One of the highlights of my garden wanderings from last summer was a trip to the Loire Valley. Up until the French Revolution, the Loire Valley was where the French nobility came to play, away from the hustle and bustle of Paris. As a result, this beautiful, lush valley is littered with an incredibly high concentration of magnificent châteaux, enough to spread around a few small countries. For a gardener, the castle gardens are of course the main point. These are often as much of an attraction, or even more so, than the castles themselves, and have become a highlight of the region. Best of all, I was happy to discover that not all gardens are traditional French formal style – there is enough variety, as well as plenty of new additions and developments, to keep things fresh and interesting.
The first garden we visited was at Plessis Sasnières. The best word to describe the entire property at Plessis Sasnières is comfortable. Everything from the residence (which is not so much castle as country mansion) to the English park-style gardens convey comfort and relaxation, with a French country-style touch. Taking up residence here would be so easy – you can just picture yourself having breakfast croissants on the gravel terrace overlooking the small lake, followed by a leisurely stroll around the walled flower garden and then maybe a peek in the potager to pick fresh berries for lunch. And don’t forget a little row around the lake at dusk. Ahh, to be born into a royal lineage…
I chose the garden because of the alluring tagline on the website, calling visitors to share in a “passion for the art of gardens” (more or less). The current owner, who inherited the property from her grandfather, does indeed seem to be passionate about gardening – we spotted her outside, pruning a gigantic door through a hedge. Since taking over, she has worked to restore and develop the garden, recently attaining the “Jardin Remarquable” designation. Her passion is especially evident in the walled garden, which is filled to the brim with perennials styled in the Gertrude Jekyll tradition. Around the lake, the landscape is less flower-heavy, mainly defined by lawns, a small stream surrounded by bog plants, and some more formal elements, including rolling clipped hedges.
This is a garden where you feel you could linger all day. It’s nothing overly dramatic or imposing – it just sits comfortably in its setting, and invites one to pause and enjoy the gentle beauty of nature.