Jardins de Villandry – 15 July 2014

by quincyhammond

garden overview

The gardens of Chateau du Villandry are enormous, elaborate and extensively documented. The Potager (Vegetable Garden) is a mecca for garden tourists—of which I am one, let’s face it, with my camera perpetually attached to my chest like a third arm. I was warned by others who have gone before me that I would be disappointed, but it was more of a sense of adequately fulfilled expectation—no more, no less. Except, that is, for the Water Garden.

I am not normally a proponent of water features beyond the functional swimming pool. They are typically contrived and ill-conceived, inserted haphazardly into landscapes to invoke a false sense of calm, interest or relationship to nature. (Fake ponds and waterfalls being the worst offenders.) They are expensive to construct and difficult to maintain and are often left to become putrid mosquito-breeding grounds. But the Water Garden at Villandry challenged my deeply-held, long-standing bias—not to the point of total conversion, but certainly to respectful exception.

As the source of the moat surrounding the Chateau and reservoir of irrigation for its gardens, the large central reflecting pool takes advantage of its functions with its form—sort of a square with an arced cap. Four circular fountains are symmetrically and geometrically arranged on either side of the pool. Panels of grass divided by gravel paths are punctuated by perfectly round boxwood in square planters. The entire picture is framed by perilously steep lawn plinths, topped with pleached lindens. The repetition of simple forms—squares and circles—and minimal palette of materials is intensely graphic and remarkably modern. With only a few deliberate strokes, this garden makes a dramatic statement that demands respect of even the most doubtful.

The Water Garden feeds the moat surrounding the castle.

The Water Garden feeds the moat surrounding the castle.

 

An (almost) overview of the Water Garden

An overview of the Water Garden

Tall, steep lawn plinths surround the Water Garden on three sides, allowing an elevated view and creating the sunken effect.

Tall, steep lawn plinths (glacis in French, I have learned) surround the Water Garden on three sides, allowing an elevated view and creating the sunken effect.

A shallower--but equally precise--slope defines the reflecting pool.

A shallower–but equally precise–slope defines the reflecting pool.

Circular fountains are aligned along either side of the reflecting pool.

Circular fountains are aligned along either side of the reflecting pool.

Round boxwoods in square pots anchor the corners while maintaining simplicity of form.

Round boxwoods in square pots anchor the corners while maintaining simplicity of form.

The circular fountains are plainly edged with brick.

The circular fountains are plainly edged with brick.

 

A minimal palette of color and material gives an "antique" garden a modern feel.

A minimal palette of color and material gives an “antique” garden a modern feel.

The lawn-gravel combination is highly graphic.

The lawn-gravel combination is highly graphic.




Advertisements