There are hundreds of Chateaux in the Loire Valley ranging from small, gorgeous and rather cosy like the Chateau du Clos Lucé, former home of Leonardo da Vinci, to the grand and imposing like the Chateau de Chambord, a Renaissance masterpiece.
The Chateau de Chenonceau is one of the most grand and gorgeous of them all, like a fairy tale castle, nestling on the banks of the River Cher where former owner Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566), mistress of King Henri II used to bathe. The waters, it was said, made her even more beautiful.
Chateau of Flowers
The chateau today is owned by the Menier family, famous for making chocolate in France. It is open to the public year-round and has a unique attraction – flowers!
The Chateau de Chenonceau has a reputation for being a “ladies castle” as, other than Diane de Poitiers, several women have had a strong influence over its destiny, including Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II. Both women loved the gardens of the chateau and would have grand bouquets displayed in the rooms. Go there today and every room in the chateau provides the most amazing backdrop for beautiful floral displays.
Most of the flowers are grown in the chateau grounds by a master gardener. And the displays are created by Jean-Francois Bouchet an internationally renowned florist. He and his team make the magnificent bouquets in a tiny workshop at the castle, and the colour, scent and life they bring to the rooms are world famous.
Beautiful furnishings, tapestries, paintings and historic rooms including a 60m long gallery across the river Cher where balls were held, make Chenonceau a real must see for any chateau lover.
The gardens of Chenonceau
Visit this chateau and it’s not just the gorgeous interior with its flowers that you get to enjoy but the stunning gardens too. Head gardener Nicholas Tomlan, an American, has distinct areas to look after. Diane’s Garden (with a fountain in the middle) and Catherine de Medici’s Garden (with a pond in the middle) are a riot of colour and formal beds filled with beautiful flowers – around 130,000 bedding plants are grown for the summer borders alone.
The potager is where flowers grow side by side with fruit and veg, destined for the chateau’s delectable L’Orangerie Restaurant. There’s also a maze, a grand Green Garden, stunning avenue of trees that lead to the castle and a recently developed small garden dedicated to the great botanist Russel Page.
The gardens are illuminated on summer nights and on some weekends, classical music is played, the perfect accompaniment to a fairy tale stroll.
This is a fabulous year-round visit including at Christmas, when the chateau de Chenonceau is decked out in style.