy around native vs. introduced species. Native as of when? Before the arrival of Europeans? That position always strikes me as rather arbitrary, especially in light of nature’s own role in the migration of flora. What about plants like the coconut that for centuries, without any intervention on man’s part, have been floating across the oceans and setting down roots on new, previously coconut-free islands?
Besides, it seems to me that, more and more, gardens in which the plant material plays the leading role (and I’m not talking about Botanical Gardens where, by definition, the focus in on the plants) are lumped, often with a subtle, but unmistakable hint of disdain, into a group called ‘traditional’, while those with ‘strong architectural elements’ (i.e.. man-made structures) are classified as ‘modern’ or ‘contemporary’.
There is a lot of talk these days about ‘pushing one’s limits’ and ‘getting out of your comfort zone’. I began to wonder if maybe that is what this whole area was really about.
I was also starting to get annoyed. Why had I listened to that woman in the gift shop? I could be sitting down with a nice glass of one of the local whites – or maybe a red – the sun was trying to coming out, but it was still on the cool side.
One thing I hate more than going on a wild goose chase is retracing my steps. I’d already come a fair way along the path. The thought of turning back at this point was even less appetizing – that again – than continuing.
I started to hear a strange, soft whooshing/thumping kind of sound. It came at regular intervals. Like a heart beat.
I could see the Cedars of Lebanon not far ahead. Almost back at the beginning. Lunch was not far off.
Next stop: A rose lover brings a touch of ‘Chaumont’ to her patch of Eden.