A fine farm for florists and regal roses

Today I'm taking you to another part of the Chateau de Chenonceau estate, and a part you might not have heard of before, the farm. Yes I wasn't expecting to find one here either, and it was a lovely discovery. Especially as it was so pretty. And so French. We approached past the duck pond who, as you'd expect living so close to such a grand chateau also had some rather plush duck accommodation.

The 16th century farm buildings at chateau de chenonceau
Could this farm at Chateau de Chenonceau look any more French

The farm is a group of 16th century buildings and includes Catherine de' Medici's stables. One of the buildings houses a floral workshop where two florists work all year round creating the stunning flower arrangements which I've already shared. And it provides easy access to the vegetable and flower gardens nearby. But before we go there, just look at this honeysuckle I spotted. It's huge, and was lovely and fragrant when we visited, but growing in a way - like a cordon - that I'd not seen before.

honeysuckle at chateau de chenonceau grown as a cordon and in a way i've not seen before

Moving through one of the farm's arches, I got my first glimpse of the productive part of the garden. And I wasn't surprised at how orderly it was. I loved the grass between the crops - which is a similar approach I have in my allotment, it's just that in my allotment the grass is almost knee high!

My first glimpse of the orderly flower and vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau

The cordoned fruit trees were in fruit too. And I promise when I took the picture below I was still on the right side of the path.

looking down on the miniature fruit trees bordering the vegetable and flower beds at chateau de chenonceau

There's twelve square plots each of them edged with apple trees and Queen Elizabeth rosebushes, hence the regal roses reference in the title. And lots of alliteration throughout this post. The whole space covers more than a hectare and like many of the potagers we visited is pretty as well as functional. 

Throughout the garden there was added interest, with wicker ornaments and metal wells. The sunflowers were growing tall and strong. And straight. Take a look at how thick their stems are. 

An archway with flowers growing over it at chateau de chenonceau
strong sunflowers growing straight, tall and in a line in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
the garden at chateau de chenonceau was interspersed with some intriguing items like this well head

And we were there when the peonies were out. They are still a June favourite of mine and were part of my wedding bouquet too. I always wonder at how they stay upright with their heavy blooms, and it seems they don't always. I think if I were a peony I'd be like this too.

the peonies in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau struggled to stay upright

Actually if I was a peony I'd be more like these fuschia ones!

it seems the cerise peonies at chateau de chenonceau were heavier than the lighter coloured counterparts

What struck me about the roses - apart from the sheer volume of bushes in flower - was the supports they were growing up and against. Most were growing against quite humble wire fencing. But how it transformed it.

the regal roses growing in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau
And white lilies also grown in abundance in the flower garden at chateau de chenonceau

In other parts of the garden there were bushes of lilies growing like I've never seen before. But if you've a house the size of Chenonceau to keep in fresh flower arrangements then it makes sense. These also look like they've got their own irrigation system too.

The heritage greenhouses are also hosts to roses, these ones were the palest of peach which complemented the stonework so well.

climbing roses on a wall at chateau de chenonceau making a pretty entrance to the working greenhouses


Close to the greenhouses I spotted an extra pot similar to those around the wall in Diane de Poitiers gardenalthough here it was planted with some spare santolini, rather than geraniums. Well, I assume it was spare. I guess using as much as they do in the formal gardens, it's always worth having some spare. 

some spare santolini at chateau de chenonceau no doubt for emergency use in the formal gardens

And it's a plant that is going on my plant list. I've been stalking it for a while so next year, is the year. Remind me if I forget!

Before I go, a puzzle. In the squash bed there were several of these wicker baskets on a stick (that's my name for them) and I've no idea what they're for. We've considered all sorts, but each of our suggestions seem just a little too odd, but maybe our ideas aren't quite as far fetched as we think. 

and a puzzle too, what are these wicker baskets amongst the squash plants in the vegetable garden at chateau de chenonceau for

If you know why the ten gardeners, who keep the gardens at Chenonceau so well kept, have "planted" these wicker baskets, please leave me a comment and let me know. And if you don't know for sure what they're for, I'd love to hear some of your wacky suggestions too.

Soon we'll be back on the bikes and back on the Loire a Velo cycle path heading towards Tours, which was the last stop - and biggest town - on our trip. I've mixed feelings about Tours. I love a big town, but had been enjoying the smaller countryfied towns and villages. I was pleased to get to Tours as I was keen to visit Villandry, but equally being in Tours and visiting Villandry meant our trip would soon be over, and that was less pleasing. But all that's for another day, until then let me know about those wicker baskets on sticks!

Through the windows at Chenonceau

Today I thought it'd be fun to look out the windows of Chateau de Chenonceau and in doing so make the most of it's unique selling point, which is of course that it's a chateau that spans the river. Which makes for some unusual and unexpected views. On our visit it was an overcast day and light rain had just started as we locked up our bikes. It held off, but just imagine how spectacular the views over the River Cher would have been on a gloriously sunny day, and equally how they might be on days much worse than when we visited.

Looking over the River Cher

There are windows on every level, even in the kitchen which is on the lowest levels. The windows do get more fancy, as you'd expect, as the rooms get grander. The simple window above gives a great view over the river, but the patterned window below is much prettier to look at.

leaded windows at chateau de chenonceau
a close up of the leaded lights at Chenonceau

In the Gallery the windows are much more grand. And arched into alcoves. I like how the panes here pick up the pattern of the classic black and white marble floor. Simple but very effective and demonstrates how repeating patterns just works.

An arched window in The Gallery

As we entered the chateau, I'd spotted people standing on a small balcony above the front door and made a mental note to find our way there. And that happened just as we finished walking through and admiring Katherine Briçonnet's hall, and from the small balcony you can look down to the entrance and over to the Marques tower. The forecourt in front of the tower traces the medieval fortress.

Standing above the front door

Katherine Briçonnet was the wife of Thomas Bohier, who in the 16th century demolished the fortified castle in order to build the chateau. The fortress belonged to the Marques family and all that they left was the keep, the Marques tower, which they renovated in Renaissance style.

Looking towards the Marques Tower

From other parts of the chateau there are great views of Catherine's garden on the left, and Diane's garden on the right.





And before we leave, there's just one more window to show you. Remember that grand front door? Well above it is an arched stained glass window, which as we left we got a great view of

The impressive stained glass above the impressive front door at Chenonceau

So plenty of windows, with great views and lots of detail. I hope you've enjoyed a closer look at this pretty chateau.

A pretty chateaux with stunning flower arrangements

We've already walked around both of the formal gardens at Chenonceau with their similarities and differences and today finally, we're popping into the chateau. But not without a look at the outside and how it bridges the River Cher. 

Chateau de chenonceau from Diane de Poitiers garden

Isn't it stunning?  And like our homes today the bridge across the river was built in stages. It was first built by Diane de Poitiers who was gifted the chateau by King Henri II in 1547. When Catherine de Medici, Henri II's widow, removed Diane she added the two storey gallery, to hold glamorous parties - and I bet they were just that.

On the way in I spotted another gargoyle, this one looking a lot more menacing than the ones in Blois.

I spotted another gargoyle on the way in

And what a front door. It dates back to François I and is made of sculpted wood and painted. It bears the arms of the builders of Chenonceau along with the salamander of François I and a Latin inscription. A grand chateau needs a grand front door, and this is certainly that.

That's quite a front door isn't it?

As well as the grandeur which you'd expect from a chateau, what struck me about Chenonceau was their stunning flower arrangements. Throughout the chateau their modern take on the arrangements left me in awe. I'm annoyed with myself though as my photos aren't as sharp as they could be. As usual I used my iPhone but I suspect I had a smear on the lens. 

A pot covered in moss and full of blooms
Flowers in front of the tapestry
pinks and purples in a modern arrangement

I couldn't wait to get into the Gallery, and when we did I was pleased that we'd managed to get there before the large group we seemed to be following about, so it meant it was almost empty. And in real life it's even more stunning than in the photo.

The gallery at Chenonceau
A close up of the chequered floor in the gallery at Chenonceau

It's sixty metres long and six metres wide. Daylight floods in through the eighteen windows and you can just imagine the grand balls that would have taken place here. During the First World War it had a change of use when Dr Gaston Menier (of chocolate fame) paid to set up a hospital in the chateau. And as a crossing over the river it played its part with the Resistance too. I'm always totally amazed at the heroics of people at that time in readiness to save people.

There were as many flowers, plainer of course, below stairs. The greenery and hydrangeas below were in the kitchen areas. And while they are less fancy, I don't think you can say the same for that handrail, can you?

Greenery below stairs
An iron hand rail in the kitchens at chenonceau
hydrangeas, onions and garlic

Back upstairs the flower arrangements continued to amaze. I loved this one, comprised of many square and oblong glass vases and full of flowers, which were also repeated across the mantelpiece in the library, where Catherine de Medici had her desk.

A desk full of flowers in the green study
And covering the mantelpiece

The last arrangement I'm sharing today is in one of the darkest rooms of the chateau, so along with a smudge on my lens I'm grateful I could rescue even a part of this photo. The shading helps though I think.  It's from Louise of Lorraine's bedroom, which is dark and moody and you'll not be surprised to learn that she retired to Chenonceau to meditate and pray after the assassination of her husband King Henri III.

I found this one of the most moving rooms in the chateau, and while the room was dark decorated in blacks, greys and silvers she always dressed in white, following the protocol for royal mourning and was given the name the White Queen.  The room is decorated with motifs of feathers, which represent sorrow and silver tears. This simple, but stunning flower arrangement was totally appropriate.

Lilies in a stunning arrangement in Louise of Lorraine's bedroom

Quite a different take on flower arrangements aren't they?